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Medical Hypotheses is back, and it’s pushing antimask disinformation

Medical Hypotheses is a fringe journal published by Elsevier that’s long been known for publishing pseudoscience, such as antivax and HIV/AIDS denial. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now back with antimask nonsense.

There’s a “study” that’s gone viral in the COVID-19-denying/minimizing, antimask, anti-public health interventions, antivaccine crankosphere by someone named Baruch Vainshelboim entitled Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis. For whatever reason, even though it was published in January, only now does it seem to be going viral, leading me to seeing it incessantly popping up on my Twitter timeline, with cranks emailing me a hearty “Ha! I told you so!” while readers send me the link to the article asking me to discuss it. Before I do just that, let me just note that that last word in the title ought to give you a hint that, yes, this not-study was published in Medical Hypotheses. For those of you not familiar with this highly dubious journal, I present a brief trip down memory lane before I delve into Vainshelboim’s article.

Medical Hypotheses: A brief history

Does anyone remember Medical Hypotheses? I certainly do. It’s a fringe journal published by Elsevier—yes, that Elsevier!—that has a long history of publishing, if you’ll excuse the term, complete and utter bullshit under the banner of “speculative” science. Examples are many, and I’ve written about some of them, for example, the bogus claim that aluminum in antiperspirants cause breast cancer appears to have originated in an article in Medical Hypotheses.

That’s nowhere near all, though. Back in my early days of blogging, Medical Hypotheses published antivaccine articles, for example an article by Len Horowitz published in 2001 “hypothesizing” that genetic recombinations with oncogene activation by the hepatitis B vaccine involving simian viruses (yes, SV40, the simian virus that antivaxxers blame for an “epidemic of cancer” due to the polio vaccine) that likely infected polio vaccinated blood donors to the initial hepatitis B vaccine trials conducted on gay men in New York City and Ugandan Blacks in the early to mid-1970s had resulted in the AIDS epidemic. Another notorious example was an article by antivaccine activists Mark Blaxill, Lyn Redwood, and Sallie Bernard in 2004 laying out the “medical hypothesis” that mercury in vaccines causes autism. Perhaps the most (in)famous antivaccine article published by Medical Hypotheses was written by the père et fils duo of antivaccine cranks Mark and David Geier in which they proposed using Lupron (a drug that shuts down sex hormone production) to treat autism, the worst autism quackery I had yet seen at the time. They based their “Lupron protocol” on a claim that testosterone formed “sheets” that prevented the chelation of mercury and thus led to higher levels of mercury (from vaccines, of course) in the brain. Where did they get this idea? It was from an observation that testosterone could bind mercury when precipitated out of a high temperature benzene solvent. I kid you not.

On its website, Medical Hypotheses describes itself thusly:

Medical Hypotheses is a forum for ideas in medicine and related biomedical sciences. It will publish interesting and important theoretical papers that foster the diversity and debate upon which the scientific process thrives. The Aims and Scope of Medical Hypotheses are no different now from what was proposed by the founder of the journal, the late Dr David Horrobin. In his introduction to the first issue of the Journal, he asks ‘what sorts of papers will be published in Medical Hypotheses? and goes on to answer ‘Medical Hypotheses will publish papers which describe theories, ideas which have a great deal of observational support and some hypotheses where experimental support is yet fragmentary’. (Horrobin DF, 1975 Ideas in Biomedical Science: Reasons for the foundation of Medical Hypotheses. Medical Hypotheses Volume 1, Issue 1, January-February 1975, Pages 1-2.). Medical Hypotheses was therefore launched, and still exists today, to give novel, radical new ideas and speculations in medicine open-minded consideration, opening the field to radical hypotheses which would be rejected by most conventional journals. Papers in Medical Hypotheses take a standard scientific form in terms of style, structure and referencing. The journal therefore constitutes a bridge between cutting-edge theory and the mainstream of medical and scientific communication, which ideas must eventually enter if they are to be critiqued and tested against observations.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out as Horroborin had intended. Instead, Medical Hypotheses became a repository for crank scientific “hypotheses,” such as the aforementioned antivaccine and cancer pseudoscience. I could go through even more examples of such nonsense published by Medical Hypotheses, including “hypotheses” claiming that masturbation is a treatment for nasal congestion or that high-heeled shoes are linked to schizophrenia, and even pseudoscience by cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski, but why belabor the point? The last time I paid enough attention to Medical Hypotheses to write an actual post about it was a decade ago when, after the journal had published an article by the granddaddy of HIV/AIDS denialism, Peter Duesberg, an article so bad and irresponsible that Elsevier actually retracted it, making it the only article I’m aware of that was too much pseudoscience even for Medical Hypotheses. Elsevier told then-editor Bruce Charlton, in essence, “Enough’s enough,” firing him. Oddly enough, in his misguided defense of Medical Hypotheses and its reliance on “editorial review” for its articles rather than peer review (and also of the “censorship” of Andrew Wakefield), Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, normally a sound voice about medicine and science, inadvertently revealed just why the journal was so bad and its continued indexing by the National Library of Medicine on PubMed was dangerous:

The notion that organisational methods of censorship and repression are the appropriate response to influential currents of pseudoscience has unfortunately become widely established. This is well illustrated by the recent controversy surrounding the journal Medical Hypotheses – published, like Vaccine and the Lancet, by Elsevier. Under its founding editor David Horrobin, and his successor Bruce Charlton, Medical Hypotheses has rejected the procedures of peer review now standard among academic journals in favour of a policy of selection by the editor, according to what he considers interesting, provocative, entertaining. The result is an eclectic mixture of science and pseudoscience, sense and nonsense.

For example, Medical Hypotheses has published articles suggesting that autism may be caused by iron, mercury, Vitamin D deficiency, electromagnetic fields, Lyme disease, the antibiotic Augmentin and improved childhood hygiene. I strongly suspect that these theories are as speculative and as insubstantial as the MMR-autism thesis, but this is no grounds for denying their authors a platform, particularly when it is clear that they have not been given the kite mark of peer review.

Medical Hypotheses and its editorial policy were safe – indeed the journal has flourished under Charlton’s editorship – until he published an article by Peter Duesberg, the notorious retrovirologist who rejects the theory that HIV is the cause of AIDS. This brought Charlton into conflict with one of the most powerful scientific advocacy lobbies, the AIDS establishment, which ranks second only to the climate-change crusade when it comes to trying to suppress its critics, who are stigmatised as ‘denialists’ of doctrinal orthodoxy.

This was almost 11 years ago. Doesn’t it sound an awful lot like COVID-19 contrarians when social media companies try to deprioritize and deplatform their dangerous pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and disinformation? In any event, as I said at the time, I suppose you could describe the journal that way, as an “eclectic mixture of science and pseudoscience, sense and nonsense,” although the pseudoscience and nonsense have long seemed much more prominent. Such a description, however, was not what I considered a ringing endorsement of a journal that had represented itself as being every bit as serious as a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and whose “speculations” and “hypotheses” can in the age of COVID-19 be downright dangerous and deadly.

Which brings us back to Vainshelboim’s article.

A dangerous “medical hypothesis” in the age of COVID-19

When I first saw Vainshelboim’s antimask article spreading around the COVID-19 crankosphere in social media, my first temptation was very similar to Mark Hoofnagle’s sentiment:

Like Mark, I was tempted just to point to Medical Hypotheses and say that, “peer review” or no “peer review” enforced on the journal by Elsevier 10 years ago after Bruce Charlton was fired, this article is very much of a piece with the long, undistinguished history of the journal of publishing ridiculous and sometimes dangerous pseudoscience. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Why? Just look at Twitter:

It’s not a study!

