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Connecticut Rep. Josh Elliott: Unintentional false balance about vaccines in a legislative forum

Connecticut Rep. Josh Elliott set up a legislative forum with four scientists and physicians and antivaccine crank Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. This is false balance at its worst and exactly how you don’t do it. [Note ADDENDUM]

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy about reporting about vaccines in the media, it’s false balance, in which the “other” side (i.e., the antivaccine side) is given undue representation as though it were a scientifically legitimmate point of view. Usually, it’s journalists who thinks that the journalistic practice of “telling both sides” applies to scientific issues in which one side is supported by massive amounts of data and scientific studies and the other side is supported mainly by conspiracy theories and anecdotes. Fortunately, as I’ve observed before, this problem seems to be a lot less common these days since it was revealed that Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet case series was fraudulent. I’ve also seen this tactic of false balanced used by antivaxers to try to portray their viewpoint as having some scientific and medical validity. That being said, I must say that I’ve never seen a pro-vaccine legislator fall into this trap, but fall into this trap Connecticut State Representative Josh Elliott (D-Hamden) did. A reader made me aware of this event occurring later this morning at the Connecticut statehouse (see Addenda for updates on the status of this forum):

Elsewhere:

Not a good look.

Let’s see. We have four panelists who are real scientists and doctors. Dr. Sandra Carbonari, for instance, is an experienced primary care pediatrician, while Drs. Linda Niccolai, Gene Shapiro, and Brett Lindenbach are all Yale faculty in various departments relevant to vaccines, such as Public Health, Pediatrics, Epidemiology, etc. So far, so good.

And then we have Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. There isn’t a facepalm big enough for this, although Godzilla will give it a try.

Godzilla facepalm

Who is Josh Elliott? Not being from that part of Connecticut, I had no idea, but it didn’t take much Googling to discover that he’s very pro-vaccine. Indeed, his Facebook page is full of pro-vaccine posts like this:

And this:

Yes, Rep. Elliott even supports repealing religious exemptions to school vaccine mandates:

Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, who joined Ritter and Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, at Wednesday’s news conference, said he’s concerned about the uptick in measles cases across the U.S., including an outbreak of about 70 people in the Pacific Northwest. DPH confirmed a second case of measles last month in Connecticut. Both cases involved adults.

“We know that year over year, double-digit growth in non-vaccinated children is growing in our state,” Elliott said. “The issue for us is, do we want to wait until we have deaths and large widespread outbreaks or do we want to solve the problem before it gets to Connecticut.”

And, in a news article about the legislative forum Rep. Elliott is promoting on his Facebook page, we see:

A Connecticut lawmaker who supports eliminating the religious exemption from vaccinations for public school students is holding an informational forum on the science behind vaccines.

Democratic Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden says he’s concerned the “pseudo-science” fueling fear among a “vocal minority” about vaccine safety. He’s organized a forum Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building with experts, including professors from Yale University.

So why on earth would someone like Rep. Elliott invite someone like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to be on this panel? I note that he says that RFK Jr. “will be speaking on the perceived dangers of vaccination.” And who would know the perceived dangers of vaccination better than RFK Jr., his having had a major role over the last 15 years in crafting the perception that vaccines are dangerous? After all, since at least 2005, when I first became aware of him, thanks to his deceptive conspiracy theory about mercury in vaccines, Deadly Immunity, was published simultaneously in Rolling Stone and Salon.com, I’ve been explaining why his antivaccine pseudoscience and conspiracy mongering are nonsense. Soon after Deadly Immunity, RFK Jr. quickly provided me with more blogging material, with his risible conspiracy mongering and his despicable attacks on critics of antivaccine pseudoscience as misogynists who hate mothers. During the battle over the passage of SB 277, the California legislation that eliminated nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, RFK Jr. even likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust, saying, “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

During the transition period after Donald Trump was elected President, RFK, Jr. met with President-Elect Trump to discuss vaccine safety or the “autism epidemic” or…something. It’s not exactly clear what. His claim was that the Trump Administration wanted him to chair a “vaccine safety commission,” but the Trump transition team quickly denied that version of events. None of this stopped RFK, Jr. from sending an e-mail to members of the Waterkeepers Alliance, which Kennedy leads, announcing that he would leave the environmental group if the commission actually comes to be. More recently, RFK, Jr. issued the most spectacularly dumb “vaccine challenge” since Jock Doubleday. Basically, like many antivaccine activists, RFK, Jr. dons the mantle of a “vaccine safety activist,” even though he’s anything but, his risible oft-repeated claim to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” notwithstanding.

Finally, earlier this year RFK Jr. again caught my attention because, with the help of antivaccine reporter turned Alex Jones wannabe (Sharyl Attkisson) and a useful idiot, he’s been peddling a conspiracy theory that the CDC covered up knowledge that vaccines cause autism. Let’s just put it this way. RFK Jr. has formed not just one but two antivaccine groups, World Mercury Project and Children’s Health Defense, the latter of which, although not in existence for long, has already published some truly risible defenses of antivaccine “science.”

So what does Rep. Elliott hope to accomplish by inviting RFK Jr.? Does he think that, by including a rabid antivaxer like RFK, Jr. on the forum’s panel, he’ll assuage the fears of the vaccine-hesitant parents and antivaxers? Maybe he thinks that, by having a token “vaccine skeptic” (I hate that term because antivaxers are anything but skeptics, but it’s a term that antivaxers embrace and all too often that the media and pro-vaccine politicians fall for), he’ll conclusively show how out of the mainstream antivaccine views are. If that was the motivation, Rep. Elliott will find out today that he’s sadly mistaken. This is a man who likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and only grudgingly backed down due to the horror his analogy provoked.

Maybe Rep. Elliott thinks that this panel of four doctors and scientists, vaccine experts all, will refute RFK Jr. so resoundingly that RFK Jr.’s defeat will win over the antivaccine side. If he thinks that, he’s truly naïve. That’s not how these things work. In fact, likely the opposite will happen. Why? Few doctors or scientists know the minutiae of antivax arguments, because few really pay attention to them and fewer still have actually spent years studying and refuting them, as I and other skeptics have. That’s why this forum could easily turn into a bloodbath, with RFK Jr. doing the bloodletting. Science doesn’t always win in forums like this. Indeed, usually it does not. Whether it has a chance will depends on the moderator, how skilled RFK Jr. is at the Gish gallop, and how much the panelists are familiar with common antivaccine conspiracy theories, crappy studies beloved of antivaccine cranks, and fallacious attacks on large epidemiological studies that have failed to find an association between vaccines and autism. All of this is why the only appropriate answer from scientists asked to appear with someone like RFK Jr. at a forum like this is not just, “No,” but “Oh, hell, no!”