Look at this Tweet by rising star in the antimask, antivaccine, COVID-19 minimizing/denying conspiracy movement, Naomi Wolf:

As you can see, being an ostensibly peer-reviewed and PubMed-indexed journal published by Elsevier, a very large and established publisher of peer-reviewed biomedical journals, makes the bad science published by Medical Hypotheses seem credible to laypeople (and even some scientists) who don’t know the journal’s long and sordid history. So we have to look at what Vainshelboim wrote. It doesn’t matter if, like this article, it’s nothing more than an opinion piece masquerading as a review article. Cranks interpret it as a “study,” when it is not, and use it to bolster their views.

It helps that there is a lot in the article that is just plain wrong, and risibly so. Our friend the Health Nerd points out a couple of examples of this sort of thing:

I also can’t help but note that these quotes from Anthony Fauci come from a New England Journal of Medicine article published March 26, 2020. This might as well be ancient history in the context of the pandemic, as over a year ago there was considerably more uncertainty about case fatality rates (CFRs, the mortality in people diagnosed with COVID-19) and infection fatality rates (IFRs, the mortality in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including asymptomatic infections). It’s intellectually dishonest to use a quote from so long ago in this fashion, when there is much more up-to-date information now to be had.

Vainshelboim also invokes a favorite “blame the victim” conspiracy theory about COVID-19 that states that only the old and infirm need to worry about dying from the disease:

In addition, data from hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and general public indicate that the majority of deaths were among older and chronically ill individuals, supporting the possibility that the virus may exacerbates existing conditions but rarely causes death by itself [9][10].

Neither of the articles cited actually supports this claim. The first is an early article in JAMA from last year that did show that comorbidities and age greatly increase the chance of serious disease or death, and the second is by John Ioannidis, who has a demonstrated record of using bad epidemiology to downplay the lethality of COVID-19. In any event, this is nothing more than the COVID-19 denial trope that I like to call the “6% gambit,” a conspiracy theory that claims that “only 6%” of the deaths from COVID-19 are actually from the disease because 94% of the death certificates list comorbid conditions.

Now let’s look at Vainshelboim’s “hypothesis” (“hypotheses,” actually, as there are four):

Of note, hyperoxia or oxygen supplementation (breathing air with high partial O2pressures that above the sea levels) has been well established as therapeutic and curative practice for variety acute and chronic conditions including respiratory complications [11][15]. It fact, the current standard of care practice for treating hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is breathing 100% oxygen [16][17][18]. Although several countries mandated wearing facemask in health care settings and public areas, scientific evidences are lacking supporting their efficacy for reducing morbidity or mortality associated with infectious or viral diseases [2][14][19]. Therefore, it has been hypothesized: 1) the practice of wearing facemasks has compromised safety and efficacy profile, 2) Both medical and non-medical facemasks are ineffective to reduce human-to-human transmission and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, 3) Wearing facemasks has adverse physiological and psychological effects, 4) Long-term consequences of wearing facemasks on health are detrimental.

This is a non sequitur. It does not follow from the observation that oxygen supplementation is used to treat acute and chronic respiratory diseases and conditions that masks are harmful. In addition, he cherry picks his references. The first two references is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) statements from April and June on the use of facemasks, reminding me how I, for one, have long bemoaned the epic screwups in messaging over masks early in the pandemic. For example, the World Health Organization didn’t change its recommendations that downplayed the importance of wearing masks until last June. This was particularly infuriating, given that, as was noted in March 2020, mask use had always been advised as part of the standard response to being around infected people, especially for people who may be vulnerable, WHO officials were wearing masks during their news briefings, and since the SARS experience in 2003 that health officials in many high-risk Asian countries had advised wearing masks. She also pointed out that the messaging at the time also recommended that people who were sick should wear masks to protect others, further noting that, given the increasing evidence of asymptomatic transmission of SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, such advice would imply that everyone should wear masks when around others.

The third reference that “masks don’t work” is a paper from 2015 beloved of antimaskers the world over. It was a randomized trial of medical masks, cloth masks or a control group (usual practice, which included mask wearing) among healthcare workers in Vietnam, the main outcome being influenza or respiratory viral disease that found that cloth masks were associated with the highest rates of respiratory disease, which Vainshelboim misrepresents in the same way antimaskers always misrepresent this study:

With respect to cloth facemask, a RCT using four weeks follow up compared the effect of cloth facemask to medical masks and to no masks on the incidence of clinical respiratory illness, influenza-like illness and laboratory-confirmed respiratory virus infections among 1607 participants from 14 hospitals [19]. The results showed that there were no difference between wearing cloth masks, medical masks and no masks for incidence of clinical respiratory illness and laboratory-confirmed respiratory virus infections. However, a large harmful effect with more than 13 times higher risk [Relative Risk = 13.25 95% CI (1.74 to 100.97) was observed for influenza-like illness among those who were wearing cloth masks [19]. The study concluded that cloth masks have significant health and safety issues including moisture retention, reuse, poor filtration and increased risk for infection, providing recommendation against the use of cloth masks [19].

It’s always been questionable how applicable this study is to the wearing of masks outside of a healthcare institution, but here’s the misrepresentation. One huge problem with this study is that the “usual practice” arm involved frequent wearing of medical masks, not “no masks,” making the interpretation of this study as anything other than showing that cloth masks don’t work as well as medical masks to slow the spread of respiratory viruses difficult. (I also note that no one recommends the use of cloth masks over medical masks in a medical setting, except in conditions of extreme shortages of masks.) In other words, there was no true “no mask” control group, contrary to Vainshelboim’s spin on the study. His description of the study is intellectually dishonest in the extreme.

Elsewhere, Vainshelboim makes some very incorrect assumptions, for example:

If you want to get an idea of how desperate Vainshelboim is to make his point, laugh at this paragraph:

The adverse physiological effects were confirmed in a study of 53 surgeons where surgical facemask were used during a major operation. After 60 min of facemask wearing the oxygen saturation dropped by more than 1% and heart rate increased by approximately five beats/min [45]. Another study among 158 health-care workers using protective personal equipment primarily N95 facemasks reported that 81% (128 workers) developed new headaches during their work shifts as these become mandatory due to COVID-19 outbreak. For those who used the N95 facemask greater than 4 h per day, the likelihood for developing a headache during the work shift was approximately four times higher [Odds ratio = 3.91, 95% CI (1.35–11.31) p = 0.012], while 82.2% of the N95 wearers developed the headache already within ≤10 to 50 min [46].

A 1% decrease in oxygen saturation? I marvel that the authors could reliably pick up that tiny a drop in saturation with a pulse oximeter! Oxygen saturation fluctuates by more than that just from regular activity, and Vainshelboim neglects to note that even the authors of the study concluded that “early change in SpO2 may be either due to the facial mask or the operational stress.” I also laughed at the authors writing, “Since a very small decrease in saturation at this level, reflects a large decrease in PaO2, our findings may have a clinical value for the health workers and the surgeons.” As far as oxygen delivery goes, it is the saturation of the hemoglobin molecules in your red blood cells that matters far more than anything else, as the amount of oxygen dissolved in your blood is very small by comparison. This is basic physiology, and if your saturation is between 95-100%, a change of 1% is basically meaningless, statistical noise. Yes, if you have a 99% oxygen saturation on room air and start breathing 100% oxygen by a non-rebreather, you will bump your saturation up to 100% (a mere 1% increase) while vastly increasing the partial pressure of oxygen in your blood, but it will make very little difference in the actual oxygen delivery to your cells.