Yes, I know that sometimes we overestimate our opponents. For instance, when I urged Steve Novella not to debate Julian Whitaker at FreedomFest in 2012, how could I have know that Whitaker would be so very bad at the Gish gallop? Of course, Novella is a skeptic who is quite familiar with antivaccine “arguments,” which made it easy for him to mop up the floor with Whitaker, much to my delight. Rarely have I been more pleased to have been wrong in one of my predictions! In any event, I don’t know how familiar the scientists and doctors on this forum panel are with antivaccine misdirection, but I hope it’s a lot more than the average scientist and physician.

Finally, if Rep. Josh Elliott thinks that he’ll gain any respect or credit from antivaxers for being so open-minded and fair, just look at the comments after his FB post announcing the forum, where antivaxers are complaining that the panel is “unbalanced.” Then look at what RFK Jr. plans on doing right after the forum this morning:

Here’s what that wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery, Age of Autism, had to say yesterday:

Josh Elliott wants to give CT residents the opportunity to plan their own death. He also seeks to allow the incarcerated to vote to protect their American rights. Admirable. And yet in a twist of irony, he seeks to control medical decisions whilst alive. He wants to remove the religious exemption to vaccination. This means forced vaccination. Disenfranchising Americans based on vaccination choice is acceptable?

Rep. Hennessy is a real antivaxer, as revealed by this article from 2015:

Some opponents also displayed a deep distrust of the medical establishment and the safety of vaccinations. Rep. Jack Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, said he was disappointed that Connecticut is joining the pro-vaccine “hysteria” that erupted after the California measles epidemic.

While Hennessy acknowledged that lawmakers were not being asked to assess whether vaccines cause harm, “I would suggest that they do. There’s a witches brew of formula [and] we don’t even have the ability to know what’s in them,” he said. “We are taking the pharmaceutical company’s word that it’s good for you. You’re penetrating the skin barrier, which you’re not supposed to do. You’re supposed to be very careful about what you inject into your body.”

“Hysteria” after the Disneyland measles outbreak? Vaccines are a “witches’ brew of formula” and “we don’t even have the ability to know what’s in them”? That’s not just antivaccine, but that’s brain dead antivaccine nonsense. Of course we know what’s in vaccines. Hennessy also appeared on the Gary Null Show last month, which is about as serious a set of wingnut credentials as you can get, particularly given that I learned from this that he is a reiki master.

As for Rep. Dauphinais, she opposed a bill banning gay conversion therapy and has generally opposed tightening of school vaccine mandates.

So, basically, right after taking part in Rep. Josh Elliott’s vaccine forum, RFK Jr. will head on over to headline a a press conference (with what appears to be a fundraiser to follow) with two antivaccine legislators, one Democrat and one Republican. This basically demonstrates how much good will Rep. Elliott will earn by including a radical antivaxer on his panel—none at all. That’s what he gets for bending over backwards to appear fair!

I know Rep. Elliot’s heart is in the right place, but he really screwed up this time. His false equivalence will convince no one on the antivaccine side, and RFK Jr. will score a huge win just be appearing on the stage with five real physicians and scientists (this includes the moderator), as though his views were anywhere near as scientifically valid as theirs. I wonder if the scientists knew that RFK Jr. was going to be on the panel with them when they agreed to appear. If I were one of them, I would have pulled out as soon as I learned that RFK Jr. was going to be on the panel. Better yet, I would have insisted on knowing who would be on the panel before agreeing to participate.

ADDENDUM 2305h 3/18/2019: Less than an hour before this post was scheduled to go live, I got news that Yale had canceled the event. I couldn’t verify it before I went to bed. If you get a confirming link, let me know. (If this is true, cue the cries of “Censorship!” in three…two…one…) I expect that RFK Jr. will now use his 11 AM press conference and noon lunch fundraiser to whine about Yale’s cancellation of the forum, assuming my source is correct, which I’m pretty sure that it is.

ADDENDUM 0600h 3/19/2019: Here’s the confirmation.

I feel bad for Rep. Elliott, but I hope he’s learned a lesson from this fiasco.

ADDENDUM 1105h 3/19/2019: As expected, antivaxers are planning on capitalizing on this fiasco.

And, of course, RFK Jr. is gloating, declaring victory by making his opponents “run away”:

Of course, all of this was entirely predictable. I really hope that Rep. Elliott has learned his lesson from this hard experience.

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]

101 replies on “Connecticut Rep. Josh Elliott: Unintentional false balance about vaccines in a legislative forum”

Maybe “perceived” means observed if you travel to another universe.

RFK jr. has also created two additional “perceived” issues with vaccines by presenting two settled FOIA requests in an extremely misleading manner, one that did not turn up specific administrative reports from HHS presented – falsely – as “HHS did not engage in safety oversight of vaccines” and the other claiming pregnancy vaccines are not tested because the FDA has no clinical trial data on them – when the basis for the CDC’s (not FDA’s) recommendation of them is data that is not clinical trials data, and the FDA supports the recommendation based on that data.

Elliot is well-meaning, but this sort of exercise only acts to encourage the anti-vaxxers that they are being taken seriously.

Normally engaging with those who’s views you want to influence is the appropriate strategy; however, this never works with extremists. Engaging with them might help you understand why they think like they do, but you cannot influence their thinking. This is because extremists have an inflated view of their own expertise, so they are not looking for information. They already KNOW the TRUTH. All you can achieve is to male them more convinced of their opinion.

What we need to do is marginalise the extremists, we need to address the hesitant, who are at risk of falling into extremism. We have seen this with SB 277. This bill forced the extremists to circle the waggons. Not one of them got their children vaccinated. What they did instead was find devious ways to avoid the law with Bob Sears et al.s help. The hesitant on the other hand got their children vaccinated in droves.

On this topic, I attended an event last weekend where a sociologist involved in public health was decrying activities to make it harder for parents to send unvaccinated children to child care on the basis that it was unfair to the anti-vaxxers. I was astonished. The whole point of these activities is not specifically to punish anti-vaxxers, but to provide incentive to the hesitant.

“The whole point of these activities is not specifically to punish anti-vaxxers, but to provide incentive to the hesitant.”

This form of “nudge theory” will end up accrediting the conspiracy theory, unfortunately. There are two different objectives to battling antivaxxers. (1) End up the obscurantist bullshit, gaslighting and psychological abuse antivaxxers inflict on others and (2) enforce herd immunity. I believe goal (1) is more worth it than goal (2), as my personal take on it is that battling misinformation is more important than public health in itself. Or more precisely, enforcing public health measures in spite of pervasive misinformation is conducive to conspiracy theories about medicine, which can end up being a rather counterproductive autogoal for public health policy advocates.

“Normally engaging with those who’s views you want to influence is the appropriate strategy; however, this never works with extremists.”

I beg to differ. The Internet has been a powerful force in combatting “cults” such as scientology. Making “controversial” information available online has been a rather efficient force that did indeed made many snap out of their echo chambers and psychological conditioning. For instance, nothing has hurt more scientology or the mormon religion than the South Park episodes pertaining to each of them.

I do not see why it would be any different for antivaxxers. It will just take an awful lot of time and effort. I do not see this as a lost cause.

(1) End up the obscurantist bullshit, gaslighting and psychological abuse antivaxxers inflict on others and (2) enforce herd immunity. I believe goal (1) is more worth it than goal (2), as my personal take on it is that battling misinformation is more important than public health in itself.

I completely disagree. Public health is much more important than what a vanishingly small group of people might be saying to others. However, as the father of children who for medical reason could not be vaccinated on time and for whom every fever as an infant was a real danger, I would say that. It is not often that children end up in hospital from the chickenpox. I hate to think what measles would have done.

I beg to differ. The Internet has been a powerful force in combatting “cults” such as scientology.

It hasn’t. Scientology still exists. The hard core, welded-on adherents still fervently support it. Also what has happened on the internet has not been engaging with Scientologists, it is more like criticising their mode of operations.

“I completely disagree. Public health is much more important than what a vanishingly small group of people might be saying to others.”

I would have said that 15 years ago. What I’ve seen over time has changed my mind. For the time being, let’s feel free to disagree.

“It hasn’t. Scientology still exists. The hard core, welded-on adherents still fervently support it.”

True. But you may be interested in the way Chris Shelton has described the Internet as Scientology’s Vietnam. I believe one’s evaluation of my statement may depend on the time frame you’re willing to look at things through.

“Also what has happened on the internet has not been engaging with Scientologists, it is more like criticising their mode of operations.”

It’s both.

@ Chris Preston
I think you’re right on Scientology. Most of the critisism is aimed at their methods and perhaps at their ideas on psychiatry, but less about the basic ideas behind it.

In the past few years, an ex-Scientologist actor, Leah Rimini, has presented a television show that highlights the experiences of ex-followers ( “Scientology: The Aftermath”) which may be enlightening the public. She and another former member collect stories and are worth looking into.

For instance, nothing has hurt more scientology or the mormon religion than the South Park episodes pertaining to each of them.

I think you’re greatly overestimating the impact of South Park (season 9, which contained the Scientology episodes, had a 4–8 rating; I can’t find share), but I suppose it’s something, if for a particular demo.

“I think you’re greatly overestimating the impact of South Park.”

It’s possible. But my line of reasoning is, in broad terms, the following.

Looking back at the whole story of anti-scientology activism, I identify a major turning point when the secret OT3 documents were revealed. The South Park episode is just a cog in the chain reaction triggered by the release of OT3 documents.

But it had multiple effects both inside and outside scientology. It was a first step establishing a cordon sanitaire outside of scientology, debunking the self-help mythology they created about their cult and popularizing the Xenu figure which had not at that time reached popular consciousness in the public.

Inside scientology, it triggered disbelief into those who weren’t yet at OT3. For scientologists above OT3, it triggered cognitive dissonance as, even if they knew about the Xenu figure, they viewed it as a very minor part of their day to day practice. They were forced to confront their own mythology both within scientology, and when faced with public scorn when it managed to reach them. Within scientology, it made scientologists more willing to snap out of their echo chamber (though not willing to take action for themselves yet).

In my opinion, it was the first major crack. But I guess you’ll have to listen to quite a lot of ex-scientologists interviews/podcasts to be able to assess whether I’m right or wrong.

All you can achieve is to male them more convinced of their opinion.

[my emphasis]
I know in the context of anti-vaccine nuts there are as many women or more as men, but that typo made me smile in the midst of the slug slime!

“Overshadowed by the negative attention”?

I supposed that’s a more face-saving comment than “I made a mistake including a rabid antivax conspiracy theorist on the panel and qualified medical professionals objected, so I’ll plan better next time.”

I hear from a FB group I’m on that antivaxers really pestered Rep. Elliott until he gave in. If that’s true (and I have no reason at present to doubt it), then it just goes to show that you can’t placate antivaxers and it’s therefore not even worth trying.

I truly wish I found this surprising or shocking; I do not. Pro disease people do not care about children. They do not, in fact, care about humanity at all. They care about themselves and protecting their ideas, and ensuring that they are the center of their worlds. If this means lies, slander, and cruelty, be it to grieving parents, or to children, or to anyone on the autism spectrum, all the better. And they have RFK Jr., as one of their faces.

Recent example: the now-banned Greg and his appalling comments about rape and autism. That ban should be permanent.

Really? I’ve seen people commenting on this very page who have gone after parents of vaccine-injured children, even dead vaccine-injured children. But I am sure that is justifiable somehow?

Supporting evidence needed for your claim. Who are the people who have “gone after the parents of vaccine-injured children”? Supply proof that said children are “vaccine-injured”. And evidence that vaccines weer responsible for those deaths.

“”I tell everybody that you should look at the person you’re talking to and those on the other side of this discussion and recognize that they care about children, too,” said Del Bigtree, chief executive officer of the Informed Consent Action Network.”

I don’t see why you should even care about children to care about refuting his bullshit.

Wow this is a vaccinist love fest!!!! Lucky for you you don’t know anyone vaccine injured. Children’s health is appalling, 50% or more kids have a chronic disease, in what universe is that such a good outcome? And why are you getting so afraid of a few cases of measles, when the real epidemic is autism, 1 in 40 ish. and going strong. And we still have no clue what causes it, except inflammation of the brain, antibodies to their own brain tissues, elevated IL 6, comorbidities gut inflammation , immune disregulation…..no it can’t possibly be related to vaccines ! I hope you are getting paid to write such drivel.

Actually, Karen, I do know someone with a real vaccine injury. He caught wild-type polio from the oral polio vaccine. He uses a brace and walks with a limp. But you know what? He’s very pro-vaccine. (And a world traveler and scientists.)

Separately, can you tell me what you think IL-6 is and its function in the mammalian body?

Dear Karen, claims made without actual evidence can be safely ignored. Now to the meat of your little rant.

“And why are you getting so afraid of a few cases of measles,…”

Mostly because it is dangerous, and the reason there are so few is because the majority are responsible families that vaccinate. Please provide verifiable evidence that the MMR vaccine that has been used in the USA for over forty years causes more harm than measles.