As for headaches, I could be sarcastic and mention that I recently wore an N95 for over 10 hours in the operating room, and the only headache I suffered was a metaphorical one—briefly—when one of the cases turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated. In reality, I’ve never suffered a headache from wearing an N95, except when the straps holding it on my head were too tight or the splash-proof safety glasses were pressing against the wrong part of my face. My sarcastic recounting of personal anecdotes aside, Vainshelboim again does not tell the whole story. This study was about the wearing of all forms of personal protective equipment (PPE), not just N95 masks. That includes eye protection, such as goggles or face shields, gowns, etc. The study actually goes along with my personal anecdotal experience, though, as this quote shows:

Of the 158 respondents, 128 (81.0%) reported de novo PPE‐associated headaches when they wore either the N95 face mask, with or without the protective eyewear. All respondents described the headaches as bilateral in location. Figure 3 illustrates the summated anatomical localization of headaches (marked by the study participants) and the corresponding frequencies of occurrence according to PPE subtype. Interestingly, the location of the discomfort experienced by the participants corresponded to the areas of contact from the face mask or goggles and their corresponding head straps. The majority [112/128 (87.5%)] reported a sensation of pressure or heaviness at the affected sites, with some [15/128 (11.7%)] characterizing it as a throbbing or pulling pain [1/128 (0.8%)].

Unlike the impression Vainshelboim tries to relate, PPE-associated headaches reported have nothing to do with lack of oxygen due to N95 masks and everything to do with pressure from the straps of the goggles or face shield. Presumably, most cloth masks don’t produce such pressure unless they’re really, really tight (in which case the mask wearer should adjust the mask or get a different one), and even N95 masks don’t produce quite that pressure either (although sometimes I do feel sinus pressure from the mask digging into my nose and cheeks). It’s also an intellectually dishonest trick that he plays, cherry picking data from N95 masks in terms of oxygenation and headaches and generalizing it to all masks.

I could go on and on and on. Doing what Medical Hypotheses authors do, Vainshelboim has cherry picked an impressive array of studies suggesting that masks don’t slow the spread of COVID-19 and cause all sorts of horrific problems. Neither contention is true. There is a considerable and growing body of evidence supporting the efficacy of mask wearing for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Personally, I like to refer to a much better review article published in January in PNAS on the efficacy of masks. While acknowledging the lack of certainty, it reviews a wide variety of evidence regarding masks and COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, including epidemiological, ecological, and modeling studies, as well as the limited number of randomized clinical trials, and concludes:

Our review of the literature offers evidence in favor of widespread mask use as source control to reduce community transmission: Nonmedical masks use materials that obstruct particles of the necessary size; people are most infectious in the initial period postinfection, where it is common to have few or no symptoms (4546141); nonmedical masks have been effective in reducing transmission of respiratory viruses; and places and time periods where mask usage is required or widespread have shown substantially lower community transmission.

The available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of nonmedical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures, could successfully reduce Re to below 1, thereby reducing community spread if such measures are sustained. Economic analysis suggests that mask wearing mandates could add 1 trillion dollars to the US GDP (3234).

Models suggest that public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high (39). We recommend that mask use requirements are implemented by governments, or, when governments do not, by organizations that provide public-facing services. Such mandates must be accompanied by measures to ensure access to masks, possibly including distribution and rationing mechanisms so that they do not become discriminatory. Given the value of the source control principle, especially for presymptomatic people, it is not sufficient for only employees to wear masks; customers must wear masks as well.

Basically, in his Medical Hypotheses article, Vainshelboim ignores all the positive evidence in his eagerness to cherry pick negative evidence and in doing so provides a perfect piece of deceptive antimask propaganda in the form of a seemingly “peer-reviewed study” from Stanford University.

But wait…

Who is this Baruch Vainshelboim character, anyway?

When I first encountered his Medical Hypotheses article, I had never heard of Baruch Vainshelboim. In the article, his affiliation is listed as “Cardiology Division, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System/Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.” A quick Google search brings up mostly references to his Medical Hypothesis article, such as an article by the American Institute for Economic Research, a right wing propaganda group disguised as a “think tank” behind the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD). The GBD, unsurprisingly, argues that we should just let COVID-19 rip through the population of the young and healthy, who are supposedly at very low risk of dying, while using “focused protection” (which is never really defined) to protect the elderly and the vulnerable. It’s basically a crank document advocating eugenics lite. Meanwhile AIER likes to liken anti-“lockdown” protesters to slavery abolitionists. Also unsurprisingly, AIER loves Vainshelboim’s article, falsely citing it as slam-dunk evidence that masks don’t work.

A quick PubMed search showed 55 publications, which is respectable, and most of his papers (such as this one) do list Stanford and the Palo Alto VA as his affiliations. However, this 2021 paper lists his affiliation as “Rabin Medical Center, Pulmonary Institute (affiliated to Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv), Petah Tikva, Israel.” His Research Gate Profile also lists this affiliation, as does this source, which lists him as a Professor at the Pulmonary Institute at the Rabin Medical Center. My search also brought up a LinkedIn profile that doesn’t seem to show him with Stanford or the Palo Alto VA, as well as an entry in the Pulmonary Vascular Research Institute, which appears to be some sort of UK charity. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any reference to his being employed at Stanford University or the Palo Alto VA Hospital. I found all this puzzling, given that the email address he listed with his Medical Hypotheses paper was a Gmail account, not a university or VA account.

And then there’s this AP News story:

The study’s author, Baruch Vainshelboim, is listed in the study as being affiliated with the cardiology division at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System/Stanford University.

However, a representative for the VA Palo Alto Health Care System told the AP in an email that Vainshelboim does not work there.

“I can confirm this person is not one of our physicians,” wrote Michael Hill-Jackson, a public affairs specialist with the system. “I do not see him in our system and our Cardiology team has never heard of him.”

Vainshelboim also does not work for Stanford, according to Julie Greicius, senior director of external communications for the university’s medical school.

“Stanford University has never employed Baruch Vainshelboim,” Greicius wrote in an email to the AP. “Several years ago (2015), he was a visiting scholar at Stanford for a year, on matters unrelated to this paper.”

Vainshelboim, who lists himself on LinkedIn as a clinical exercise physiologist and does not list any current employment, did not respond to a request for comment.

Curiouser and curiouser. Before I saw this article, my first guess as to how to explain the discrepancies in his employment history was that Vainshelboim had worked for the Palo Alto VA and had some sort of Stanford clinical faculty or adjunct faculty appointment, but had recently moved to Israel to work at the Rabin Medical Center. That could still be true, I suppose, although even unpaid clinical faculty are usually given a university email account, to allow them access to the online library and various teaching tools, which makes Stanford’s denial of his association with the University very hard to explain. Even more difficult to reconcile with Vainshelboim’s citing affiliations with Stanford and the Palo Alto VA is the statement that no one in the cardiology team at the Palo Alto VA had heard of him makes me wonder what’s really going on. Could it be…grift?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Vainshelboim took advantage of the tendencies of Medical Hypotheses to publish pseudoscience and nonsense in order to get his “hypothesis” that masks don’t work and are harmful. Medical Hypotheses has always been a dangerous—and not in a good way!—journal in the way it provides ammunition to antiscience cranks. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, its embrace of nonsense can have even more deadly consequences.

ADDENDUM: It appears that Baruch Vainshelboim lied about his affiliation with Stanford University and the Palo Alto VA Hospital.

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]

88 replies on “Medical Hypotheses is back, and it’s pushing antimask disinformation”

Heh heh. Wolf wonders why Twitter would de-platform her four times.. I can guess

Orac can now expect an influx of trolls after writing this post- anti-mask is the cat’s meow** these days

** 1920s ? slang being used in 2020s I hear. See also Bee’s knees.

Oh, it’s even worse than just her not understanding who was executed and who wasn’t. She also failed to notice/address that in some of the court cases the victims were not consenting adults but abused children.
She was so blinded by her thesis she didn’t see the contradictory data.

And now she’s a loon who abuses her PhD in English to make people think she’s a medical doctor.

I’m surprised Twitter has only put her in time out four times.

If you read the AP story, it turns out that “The Gateway Pundit” also doesn’t understand what Pubmed is.

Maybe yes, maybe no. it’s Gateway Pundit, so they could well know what Pubmed is, and just be lying about it….