“…when the real epidemic is autism, 1 in 40 ish. and going strong.”

Citation needed. Please make sure to be specific on which DSM the autism was diagnosed, and if it DSM V, tell us which level.

“And we still have no clue what causes it,….”

Actually several genetic sequences, many of de novo, have been found to cause autism spectrum disorders. If you have a child on the spectrum I encourage to contribute to the real science by participating the SPARKS for Autism study at the Simons Foundation. More information here, along with several webinars and blog posts: https://sparkforautism.org/discover/

“… except inflammation of the brain, antibodies to their own brain tissues, elevated IL 6, comorbidities gut inflammation , immune disregulation..”

Citation needed in the form of PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers not on the Dwoskin payroll. I suggest you put the name of the author in the search function of this blog to make sure that they qualify. For instance, if you provide a paper someone named Geier you will see there might be a problem with someone who lost his legal right to practice medicine.

Josh Elliot wrote, “It will be from 9-11 and will largely be about engagement with the public, so if you are interested – please think about swinging by.”

MJD says,

Q. Should the title of the forum have been “Vaccines and Engagement with the Public.”

In my opinion, the moderator of this forum is the real hero in that chaos was inevitable; RFK Jr. is a firecracker.

AoA calls Yale a “scaredy cat”

Hennessey is from Bridgeport: he may be Rossi’s state rep.

People from outside the area may think that Connecticut is all yachts and Bush family members ( I doubt that any of them still live there) but it is rather economically and ethnically diverse. There are wealthy enclaves like Greenwich and New Canaan but several less affluent cities like Bridgeport and Norwalk all in or near the western panhandle. Even New Haven- where Yale** rules- includes lower income residents as well as a posh section near the U with its upscale boutiques, hotels, eateries, cafes and bars, as well as the justly famous taco trucks lining the waterfront- it ain’t all clams.
I wonder which part of the population anti-vaxxers are trying to attract: well-to-do suburbanites or struggling families?

** anyone near Yale should try to visit the two excellent FREE newly renovated art museums

anyone near Yale should try to visit the two excellent FREE newly renovated art museums

I thought Louis’ Lunch was the go-to. Is the campus still surrounded by razor-wire fences?

Believe it or not, I have never been in Louis’ Lunch but have often parked near it; I have sampled apizza on Wooster Street though.

The razor-wire isn’t visible.

AFAIK, no. The ones I saw had chicken, pork, tongue ( ugh) but you can see their menus if you look up taco trucks New Haven CT which lists various ones and reviews.

New Haven is great for food.

“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone.”
Sounds like RFK Jr is speaking from his own experience: he must have been vaccinated. A lot. However it happened, it looks like his brain is gone.

However it happened, it looks like his brain is gone.

Actually, it moved below his belt.
(cheap shot, but how could I resist???)

@TBruce
He’s been banned? Good. I’ll come back and read the other comments then. There’s no “ignore” feature here, and I couldn’t take any more. I couldn’t even pass the article along to people without saying, “In this case, even though it’s ORAC, don’t read the comments.”

I’ll miss the chew toy.

I’ll stick with relishing its squirming. AoA is basically a case of blue balls, so Gerg is stuck with putting his back into it and finding threads in the wild to troll.

Yep! The odious little wretch was (IMO) deliberately ratcheting up the offensiveness of his posts in order to get banned so he could go running to his AoA “friends” and talk about how he was being censored from spreading the “troof” about vaccines and how mean Orac is.

If someone at AoA would behave like Greg, but with a pro-vaccine stand, I suppose he or she would be banned as soon as the post was read. Orac is very tolerant. Look at MDJ, who still is able to post his bookpromotions and other stuff of self-interest here.

Right. I saw Greg’s comment there the other day after the ban- it wasn’t short. I can’t seem to find the exact place now.
His crappy BS gets lost amidst the loads of other crappy BS there.

FOUND IT!
It’s on the @UsToo/ Washington State post: he wrote on March 16, am.
He describes how he argued that vaccination is indeed like rape, how Renate spoke up and how Orac &Cie reacted to him, including the Ban . He claims that we have no good argument that vaccination is NOT rape . Or something.

“Science doesn’t always win in forums like this. Indeed, usually it does not.”

at least we know now why you and the likes of Hotez are afraid to debate anyone. Science ain’t that strong. I guess science also needs its own little safe spaces 🙂

“Science isn’t theater”=/= “science isn’t strong.”

The antivaccine leaders do theater. That’s not what scientists are trained in.

at least we know now why you and the likes of Hotez are afraid to debate anyone.

There is no value in debating people who do not care for the truth. No fear involved.

“Science ain’t that strong.”

Depends. Mathematics are absolutely the strongest form of science. Sociology is arguably the weakest form of science. Doesn’t stop superstition and magical thinking to dominate most of mankind’s psychism up to this day. The fact remains that science has been winning progressively over since the Stone Age.

“I guess science also needs its own little safe spaces”

To make science, yes. To defend it, not that much. Turns out that Greg didn’t have basic debating skills, purposefully confusing causing outrage with winning a “debate”. I’m sure Ted Bundy would have been a more nuanced and skilled debater.

Mathematics are absolutely the strongest form of science.

I agree in principle, but I will quibble and claim that Mathematics is actually a form of philosophy. Physics and applied math are how the philosophy is mobilized into science. Pure math basically never makes hypotheses based on observation; it is literally the philosophical tool by which you can test the truth and regularity of a set of observational data. Math on its own has basically nothing at all to say about reality since it’s purely self-directed. This is why math leads science by a maybe 100 or 200 years; some scientist eventually has a use for it.

“Pure math basically never makes hypotheses based on observation”

It does. They’re called conjectures. The problem is not that maths doesn’t make hypotheses based on observation. The problem is that the burden of proof is notably higher.

“Math on its own has basically nothing at all to say about reality since it’s purely self-directed.”

That’s a common misconception. But it’s rather a long one to address. The crux of the matter is that both maths and “science” deal in factual claims.

Mathematics is a tool used by science, but it is not itself science. I would substitute physics as the example of a hard science.

The word “scientist” was only coined around 1840. Before that they were called “natural philosophers”, philosophy being a general term for seekers of knowledge. Natural philosophy persisted for some time. Doctor Watson refers to Holmes’ chemistry equipment as his philosophical apparatus.

“Science” and “philosophy” are deeply and intimately intertwined. While there is a gradation progressively differentiating them, drawing a neat demarcation line is an exercise in futility.

In the prescientific era, there has however been a rather stunning use of theatrical ingenuity to make a case for scientific or prescientific ideas. Very often under the form of dialogues. In the domain of cosmology, of the top of my head, I can cite “On the infinite universe and worlds” by Giordano Bruno, “Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds” by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, and “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” by Galileo, which is the one dialogue that ushered in so much trouble for him. The tradition of dialogues as a mean of debate and inquiry goes back to greek and also indian antique philosophies.

Somehow, I find it sad that the shift of focus onto modern scientific publication has ended this tradition of debates against opponents of science. It’s somehow coming back, however, in the form of podcasts to some extent.

at least we know now why you and the likes of Hotez are afraid to debate anyone. Science ain’t that strong. I guess science also needs its own little safe spaces

Actually, yes, your efforts to be insulting not withstanding, I strongly agree. Debates are much more sensitive to rhetorical style than they are to actual truth. If there are rules possible in a debate format which limit the advantages of rhetorical style and place both sides firmly on the same level, then it would be possible to discuss science in a debate. Unfortunately, there are no such rules.

As such, a lawyer… specifically trained at the art of debate… is at profound advantage, regardless of whether he’s facing four or even ten professional scientists from Yale. Doing science is not the same thing as debating. Unfortunately, any such debate cannot decide the truth of a matter any more than a criminal trial truly decides what actually happened in a crime –plenty of people locked away who are innocent and plenty of people out scott-free who committed the crime. For a lawyer, rules are flexible, while they are much less so for a scientist. The format of a debate does not capture this difference and does not depend solely on the science meaning that science really can’t be decided in that set of conditions. So, yes, it absolutely needs to occur in a forum which is appropriate. You want to call that a “safe space,” knock yourself out.

That science has to occur under controlled conditions is a strength, not a weakness, since it assures the regularity of any insights that science produces. That the method of execution is important does make science fundamentally fragile and it means that people not executing it properly do in fact break it. The degree of breakage cannot be conveyed in a format like a debate where the rules of measurement are flexible and subject to change on the whim of a single spoken sentence.

Hotez and Orac and any practicing scientist with skill has every reason to shy from a debate against a trained lawyer. A debate cannot solve anything at a scientific level, it will only sway public opinion.

You are so correct. One of the idiots I survey always claims that his material is vetted by his team of lawyers. Most of it is theatrics pure and simple.

Yesterday, said idiot spent 3 hours ( I only heard most of the first) and put up a film that proves that Wikipedia is RONG for calling him an hiv/aids denialist because he has cured people of hiv/ aids. He even has lab data. When you look at what he says in detail, there was no cure. I think he might have been spurred on because there are today two men who no longer hiv+ because they underwent destruction of their immune systems in order to get bone marrow transplants for another condition ( cancer).

Some of these propaganda films about vaccines, cancer or hiv rely upon theatrics and personal testimony. They employ sad stories about “vaccine damage” or real illnesses and then ( sometimes) present triumphant transformations into perfect health. I have tried to watch many of these polemics ( I have a strong stomach) and they all have common threads that involve bending the truth ( actually, tying it into knots) at a fast pace, having “experts” speak ( usually some pretty dodgy experts) and having very emotional testimonials by whomever was hurt/ cured. Towards the end, the music rises and they proclaim victory.

Sceptics would do well to survey woo films ( whenever they’re free) to see how it’s done.
Hey, in films, you can make dragons fly, aliens conquer the world and woo work better than SBM.

Any “debate” of science vs non-science is going to be to the disadvantage of the scientist, who is subject to the rhetorical ball-and-chain of facts and reality, while the non-science person (anti-vaxxer, creationist, flat-earther, anti-GMO-er, climate change denialist, etc) can make up whatever flight of fancy best suits their argument in that moment.

Debates determine who is the most persuasive, not who is correct. For evidence, please see all politics back to at least Ancient Greece, if not the creation of language.

There is a legal maxim that goes, “When the facts are against you, pound on the law. When the law is against you, pound on the facts. When the facts and the law are against you, pound on the table.”
Science doesn’t work like that. If the facts are against you, case closed.

How are you being censored? You seem to think you should be free to throw random insults, yet ignore all the questions we give you. Now that is just pathetic.

Do please explain why it is better to let a baby get chicken pox, rather than protecting them by maintaining community immunity with a varicella vaccine. What is “good” about an infant suffering from dozens of itchy open wounds that are susceptible to bacterial infections, or the possibility of stroke:
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-recent-case-report-highlights-why-skipping-the-chickenpox-vaccine-is-a-bad-idea/

Just support your answer with PMID authored by reputable qualified researchers.

Kennedy extended the “vaccination as rape” insanity at his news conference yesterday to “vaccination is pedophilia” :

Kennedy compared his struggle to convince people to look skeptically at vaccines to the difficulty experienced by victims of Catholic pedophile priests. He viewed the press as complicit, unwilling to challenge the institution of the church.

To bolster his case, he mentioned “Spotlight,” the film depicting the Boston Globe’s dogged investigation of abusive priests and the church’s coverup. The move depicted a newspaper that was initially slow to understand the church’s role in the abuse, but ultimately defied all efforts by the church to quash the story and wound up winning the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.

Instead of a journalistic success, Kennedy saw the story as a press failure.

“It was all about the press collaboration in covering up, because they believe the institution was more important than these little children who were getting injured,” he said “They were able to convince themselves of that.”

How low can you go?

With people who compare vaccination with the holocaust, you can expect anything.
Just look at the pictures they post of provaxxers as baby-eating monsters.

Maybe a solution is for scientists to become trained in debating skills – for starters, they could join this organization:

http://apda.online/

Alternate idea: hire professional competitive debaters as ringers to participate in forums that include antivaxers.

show your face and credentials. Until then shut yourself up. Children are dying and getting sick for life, every eighth American suffers from autoimmune disease. You are not a doctor not a scientist, you are a prostitute on big pharma or dirty politicians’ payroll

You fail the intelligence test. My name is elsewhere on this blog, and even if it weren’t it would be trivial to find out who I am.

Children are dying and getting sick for life, every eighth American suffers from autoimmune disease.

🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♂️
Citation needed that 1 in 8 U.S.A’an has an autoimmune disease.
Citation needed that vaccines are the cause of a large percentage of these autoimmune diseases.
Citation needed that vaccines are killing children and giving them sequelae.
🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♂️

Another fan of disease and plague. Will you be campaigning to bring back smallpox? Do you also refuse to vaccinate pets against rabies? Or is it just human beings who should suffer from VPDs?

show your face and credentials. Until then shut yourself up.

In addition to being dumb, as already noted, that’s more than a tad hypocritical, Pookums.