OK, I decided to attempt a check. The claim seems to have arrived at Gateway Pundit fourth-hand, as they cite “NOQ Report” another uber-Trumpist site with a big MyPillow ad at the top of the page (“Support Freedom… Support Truth… Support MyPillow… Support your neck…”) which in turn cites a Tweet from Raheem Kassam, a far-right British media figure associated with UKIP, Farage, Breitbart and Bannon: “Twitter has suspended @CortesSteve for citing a Stanford NIH study about masks.”

Steve Cortes, is a far-right radio talker from Chicago… His Tweet had read “Face masks are dirty, dehumanizing and ineffective. Stanford Univ. study:” followed by a short pull quote and a link to the papers NCBI page. This resulted in a Twitter suspension for violating their “policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”

I’ve researched this kind of thing before, and this is how it goes in the right-wing mediaverse. The story starts with something like an individual Tweet or blog entry, then gets chained through a series of several sites picking up the story, one after another, getting amplified and distorted at every turn, often picking up new quotes expressing more and more outrage. Alas, the end of the chain is often some more ‘mainstream’ outlet, as the AP reports:

“Stanford peer review study on masks says they basically do not work for C-19,” the local North Dakota TV show POVNow posted on Facebook on Monday. “

Looking at the Gateway Pundit language more closely — “A recent Stanford study released by the NCBI, which is under the National Institutes of Health”, my guess is they do know how this works, and are just being intentionally misleading about it. Ditto for NOQ.

i think we need an inverse of Hanlon’s razor for Trumpism and the GQP: be careful attributing to stupidity that which is better explained by malice.

Yeah, somehow I forgot to mention how many antimaskers are misrepresenting this study as being an “NIH study,” just because it’s in PubMed.🤦‍♂️

” ,,, this is how it goes…… chained… amplified and distorted….. expressing more and more outrage”
I’ve observed a similar state of affairs amongst the woo-enraptured.

re ” inverse of Hanlon’s razor”
Applause!

My left ear hurts if I have to wear my KN95 two days in a row for vaccine clinics. But that’s the worst of it. I’ve had the same mask on all day, without breaks, plenty of times now and never had an issue with oxygen levels. Go figure.

The other thing we were seeing was that people were claiming this was an NIH study because it was at NCBI in PubMed. Another old chestnut claim.

Snopes references claims that Vainshelboim’s speculative dreck represents an “NIH study”:

“The NIH, (as well as Stanford), has nothing to do with this study.* That false notion stems from the fact that Medical Hypotheses is a journal listed on PubMed, which is an index of scientific journals maintained on an NIH website but does not, in any way, act as a publisher.”

Kind of reminds you of a certain RI troll who made similar claims about PubMed indexing signifying NIH endorsement.

*yeah, not a study, I know.

Well another rent free space for me.
If you are going to quote me please quote me exactly as I wrote it.
If you have an issue with what ‘snopes’ said bring it up with them. That was the same Snopes that had to fact check “the CNN buys industrial washing machine to SPIN the news”
It is interesting that some people quote PubMed and NIH and no one objects to what they post.

It is interesting that some people quote PubMed and NIH and no one objects to what they post.

I guess it didn’t sink in the first time around.

You did believe that if NIH links to something, it must mean that NIH endorses it. This is not same thing that citing PubMed

If the American Institute for Economic Research loves Vainshelboim, maybe he got a free lunch at a Hoover Institute wing-ding or something, and that’s his Stanford affiliation. Or, joking aside, he could have gotten some funding for his (not-a0 ‘study’ from Hoover. Or maybe a personal check from John ioannidis? (Joking again.) Whatever, Vainshelboim has completed his PhD, has 55 publications, and a professional photo on his Linkedin page, so he’s obviously more qualified than a nerdy grad student who used a silly ID photo with big glasses and a cat. /s

If Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick is “normally a sound voice about medicine and science”, the loaded language of “climate-change crusade” and “scaremongering about AIDS” sure sounds un-sound on some ground or another.

In the humanities, we have a mix of peer-reviewed journals and journals where the editor has a stronger hand. The former are often stuffy and dull, while the latter are more interesting, in part because they can be more focused on different themes from one issue to the next. Actually, instances where editors act unilaterally are rare — there’s usually some range of reviewers, it’s just that how the reviewers are chosen, and what weight their comments are given varies a lot. I don’t know how things go in sciences, especially with publishers like Elsevier, but if it’s anything like the humanities, the editor may be able to ‘game’ the process — which can be good or bad, depending. You absolutely need a good editor, which comes down to the quality of the editorial board that selects the editor. Of course, the brief of most journals in the humanities includes publishing stuff that is “interesting, and provocative,” [rarely if ever is “entertaining” a value], but openly so. [This was Alan Sokol’s fallacy, claiming a non-peer-reviewed humanities journal should have adhered to the standards of a peer-reviewed science journal, when he knew those weren’t the rules to begin with…] If that’s what you’re after, you shouldn’t have the papers in your journal look like something else. So when I read that papers in Medical Hypotheses “take a standard scientific form in terms of style, structure and referencing,” that leads me to suspect the project was disingenuous BS from the get go.

Maybe I can say that Dr. Fitzgerald was normally a sane voice about vaccines and autism. However, he was a regular columnist for Spiked Online, which says that he’s prone to right wing nonsense about “cancel culture.” Hell, that article I cited is ten years old, and he was basically complaining about “cancel culture” then (Wakefield, Medical Hypotheses, etc.) without using the term, which hadn’t been invented yet, as far as I recall.

‘cancel culture’ this isn’t some right wing strawman this is the ‘math’ they are going to teach in California and other states.
You do realize that they want to get rid of the ‘correct’ answer in math classes and that you won’t have to show you work and of course it more important to have a ‘group come to a resolution’ even if it the wrong answer. If your ok with not having to show your work or even get the correct math answer well………

“Deconstructing Racism in Mathematics Instruction” (page 6).
https://equitablemath.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/1_STRIDE1.pdf

‘cancel culture’ this isn’t some right wing strawman this is the ‘math’ they are going to teach in California and other states.
You do realize that they want to get rid of the ‘correct’ answer in math classes and that you won’t have to show you work and of course it more important to have a ‘group come to a resolution’ of the answer than having the correct (racist) answer.

I will quote from page 6 of the instructional guide.

“we see white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom can show up when:
• The focus is on getting the “right” answer.
• Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration.
….
• Procedural fluency is preferred over conceptual knowledge.
• Students are required to “show their work.”

“Deconstructing Racism in Mathematics Instruction”
https://equitablemath.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/1_STRIDE1.pdf

And you thought science was going to be exempt from “cancel culture”

@Scott Allen It is about teaching math. Very bad way, of course.
Classical problem is that not everybody immediately understand math. Interisting thing is that Johan von Neumann once said “Young man, we do not understand things in mathematics. We get used to them.”

Isn’t it weird that SA is suddenly linking to things that Q-ball was just talking about in the last post?

Also, Scott: New Math. Tom Lehrer has a very nice song about it.

Also, Scott: New Math.

Man, my dentist hated the UCSMP curriculum: his older son was unable to perform long division when applying to college, and parents were unduly imposed upon lest victim-blaming. See, it’s all about “swirling.” How Paul Sally got himself in this apparently profitable operation* is anybody’s guess.

*ISTR that they revamped the texts at one point, but still.

I don’t know what the heck is happening with the indexing processes at PubMed anymore. There is some absolutely crap content in there citing fake “peer-reviewed” articles published in phony journals and even house organ pseudo-“journals.” Maybe someone could provide some more information.

Snopes.com, the debunking site, also had this story today. It’s briefer but covers it well. They pose issues as questions and then investigate them try to conclude truth or falsity. This one was labeled categorically false that these institutions researched the mask issue in this way and this grifter was in any way associated with them.