I don’t see your face and credentials here, Put up or shut up.
“Children are dying and getting sick for life.” Funny, I always thought that that’s what happens with poliomyelitis, measles, tetanus, smallpox, mumps, rubella, Hemophilus influenza B, hepatitis B, Pneumococcus, influenza, rabies…

Chronic hepatitis, which is more likely in children who get the disease, literally makes you sick for life.

Most of the others you can recover from, although you have to worry about little things like SSPE and shingles.

squirrelelite, I chose the diseases that I did because they all can leave survivors with neurologic, pulmonary, or other damage, such as the infertility caused by mumps orchitits.

Mr. Elliot responded to this post. “the majority of the panel had decided they did not want to participate. I had to cancel….I am concerned with the perspective the medical community has taken – in that it is better not to have the conversations publicly. If we believe in the science, we have nothing to be concerned of.”

https://www.facebook.com/staterepjoshelliott/posts/2482399281784686?xts[0]=68.ARCqwlNt3nMVVPPIVgT_0SCzTfhQzhpICIo0pBePWidHRx5Yu8ge_JtN1dyblEpDLm2bAExob0Hlu134kCIZ1u0YZiYz6fqpkdB4LeqQAei-TxP9bxfnv4nfF66ONGIRt3DEmuZ5x9s6pefIJQo4O_-gxv2SBL3qa2d3gsVDECaZKiZ6oYTJpJ9P7re9_ahpFrHdZH2nVG2tcu9R_JaVQzO5UNJNuAs7FAyzPlpfh_2xUSnRK3rgF23DgGv_jsp9l6cu6GC53DcFHeSLvEDvpK8TXk0iwYNpUht293lxds95LZmCQfN_hhq7emLwEi3yzbSgH7_JoFKEIrrb4zlIfreIqtz7oZgcXX3uoCFF7ozGx3Z9YTE&tn=-UC-R

Thanks, Beth–a perfect example of why trying to talk to anti-vaxxers is like trying to reason with 2 year olds or play chess with a pigeon.

I’m not following you. Rep. Elliott is pro-vax and set up the panel discussion in an effort to support bills that would eliminate non-medical exemptions. He only disagrees with ORAC’s assessment about the value of having a public conversation that is accessible to his constituents. Why do you think his plea that medical professionals should be participating in the conversation is an example of the futility of discussion with ‘anti-vaxxers’.

I thought of this analogy.

Our local congressman announces a conference to discuss the state’s participation in new frontiers of space research.

The first panelist is a professor in the local university department that has been approved to use technology developed in the last 50 years to examine moon rocks that have been kept in vacuum seal since they were collected in 1972. A native of our state, the geologist astronaut who originally collected the rocks will be participating in the research.

The second panelist from a local laboratory that helped developed the sensors used in the New Horizons probe will be discussing the discoveries about the nature and origins of Ultima Thule and its implications for the general composition of the Kuiper Belt.

The third panelist, an astrophysicist associated with the very large array radiotelescope, will be discussing the observations that have revealed that the overall shape of our galaxy is actually a warped disk, not flat as previously believed, and how this may have been caused by the collision with or absorption of a dwarf galaxy sometime in the past.

The fourth panelist, a local lawyer often seen on TV ads, will discuss his theory that the last two elections have actually been influenced by gray aliens who are trying to reduce confidence in our government and amplify discord to make it easier to take over our country.

The first three panelists withdraw from the conference because they don’t want to lend legitimacy to the fourth panelist’s speculations.

And people, mainly supporters of the lawyer, complain that this is a discussion that needs to be held in public.

Beth: “Why do you think his plea that medical professionals should be participating in the conversation is an example of the futility of discussion with ‘anti-vaxxers’.”

Why do you believe that a public forum with a publicity-seeking conspiracy-shouting antivax loon constitutes a “discussion”?*

What gives you the idea that not taking part in such an event suggests that medical professionals are avoiding a public airing of their views?* It’s ironic that you’re suggesting such a thing on a very public blog run by a surgeon.

Antivaxers love castigating pro-immunization advocates if they decide to avoid debates or bogus “challenges” (like the one RFK Jr. announced not long ago), and instead write articles or books, or give interviews to express their opinions, evidence and concerns. Peter Hotez is currently getting slammed by antivaxers for not participating in some “debate” or other with antivax loons (Hotez has just published a book about raising his autistic daughter, which antivaxers hate and are throwing out nasty and unfounded accusations in response).

*Just asking questions, Beth. 😉

Dangerous Bacon asks: Why do you believe that a public forum with a publicity-seeking conspiracy-shouting antivax loon constitutes a “discussion”?* – Individuals with different points of view can make their case in a civil and respectful way with a moderator who can step in if the discussion starts to devolve into a shouting match. How do you define discussion such that it precludes this scenario? Do you think Mr. Kennedy is incapable of civil discussion with those who disagree with him?

Dangerous Bacon asks: What gives you the idea that not taking part in such an event suggests that medical professionals are avoiding a public airing of their views?* – Do you believe that withdrawing from a moderated panel discussion equates to avoiding a public airing of their views? I hadn’t phrased it that way because it didn’t even occur to me to consider them equivalent prior to your asking that question. I disagree that they are equivalent, but on reflection, I can understand why someone might believe that.

Uh, Beth, have you seen the next post? While I am sure that there are people who could have a reasoned discussion about vaccine science or policy, they are not the kind of people who want to be on these panels. RFK jr is not interested in a civil and respectful conversation.

Beth: “Do you think Mr. Kennedy is incapable of civil discussion with those who disagree with him?”

That’s exactly right. RFK Jr.’s rhetoric has demonstrated that abundantly.

“In 2011, on his Air America radio show, he claimed the government was “involved in a massive fraud,” and accused CDC researchers and doctors of “poisoning kids.” In a 2014 profile of Kennedy and his anti-vaccination efforts, Discovery writer Keith Kloor reported Kennedy had been a keynote speaker at the 2013 AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference in Chicago. According to Kloor, “[Kennedy] referred to specific individuals—such as a pediatric researcher who was a vocal vaccine advocate—as the equivalent of Nazi concentration camp guards and said: ‘They should be in jail, and the key should be thrown away.’”

And in 2015, Kennedy stood before an audience at a screening of “Trace Amounts,” a “documentary” that pushed the conspiratorial link between vaccines and autism. “They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,” he announced. “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone…This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr-spouts-his-insane-anti-vaxxer-conspiracy-theory-in-measles-hot-zone

If I was a pro-vaccination physician or researcher I’d be very leery about participating in a “discussion” with someone who’s liable to rage at me as a Nazi perpetuating a vaccine “holocaust” (either during the “discussion” or afterwards at the press conference).