I made a comment on the other thread about a number of recent papers in Medical Hypotheses. There is a very large January issue that has just recently gone online (despite it now being April). I think this is why all the cranks are linking to the papers like mad. The few I look at in the January issue are eyerollingly bad (how is that not a word?).

We don’t need Pete Singer’s new journal, you can get whatever nonsense you like published in Medical Hypotheses. You can even use fake addresses in order to pump up your importance. What is there not to like?

Making sure I keep auto fill off.

Earlier this week, a local gentleman who had been very vocal about masks doing more harm than good, and mandates being government overreach, was taken off life support, his lungs shut down by COVID-19. And all I could think was “Well, what did he expect?”

Ted Nugent has been vocal about masks lacking benefit, and he’s reportedly mocked those who wear them as part of his Covid-19 denialist routine. Then he got smacked by reality.

““I have never been so sick in all my life,” Nugent said (in a recent Facebook broadcast). “I could barely crawl out of bed. And I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m just trying to share a medical emergency during a global medical emergency, and what the Nugent tribe, what this guitar player is doing to counterpunch a Covid-19 positive test this afternoon. And it’s gonna be willpower.”

http://rollingstone.com/music/music-news/ted-nugent-covid-19-1158483/

As we all know, willpower beats the crap out of vaccines, about which Nugent is still fearmongering.

A journey to the center of Nugent’s mind* is a hazardous trip.

*nostalgic Amboy Dukes reference.

@ EVERYONE: Response to Scott Allen

Scott Allen
says:
April 21, 2021 at 7:10 pm
‘cancel culture’ this isn’t some right wing strawman this is the ‘math’ they are going to teach in California and other states.
You do realize that they want to get rid of the ‘correct’ answer in math classes and that you won’t have to show you work and of course it more important to have a ‘group come to a resolution’ even if it the wrong answer. If your ok with not having to show your work or even get the correct math answer well………
“Deconstructing Racism in Mathematics Instruction” (page 6).
https://equitablemath.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/1_STRIDE1.pdf

I will quote from page 6 of the instructional guide.
“we see white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom can show up when:
• The focus is on getting the “right” answer.
• Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration.
….
• Procedural fluency is preferred over conceptual knowledge.
Students are required to “show their work.”

Unfortunately, as usual, delusional Scott either didn’t read the rest of the paper, didn’t understand it, or, as a sick sick troll just posts irrational comments to annoy others.

Let’s start with “The focus is on getting the “right answer. What do they mean by the “right” answer?

On Page 23: “State standards guide learning in the classroom. Instead… While in public schools, our professional responsibility is to teach with the standards in mind, it is also our duty as antiracist educators to unpack how the standards uphold white supremacy culture. A hyperfocus on standards requires teachers to function under a system of urgency to “cover” all the material that will be on the test and not focus on actual learning. This perpetuates the myth of coverage: The more we teach our students, the more that a student is going to understand; the blame is on the student for not understanding versus the quality of the teaching. The teaching becomes like a banking system instead of an interaction. In addition, there is constant tension between those promoting CCSS as the best way to learn and those who are rejecting it (often because they did not learn math this way)—both views uphold only one right way to do math. They limit the myriad ways of teaching and .”learning mathematics in other cultures and countries

Let me give an example from another school approach, Waldorf schools. Starting from the beginning, rather than getting kids to, for instance, memorize measurement systems, they ask them to build a, for instance, doll house. So, how do they get the sides, the windows, the doors to agree when each student cutting out their own section of cardboard? Kids come up with using size of foot or cubit (from elbow to tip of hand), etc. Teacher shows how each kid differ. Eventually they come up with a common system. So, they are learning the “right” answer, that measurement is an arbitrarily agreed upon system, just not by rote memorization and they are also learning a deeper level of understanding.

And, as the first paragraph states, kids learn by rote because would take too much time to actually learn math conceptually and really understand it. Many eons ago I had a friend who taught in a Waldorf school in Sweden. I was allowed to observe and what I found was the kids more engaged. Also, when they transitioned into regular schools, in many respects they were ahead because once they got the hang of actually thinking mathematically they caught up, simply go slow at first to build a solid foundation.

As an aside, my only problem with Waldorf Schools was that Rudolph Steiner, founder, also had bizarre theories regarding health, which I won’t get into. So, Scott got it wrong. What they meant by the “right” answer was rote memorization and quantity over quality.

Now, what about “Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration.”

On Page : “Independent practice is valued over teamwork or collaboration.
Instead… While there is some value in students being able to complete work independently, when this is the only or most common avenue for learning or practicing, it reinforces individualism and the notion that I’m the only one. This does not give value to collectivism and community understanding, and fosters conditions for competition and individual success, which perpetuates the idea that if a student is failing it is because they are not trying hard enough or that they don’t care.”

So, actually what they are suggesting is a balance between independent practice and teamwork/collaboration. Keep in mind that most developments in modern science involve TEAMWORK; but, of course, the members of the team often use their independent skills to work on parts of problems.

Now, what about “Procedural fluency is preferred over conceptual knowledge.”

On Page 26: ”many teachers prefer to teach procedural fluency so students engage with more complex problem solving because they believe that they have to do the basic, or computation, skills before they can apply the mathematics. But that idea also reinforces objectivity by requiring linear processing, which is oftentimes not necessary. This is related to sequential thinking, without interrogating the need for that particular sequence of learning. In addition, many teachers are more comfortable teaching skills-based work, and if they do that more often, they are reinforcing their own right to comfort.”

And, finally: “Students are required to “show their work.”

Page 54: “Math teachers ask students to show work so that teachers know what students are thinking, but that can center the teacher’s need to understand rather than student learning. Teachers should seek to understand individual student perspectives and focus on students showing their work in ways that help students learn how to process information.”

Note, simply to give flexibility to students so they advance and teacher’s can understand and help them.

When I took math courses, even exams, we were graded on how we solved the problem as well as getting the answer right. Sometimes a student performs several steps correctly, then not the next step. This allows a good teacher to know what needs to be taught. However, educational studies have shown that some students, for instance, learn best from visual cues, others verbal cues, some need both, etc. Not quite the same thing; but individuals can process info and processes differently; yet, still master it. I’m sure Scott has NEVER taken a class in Educational Psychology, etc.

To summarize: Scott grabs anything he thinks he can use, including an introduction with abbreviated topics that will be dealt with in text. And Scott sees the world in black and white, either one or the other, not in shades of gray. As with the entire manual, not about all one or the other; but a more balanced/nuanced view.

I suggest those interested read the manual. It’s a quick read and go to the website which has additional interesting documents. Available at: https://equitablemath.org

I’m not suggesting anyone agree, disagree, or partially agree; but just to see that their approach is much more nuanced, balanced, etc. than had delusional Scott portrays them.

I really shouldn’t have bothered with this because I’m certain Scott will post some comment attacking me, taking what I write out of context, twisting what I write, or just making things up, and doing the same for previous comments I’ve made, creating a “decompensated” collage. And if I ask any others to comment, he will attack that as well. Instead, he just wants to play hopscotch with no independent objective evaluation.

I really don’t understand why Orac allows people like Scott to continue to post. It is one thing to allow such, if, for no other reason than to allow others to see how trolls, scientific illiterates, psychologically disturbed individual “think”; but at some point it distracts from the purpose of this blog, that is, to further science.

p.s. Thanks Scott. Sometimes, though you delusional present something, you find a paper/document that I find interesting.

Tangential: my issues with Waldorf schools is, aside from them being a hotbed of antivaxxers, is that they don’t allow children to learn to read until they get their adult teeth.

I understand and agree with not trying to force a child to learn to read too early, but as someone who learned to read young and for whom it was and is very important, to not allow a child to read is pointlessly cruel. Why would you deny a child access to knowledge and joy?

@ JustaTech

Yep, among their approach to health is a rabid anti vaccination position. And homeopathy, etc.

As for reading: “Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way, when students are more comfortable with the written word and fully ready to engage with them. Waldorf teachers begin teaching reading in the first couple months of first grade by teaching consonants and vowel names and sounds through an artistic approach of drawing, painting, movement, and speech. This artistic, deliberate process engages the children with great interest, and by the end of first grade, children are writing and reading sentences and short texts. Students typically begin reading printed readers with their teacher during the second half of second grade. This thorough and artistic approach to teaching literacy has been proven to build a solid base for advanced comprehension and vocabulary skills in later years.”

Though the above is from the Waldorf website, I found several independent websites that said the same.

However, my point was strictly to illustrate that there is more than one approach to education. Montessori is another.

“To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way….”

So my learning to read at age 4 was developmentally inappropriate?

“So my learning to read at age 4 was developmentally inappropriate?”

My God, man. Just look at the evidence, the reading, and think upon how that has negativaly impacted upon your life.

I mean, you could have been somebody. You could have walked a new user through ‘that’s not D8 but synthetic cannabinoid analogs” and that’s why they died. Repeatedly. Again, and again; though always with a grin. Stay away from Cake.

Joel- I cannot speak for Orac but I believe there are many more citizens, from many countries, who think and ‘reason’ in the same manner as SA. This gives an opportunity for the commentariat to focus scientific and rational responses to obvious errors in thinking and much more. This type of dialogue may have some positive influence on the occasional visitor to the site. As I’ve commented once before I am not so sure that the blatant insults bandied around play any part in the persuasion or education of the ‘visitor’ in more rational thinking. In any event the whole package offers a great deal of entertainment and your contributions are second to none.

(checks the tweets)

“peer-review journal”, “peer-reviewed study”…

These people seem a bit shy to cite the exact name of the source, i.e. “Medical Hypotheses”. I wonder why?
Too close to “It’s just a theory anyway”?

@ Orac

Elsevier, a highly profitable company. The vast majority of research is funded by government or non-profits, the goal is to further knowledge; yet, researchers submit to journals that charge a fortune to access articles. If not available through library they often want $40 dollars for one reprint. Prior to the web they did have to edit and type set, then print hard copies and distribute; but the profit margin was huge. Nowadays, most mainly online, so no printing and distribution costs, profits even higher. I think it very wrong that my tax money pays for the research and it is so difficult for me sometimes to access. And they charge quite a bit to be accessed, usually on some electronic database, etc. Quality open-source journals, e.g., PLOS exist and charge reasonable fees. I think all grants should include an amount to cover these fees, a pittance compared to the amount going to the research and not allow government funded research to be published on for-profit journals. Some medical associations also charge quite a bit to access their journals. However, I think our government should figure out some way to allow everyone access to previous published research as well.

So, I got my first jab about 7 hours ago (BioNtech/Phizer). There is no soreness there yet; not that I have much to get sore. I felt the needle, the fluid going in, and then a ‘psssft’ of turbulent air and liquid for the last less than a second. I heard it and felt it. The techs paused, both the one doing the paper work and the one giving the shot. I flinched just a little so maybe that is why. The one doing the paper work looked over so I’m thinking that was not expected. I called someone who had gotten it there and that was not their experience.

Am I going to die?

But, the air. The air! By now it has had time to heat up and expand as it slowly creeps to that lung artery it’s not likely welcome to be in. Diffusion? Diffusion! Do I a have any proof that it has ‘diffused’? I’t has had 39 hours already. Oh, God, what if it was sulfur hexafluoride!! What if it was Sulfur hexafluoriddddee….

Not sure what Joel Harrison’s post was about, as it was kind of pedantic.
But 2 years ago they tried this in my son’s school, the teacher formed them into groups, which had at least one math capable kid, the other kids just followed the capable kids and didn’t learn or for that matter didn’t have to learn anything (some didn’t care) and the teacher learned nothing of the individual students because they were a “group”.
Of course the state mandated math tests scores dropped and now they are talking about ‘revamping’ the program as the slower learners (and even the mid learners) have fallen so far behind. Math is such a building block type of learning and if you miss steps your learning stops. We actually had to hired a tutor to catch our son up. I can’t imagine ghetto/poor, kids/students ever catching up.

@ William Gaines

“kind of pedantic”. Obviously not since you didn’t understand it. Just placing kids in groups not what they do at Waldorf schools. The teacher goes around and works with the groups, encouraging each member to contribute directly and to help each other.

You write: “I can’t imagine ghetto/poor, kids/students ever catching up.”

I’m sorry you lack imagination; but there has been a variety of different programs for working with poor kids, some successful, some less successful, and some not successful. One was Operation Headstart that took preschool kids, fed them, and educated them. Those anti-Operation Headstart pointed out that, though they did better in first few grades, later their level of achievement dropped; but what they left out was that they had a much higher rate of high school graduation, great rate of getting jobs, and lower rate of crime. So, I would say the program was successful. And since Operation Headstart actually encompassed a variety of approaches, some were more successful than others.

I’m sorry about your son; but this website focuses on science, not anecdotes. What you are doing is generalizing from your personal experience and I doubt you have devoted any time or effort into investigating why his group failed and why others succeed.

And as I pointed out regarding the Math curriculum Scott critiqued that his critique was not based on actually reading the entire manual and that it was far more nuanced, not black and white. I also made it clear that I was asking people to support it, just to read it so they can see what bullshit Scott writes. You obviously missed this part as well.

Do you have children or grandchildren or a relative with children in public schools. I reviewed your reference to Waldorf school, they seem to be charter school and/or magnet which recruit higher level of student. In addition their class size is between 10-18 students per teacher.
Hardly comparable to a regular public school which the average size is 20-30 students.
I think the science was evident when after 1 year the state test scores dropped and after 2 years and failing test scores they are revamping/eliminating the program. I thought that was science (hypothesis, experiment, results, evaluate and reassess).
No need to feel sorry for our son, as parents we recognized the school problem, addressed the issue ourselves and corrected the public schools failed experiment.
As I stated I feel bad for the economically challenged students, who’s parents thought their children were receiving a quality education, not be an experiment/test subject.
And what does Head start have to do with the issue.

Oh hell, not MH again… Fortunately B.Charlton – a contemporary of mine at Newcastle University, I believe – is no longer in charge. I thought Elsevier had abandoned this glossy toilet roll as a really bad idea about the tine Charlton was fired?

In other news…

( Andy Slavitt twitter)
8 US states with at least 60% of adults each who have received at least one vaccination: NH, CT, MA, NM, ME, NJ, VT, HI. Notice A trend?

BBC 95% of adults over 50 are now vaccinated

@ Will

I used Waldorf schools as an example of alternative approaches to education. I lived in Sweden for almost 10 years, knew a Waldorf teacher, observed classes several times, and met some of the parents. And there were kids from all walks of life and SES. Waldorf schools provide, in Sweden, sliding scale tuition, even free, so, my experience in Sweden is what I base my comment on. Plus, my PhD was in Education/Social Psychology. I did a three-year NIH post-doctoral fellowship in Houston where I studied public health and epidemiology. So, I knew researchers who evaluated various types of education. And, yep, they do have much smaller classes. What does this have to do with individual work vs group work?

When I was a kid, 1950s, teachers were often the creme de la creme of women because it was one of the only professions open to them. And I’m sure there are still many excellent teachers today. In addition, after the Great Depression and World War II, for a brief time the United States, excluding brutal racism, acted more like a community. In California taxes built state-of-the-art infrastructure, schools, and classes were smaller. Then, partly as more and more immigrants and minorities arrived, part of the reason for a tax revolt, a citizenship too stupid to realize that short-changing the next generation was both morally wrong; but foolish as they will drive the economy that the older generation will rely on, etc. I

You ask: “And what does Head start have to do with the issue.