Beyond ranting incoherently, RJK Jr. has shown he’s very dishonest on this subject. Just a few years ago he co-edited a book called “Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak” in which he called for the removal of thimerosal “from vaccines” – language suggesting thimerosal pervades the vaccine schedule, instead of the reality that it’s only in multi-dose formulation of flu vaccine not commonly given in this country, and also ignoring evidence that rates of neurodevelopmental disorders did not plunge after removal of thimerosal from virtually all vaccines that had contained it, back in 2001. “Let The Science Speak”, indeed.

Why would a respected scientist be expected to compete with someone who engages in name-calling and eagerly lies on such a scale?

Now if state representative Elliott wanted to sponsor a genuine discussion among professionals, he could’ve instead invited Dr. Andrew Zimmermann, J.B. Handley’s go-to researcher, who think that in some instances vaccination may induce autism in children with mitochondrial disorders. Putting him on the panel would’ve overloaded it in favor of the antivaccine movement (way, way less than 20% of experts in the field believe Dr. Zimmermann’s theory), but at least a semi-respected professional would’ve been chosen. Instead, Elliott picked RFK Jr., undoubtedly because 5 sober, unknown docs would garner vastly less useful publicity than a conclave of four dull professionals and one well-known, photogenic, manipulative publicity-seeker who styles himself as The Voice Of The Oppressed.

Dangerous Bacon thank you for responding to my second question. I appreciate hearing your POV. I think Dr. Zimmerman would have been an excellent additional to the panel, but I don’t know if he would have been willing to participate.

Would you consider responding to my first question: How do you define discussion such that it precludes this scenario (a moderated discussion panel put on by a state legislator)? I would expect a professional lawyer and speaker, such as JFK, Jr. to moderate his tone and phrasing for the situation and audience. I think he would be civil in this type of situation.

Dangerous Bacon asks: Why would a respected scientist be expected to compete with someone who engages in name-calling and eagerly lies on such a scale? I don’t know that it would expected of anyone outside of those “respected scientists” who are have communication with the public as part of their job duties. Sine the original panel participants withdrew, I conclude that it was not part of their job to participate in such discussions. If they had chosen to participate, they could have directly confronted Mr. Kennedy with his lies and name-calling as you put it, but it’s understandable if they choose to avoid the confrontation altogether when doing so would not be part of their professional responsibilities.

Hey Beth, can I tell you a relevant story? I went to a conference last year where our host was one of the speakers (although the conference was about stuff other than vaccines).
If you haven’t been, scientific conferences are generally dull and dry to the average lay person (they’re very technical). Even the very, very large conferences like the American Chemical Society are pretty tame.

But this little tiny conference I went to had to have security and bouncers because some anti-vaxxers tried to crash it. The organizers kept it very quiet and the anti-vaxxers never made it in, but frankly it was kind of disturbing. You don’t expect infiltration at a cancer conference. So I totally understand why anyone would not want to be put “out there” as pro-vaccine. Sure, it might just be some name calling. But it might be much, much worse.

“If they had chosen to participate, they could have directly confronted Mr. Kennedy with his lies and name-calling as you put it, …”

Kennedy has been told for over ten years that his opinions were out of date for years before he wrote that Salon article. He still claims that mercury is the culprit, even though SafeMinds had trouble finding it in 2001:

Subject: Thimerosal DTaP Needed
From: Sally Bernard
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 00:01:50 -0400
Yahoo! Message Number: 27456
Onibasu Link: http://onibasu.com/archives/am/27456.html

Hi all:

A group of university-based researchers needs several vials of the older DTaP vaccine formulations which contained thimerosal for a legitimate research study. If anyone knows an MD who might have some of these vaccines or knows where to get them, please email me privately.

Thank you.

Sallie Bernard
Executive Director
Safe Minds

I doubt anyone can sway him with actual science and data.

I already answered your question about “public discussion”, and why genuine discussion is poorly served by events such as this which function to give disproportionate attention to unscrupulous antivaxers. It was also addressed by Orac in his post:

“Few doctors or scientists know the minutiae of antivax arguments, because few really pay attention to them and fewer still have actually spent years studying and refuting them, as I and other skeptics have. That’s why this forum could easily turn into a bloodbath, with RFK Jr. doing the bloodletting. Science doesn’t always win in forums like this. Indeed, usually it does not. Whether it has a chance will depends on the moderator, how skilled RFK Jr. is at the Gish gallop, and how much the panelists are familiar with common antivaccine conspiracy theories, crappy studies beloved of antivaccine cranks, and fallacious attacks on large epidemiological studies that have failed to find an association between vaccines and autism. All of this is why the only appropriate answer from scientists asked to appear with someone like RFK Jr. at a forum like this is not just, “No,” but “Oh, hell, no!””

It’s amusing that you want us to believe that academic physicians have the tools and obligation to take on a dishonest propagandist like JFK Jr., getting into a shouting match in a public forum in front of cameras and microphones, and that that’s the optimal format in which they should participate in order to educate the public.

“I would expect a professional lawyer and speaker, such as JFK, Jr. to moderate his tone and phrasing for the situation and audience. I think he would be civil in this type of situation.”

Given his history of lying* and ad hominem attacks, why on earth would you think so?

*including his statement that he’s “fiercely pro-vaccine”. Blatant dishonesty is annoying, including when it comes from posters who attempt to cloak their antivax views as Just Asking Questions. Despite being far down the rabbit hole of antivaccine lunacy, at least Kent Heckenlively is honest in this regard when he proudly describes himself as an antivaxer (his claim to be #1 in this regard I’m not so sure about). 🙂

@Justatech – I can certainly understand why someone would not want to participate under those circumstances, which is a shame. I don’t agree with your assessment of Mr. Kennedy as someone who is not interested in a civil and respectful conversation. I can disagree with his use of insulting and exaggerated expressions, but I don’t presume that means he is incapable of civil and respectful dialog in a moderated panel discussion. Just as I can disagree with ORAC’s use of insulting and exaggerated expressions without presuming that he is incapable of civil and respectful dialog in other venues.

@Dangerous Bacon – No, you haven’t answered my question. You’ve given reasons why pro-vaccine experts might prefer to avoid the debate and why you think they should. You have not provided a definition of “discussion” that precludes the scenario (a moderated discussion panel put on by a state legislator). If that situation doesn’t qualify, what scenario can you envision that would allow for civil discussion including both pro- and anti- viewpoints regarding legislation of mandatory vaccinations for school attendance?