William Gaines wrote: I can’t imagine ghetto/poor, kids/students ever catching up.

Simply I gave an example where well-run, designed Operation Head Start programs did help them catch up. I probably wasn’t clear when I explained that their initial gains decreased after a few years of school. I didn’t mean they became substandard, just more like the other students. So, like some others, you really didn’t carefully read what I wrote.

However, just as with William Gaines, you miss the point. Namely, that Scott Allen jumped at a few abbreviated sentences at beginning of manual, a typical all or none, black and white extremist view. The world doesn’t work that way. The manual gave a balance view, individual work, group work, etc. And test scores don’t always give a good picture of what a child is capable of. In fact, there is a push to end requirements for SAT scores at several top quality universities. And, as I explained, starting off slowly, rather than requiring same amount of time per unit, has been shown to lead to better accomplishment, etc

As for state test scores, please give a reference; but if you are referring to comparing individual instruction to groups, etc. once again you failed to read or, perhaps, not understand what I wrote. Neither individual or group says how they were implemented. So, if poorly implemented, e.g., instructor not working with each group, ensuring each member participates and contributes, etc. then outcome will be poor.

I am fluent at Swedish. From day one the instructor spoke only Swedish in class. After five intensive months I did quite well. As an undergraduate I took both German and French in U.S., both taught in English with a few occasional instances when instructor would ask specific questions in the respective language, so, I could read both languages; but not speak them. Just for fun I signed up for a French conversation course. The instructor spoke English and had us do grammatical exercises on the board. Occasionally asking simple questions in French. In Sweden, my Swedish friends were fluent at several languages, always English, and usually French and German. Starting in 4th grade they had English and the instructor spoke English.

Just an example of how a course is taught makes the difference. I also found out that other instructors, at other American universities, actually taught in the languages, so I didn’t luck out.

You and William Gaines just totally miss the points I was making. And as for your son, again, an anecdote. I am sorry about problems with his education, just as I regret not being instructed in German and French so I could speak it.

I find it tiresome when people comment about what I write, either don’t read carefully, don’t understand, and critique all the same.

In fact, there is a push to end requirements for SAT scores at several top quality universities.

I would love to see ETS shrivel up and die. Or the other way around.

Joel- it’s the ‘uman kondition mate. A very common trait to not read carefully, not to understand and to believe they have and so critique. With your long life you should by now have acquired some ‘conditioning’ against this human failing!

Joel Harrison.
I didn’t think I was required to write out my full name every time I posted here… seriously Will = “WILL” iam Gaines.
and yes you are “pedantic”. Your obsession with Scott is well ………
I asked if you had children, I guess not. So to the future is just your personal future. If you had children you might be more concerned.
I am an engineer by trade and work for an US based international company. Last year the company had openings for 37 starting engineering jobs (generic term). All 37 jobs were filled by foreign born and educated engineers (I repeat foreign EDUCATED), because the US college/high schools system are failing to train/educate our children.
You must have just missed this, as now the WHOLE state of Virginia is going to eliminate Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and other AP classes in the name of “equity”. Your education in Sweden was not based on equity but on your performance.
Please explain to me how failing to advance and educate the more gifted children is going to advance the less gifted?
https://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/mathematics/vmpi/index.shtml

@ William Gaines

Yep, our educational system does poorly on the whole, though there are school districts that still do quite well, public schools, not just private. As for my obsession with Scott, I wrote one comment responding to his. Yep, I got into a shooting match with him on other things; but, again, I responded to one comment by him. Your point is totally irrelevant regarding the validity of what I wrote in my comment! ! !

When I was in elementary school and jr high we had music and art. My understanding is few schools continue with this, have to save money. As I wrote, when I was in school high quality women teachers because one of few professions open to them. When I was in school, after great depression and WWII where, except for brutal racism, we built world’s greatest infrastructure, schools, etc; but now we are an anti-tax nations (partly because of our government funneling taxes mainly to wealth and corporations and party because of racism, etc) and polarized nation.

But, as usual, you continue to miss the point, that is, whether one calls it individualized or group means NOTHING, just labels, it is how these are actually carried out. How dense are you?

You write: “You must have just missed this, as now the WHOLE state of Virginia is going to eliminate Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and other AP classes in the name of “equity”. Your education in Sweden was not based on equity but on your performance.
Please explain to me how failing to advance and educate the more gifted children is going to advance the less gifted?”

Actually, my faculty advisor, Professor Kjell Harnqvist, did his doctoral dissertation on the then Swedish school system. They channeled kids after 6th grade into either gymnasium (high school, community college level ed) or schools to prepare them for various trades, etc. His research found what he called the begavning reserve, the waste of abilities. They redesigned the system, all to go to gymnasium and voila Sweden developed into an economic powerhouse. When I was in school everyone had Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, etc. Classes ended at 2:30 but all teachers remained in classroom until 4 so gave individual help to students, etc. However, students could take courses at community college. A good system does its best to help each and every student reach their potential; but doesn’t hinder some.

You write: “I asked if you had children, I guess not. So to the future is just your personal future. If you had children you might be more concerned.
I am an engineer by trade and work for an US based international company. Last year the company had openings for 37 starting engineering jobs (generic term). All 37 jobs were filled by foreign born and educated engineers (I repeat foreign EDUCATED), because the US college/high schools system are failing to train/educate our children.”

I totally agree that overall our education system is failing; but not only because of what I wrote above; but how the market works. More and more students are opting for degrees in business. More and more millionaires are made on the stock market, not developing new products and processes, etc. When I was an undergrad many opted to Liberal Arts degrees, made them much more rounded individuals and citizens. Companies would hire and train; but now companies want them already to go, so much narrower education.

As for my having or not having children, I was raised to believe we leave a better world for the next generation. Even as a young man I cried when I saw dead kids and kids with swollen bellies during Biafran War. Having or not having children doesn’t say anything. One of my friends as an undergraduate worked his way thru school because his wealthy father said go to his alma mater or he was on his own.

I have fought for universal healthcare, though I have always been well covered because I want everyone, including ALL kids to get quality care. And I want decent housing, food, streets, and education for all kids.

And to finish, you continue to fail to understand the points I was making, simply labeling a program doesn’t say what its contents are and a balance between individual work and group work is needed, not one or the other.

You are tiresome and dense, I guess maybe engineering too narrow a focus on life???

I have better things to do than continue with someone who either doesn’t read what I write, doesn’t understand it, or just wants to be obnoxious.

Billy, I followed your link to the Virginia VMPI mathematics page, and was shocked to see that you were not telling the full story – in fact, you very nearly were telling outright lies. For example, in 8-10 grade, one of the courses offered is Functions and Algebra; this is the same as Algebra 1, and the same age as Algebra 1 is generally taught. Similarly, Geometry and Design, as well as Advanced Applications of Algebra, are offered in 11-12 grade; corresponding to Geometry and Algebra 2, respectively. Trigonometry and Precalculus also fill out those two categories. So the three classes you name are in fact covered (rather obviously, to any reasonable observer, I should think). And the same infographic explicitly states “Some courses may include Dual Enrollment and Advance Placement.”

Your rank dishonesty aside, while I do feel for your children, the program you describe is not the same thing as what Scott linked to and described about as accurately as you described Virginia’s program. In fact, your mendacity is so similar, I am left to consider that you might be a sock puppet of Scott.

@ Will

One more example. I actually took two years of German in high school. Teacher was native German; but taught class in English. Occasional pronunciation exercises, etc. So, if to graduate we had to take exams on accomplishment, I would have done well on reading German; but either an F or D in speaking and listening. Would that mean that teaching languages in High School a waste of time? I’m sure other high schools actually had some conversation as part of their foreign languages. As I explained, a label doesn’t explain the content.

And having both individual and group activities allows kids to learn to work in groups. As I explained above, almost all modern scientific and technological advances involved teams. Unfortunately, as opposed to some other nations, we downplay this. And it shows. German and Sweden have trade surpluses and much lower national debts, etc.