Beth: “You’ve given reasons why pro-vaccine experts might prefer to avoid the debate”

This is unusually dishonest even for you. Immunization advocates are not avoiding “the debate”.

There is no “civil discussion” to be had with diehard antivaxers Gish galloping and/or shouting insults at pro-immunization advocates in a made-for-publicity forum such as Elliott’s failed media opportunity or a debate stacked with prevaricating antivax luminaries.

Evidently the “debate”* (i.e. discussion and back-and-forth facilitated by articles posted on Respectful Insolence or other blogs, interviews with professional newspeople, books etc).is inadequate in your opinion, and instead you insist on confrontational mau-mauing of pro-vaccine figures. Well, too damn bad.

*There is no legitimate “debate” between good science and misinformed, lying, conspiracy-shouting dipwads.

@Dangerous Bacon – rather than respond to the question I asked, you have instead misinterpreted my words and denigrated my honesty based on your fallacious interpretation. I never said that pro-vaccine experts were avoiding “the debate”. I said your response to my question about a definition of “discussion” was not an answer because you gave reasons why pro-vaccine experts might prefer to avoid the debate.

Apparently your answer to my most recent question “what scenario can you envision that would allow for civil discussion including both pro- and anti- viewpoints regarding legislation of mandatory vaccinations for school attendance?” is that you can’t imagine that it is possible to have a civil discussion on that matter. If I’m misunderstanding you, please provide an answer to the questions I asked rather than another rant about how unfair and awful it would be to have Mr. Kennedy present the anti-vaccine-mandate viewpoint at such a forum.

You describe inviting Mr. Kennedy to such a forum, when he was the sole representative allowed to speak against vaccine mandates against multiple vaccine experts who all preferred to withdraw over sharing a stage with him “as “a debate stacked with prevaricating antivax luminaries”. You describe my own contributions to this conversation as “confrontational mau-mauing of pro-vaccine figures” despite my not having said one word, much less attacked or denounced, pro-vaccine experts. You assume that Mr. Kennedy would be “shouting insults at pro-immunization advocates” and based on this assumption conclude “There is no “civil discussion” to be had with diehard antivaxers. I don’t agree with your description or your conclusion.

I agree with Rep. Elliott that a public discussion of the risks and benefits of vaccinations and vaccine mandates by people who have studied the area in depth would be a good thing. I think it’s a shame his forum did not happen. You apparently think it would be even more of a shame if it had happened. We’ll just have to disagree on whether the benefits of going forward with such a public discussion would have been worth the danger posed by allowing Mr. Kennedy to discuss his concerns.

I think that there are (at least) two requirements for a civil and productive discussion.

First, both parties need to accept that the other side is arguing in good faith. In other words, they are presenting statements that they genuinely believe based on evidence they consider valid.

Second, both sides need to be amenable to persuasion. That is, they should be willing to change their views if presented with evidence of sufficient quality and a clear explanation.

I believe the doctors and scientists on the panel genuinely believe in their planned presentations. However, since RFK, Jr. made his grand debut into the vaccine discussion by claiming that a CDC conference on the Vaccine Safety Datalink was a cover-up to conceal the presumed harm done by vaccines, it is doubtful that he would accept that. And since he hasn’t performed or participated in any published research on vaccine safety or effectiveness, he doesn’t get the same presumption given to a scientist presenting the results of their own research.

The multiple studies on vaccine safety done over the last 20 years show that the worldwide scientific community is at least amenable to considering that vaccines might have some harmful side-effects and that it is worth looking for problems with them that did not turn up in the original studies leading to their certification. However, RFK, Jr’s continued insistence that mercury in vaccines is somehow causing harm almost 20 years after the U.S. and at least one other country removed thimerosol from practically all childhood vaccines with no discernible effect on the rate of autism makes it doubtful that he is amenable to persuasion.

Another good addition to the panel might have been Dr. P. Aaby, who has done numerous studies on non-specific effects of vaccines, both positive and negative.

@Karen MARCH 21, 2019 AT 11:10 PM

It’s probably because my career was in retail that I find the name “Karen” connected with a pro disease post like this, so very amusing.

Beth: “You’ve given reasons why pro-vaccine experts might prefer to avoid the debate”
Beth: ” I never said that pro-vaccine experts were avoiding “the debate”.”

Can’t remember what you’ve posted from what moment to the next?

Your posts provide a good example of the difficulty of having a “civil discussion” with antivaxers who lie and distort what their opponents have said. It’s worse when antivaxers like JFK Jr. rail about pro-immunization advocates being Nazis complicit in a “holocaust”.

Not that you’re in the latter group; you’re just a penny-ante JAQ-off.

Yes, I not only remembered, I checked. In one, I’m describing what you said. In the other, I’m saying that I didn’t say what you said I did. Those statements are not even close to the same thing. That you think they do and accuse me of dishonesty goes to the heart of why civil discussion on this issue is so difficult.

Beth falsely categorized what I’d said while insinuating that “pro vaccine experts” were avoiding “the debate” (not just a specific forum, but allegedly refusing to discuss vaccine-related issues in general*).

Then she piously denied having done so. Par for the course for Beth.

Have you considered changing your username to R41.0?

*Pro-immunization advocates engage in public discussion on a widespread basis every day. It’s called having a talk with patients and/or their parents, and includes informed consent.

“Have you considered changing your username to R41.0?”

I had so many codes to chose from. Had to make a choice.

But I like your suggestion. Maybe I’ll change.

Here’s Mr. Civil Discussion himself, RFK Jr., commenting on the cancellation of the legislative forum in Connecticut (from AoA):

“For 15 years, Pharma has systematically pressured a long string of my scheduled opponents (Hotez, Offitt, etc) to cancel every one of dozens of agreed upon debates. Invariably they withdraw at the last minute as Pharma rallies its toadies to call them. I was looking forward to finally enjoying an honest and civil exchange with Yale’s vaccinology impresarios. “This gang,” I told myself, “will have too much pride to chicken out!” Wrong! I just got the word that all five Yale professors canceled at 3:00 a.m. Please tune to Children’s Health Defense for a live stream around 10:30 a.m. EDT. If they allow the live stream to go forward, I’m going to go give a seminar on vaccine science at the Connecticut State Capitol. Right now I’m thinking of how blatant, how anti-democratic and fundamentally anti-American the censorship has become. I’ll be thinking today of all the Moms who are silenced when they try to tell their stories. They can only win by silencing us.” #phascism.”

“toadies” “impresarios” “this gang” “fundamentally anti-American” “phascism”

That’s one civil dude. How amazing that the docs bailed on the chance for an “honest and civil exchange”. 🙂

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