Joel Harrison
I am quoting from your post “I’m sorry about your son; but this website focuses on science, not anecdotes. What you are doing is generalizing from your personal experience and I doubt you have devoted any time or effort into investigating why his group failed and why others succeed.”

You told me this website focuses on science, not anecdotes, yet every time you post you present “evidence” of you own personal experiences. With no science to back it up. The reason why the “experiment” failed was very simple. the class had been arraigned in 4 groups prior to the “experiment’ the more gifted kids in one group, the above average in another, the below average in the 3 and the kids who needed a lot of guidance in the 4th. The kids could move up or down depending on new learned skill, The teacher could devote more time to the less skilled kids.
In the new “team work” groups kids of various skills were bunched together in 4 groups the teacher had less time to devote to the kids who needed more help. The less gifted kids began to lean on the more gifted kids for problem solving, (getting the answer0, losing their own skills and learning. This was explained to us by the tutor.
You claim that you said that the US downplays team effort, you must not be a sports fan, As teams that win are made of people who excel in their position, they play the games with their best players. You can’t teach/train everyone to be the best quarterback/back fielder/center/wingman etc. You can’t just put a bunch of people of different skill levels on any team and expect excellent results
Asian culture (for now) over stresses individual achievement and are highly competitive as individuals and are still able to function in a group. As to your point on hiring US educated college kids, they just didn’t have the technical skills, it had nothing to do with team work abilities.
You never addressed my question, “Please explain to me how failing to advance and educate the more gifted children is going to advance the less gifted?”
And what does German and Sweden trade surpluses and lower national debts have to do with the topic? Maybe their accountants were required to get the right/correct answer?

@ William Gaines

How stupid to point out that you sometimes use your full name and sometimes Will. Does that mean that, despite so many commenters, someone named Will may not have joined in?

You attack my anecdotes; but the difference is that I used them as examples, not as overgeneralizations. Remember, when I mentioned how I was taught German, I also said other schools probably also teach to speak. My point was to illustrate that saying I had a course in German doesn’t say how it was taught. You just don’t get it.

As for pointing out German and Swedish economics, my point was that nations with different educational systems, etc. sometimes do far better than us. In fact, if one looks at total debt, the U.S. may actually be at or close to the top. If we add up National Debt, Social Security Trust Fund (yep, loaned to government, issued Treasury Certificates, made yearly budge deficit look smaller), State, County, City debts, and personal debt, we may be number one. We have a huge trade deficit, benefits American corporations; but not nation.

You write: “You never addressed my question, “Please explain to me how failing to advance and educate the more gifted children is going to advance the less gifted?”

As I explained, our tax revolt, our racism, polarization, etc. We could develop an educational system that benefited all to reach whatever potential level they are capable of; but we could also have a more equitable pay system. Look up the Gini coefficient, we are among the worst.

You are really tiresome.

Have you actually ever studied educational psychology, comparative school systems, etc.? I have. As I mentioned, my PhD was in educational and social psychology; but then received 3-year NIH post doc to study public health and epidemiology. Really easy since my doctorate was mainly Philosophy of Science, three course, and a ton of research methods courses, so just had to apply to public health.

@ William Gaines

Can I call you Willy? 😀

Just one general point. I consider myself reasonably intelligent and highly educated. Besides my formal education, I have devoted a life-time to reading on various topics, auditing classes, attending seminars, etc.

If someone were to give me several plans for building a bridge over a river, I would NEVER make any suggestion of which was the better. Why? Simple, I have NEVER taken a single course in structural engineering. If the plans included calculus, I could follow that; but wouldn’t understand what or why it applied to anything.

When it comes to vaccines and infectious diseases, I have extensive education, training, and experience. When it comes to Education, again, I have a PhD, and took courses in Cognitive Psychology, Educational Psychology, Comparative Educational ApproachesSystems, etc.

And, I said this blog is based on science, you counter with I give anecdotes. As I explained, you focus on your anecdotes, so I simply counter with examples to make a totally rational logical argument, namely, what I’ve tried to emphasize and you don’t seem to grasp, namely, that labels don’t say anything. For instance, in 1st grade the teacher divided us into three reading groups. I was in the highest. She then devoted much more time with the lowest, then the middle, then the highest. We were given things to read and at end of class she would ask us questions. So, just an anecdote; but if divide class, depends on how one uses divisions. Actually, on other days she taught class as a whole and would ask questions of each student. With the “slower” students, she would give hints, etc. and praise them., I actually worked on a research project funded by the Swedish National Department of Health where we went and observed classrooms. Some, teachers did as above. Others, slower students sat in back, seldom called upon, and when answer wrong, teacher immediately went to better students. Do you understand the difference between the two? I doubt it. Either too dense or you just don’t want to even try because it counters your rigid focus on your personal experience.

I could give reference to Swedish research I worked in; but it is in Swedish and I don’t feel like going through some boxes in my closet to find it. Just one more example that I actually know what I am talking about.

How would you feel if someone gave me several engineering plans and listened to my advice rather than yours???

William Gaines

Just let it go, Joel is a single old cranky guy with probably too much time on his hands and no kids of his own, who has no idea about raising kids ( like a sex education teacher who has never had sex). But he did do research on how you should raise yours, many years ago and since it is in boxes it was before the internet and PC’s .
He has an opinion on everything and anything and if you even mildly disagree …..
Most of the people who visit this site just ignore him.

Joel I have never commented here before nor will I ever again and after this last month of you endless post, will probably give up on SBM as well.

But as an outsider I will try to show you what the rest of the visitors to this site see.

First off, Dr.” Orac” is a very very busy person.

He is head of a lab, an operating doctor, he does research, he applies for grants, writes papers, hosts blogs, writes emails, attends to his patients (and families) reads emails and attends countless meetings.

You on the other hand are retired, you walk your dog, which pretty much leaves you to post stuff here (and other places)(if you type 40 words a minute it has got to take you hours just to type your responses to Scott, Natalie, Kay, Charles, Narad, Denice et al.) which has the unintended consequences of making the rest of the readers of these blogs spend time reading your stuff, which quite frankly is boring retelling of things in your life. There are 7 Billion people in the world all with stories of their life, and probably a lot more interesting than yours.

I would guess that you have some kind of communication with Dr. Orac or use SBM as a conduit and are probably just as prolific in your posts and emails as you are here.

You posted the following.
“I really don’t understand why Orac allows people like Scott to continue to post. It is one thing to allow such, if, for no other reason than to allow others to see how trolls, scientific illiterates, psychologically disturbed individual “think”; but at some point it distracts from the purpose of this blog, that is, to further science.”

Now you post comments that are profanity laden, sexist, demeaning, condescending, long winded, boastful and sometimes just fake information. This does have the tendency of people to ignore your post (some which may contain useful information).

Now for the next part you need to sit down with your favorite beverage and get into your zen mode and think about this.

First Denice tries to dissuade you from responding to Scott, to the point of you launching an attack against Denice.
Then Orac tries to dissuade you by posting this On April 19 at 0918: “As longtime readers know, I definitely do not like pedants, but in this case I’ll allow it.”
Now I know you haven’t had any real military training but one of the first things that happens in an offensive is the distraction/diversion.

I would postulate this: What if Scott Allen or others were/was a made up poster/troll, or a poster/troll who is/was used as a distraction and was just a foil for you to battle and spend hours and hours doing you research while keeping you from distracting/diverting Dr. Orac from his real work?

Prohias-if the commentariat think Joel is providing too much argument or content there is no obligation that they have to read it. You do not speak for all the rest of the readers since this writer has no such feeling of boredom reading about Joel’s scientific contributions and his personal stuff. In fact I find it most interesting when any of the commentariat post information of a personal nature. There are of course others in the world perhaps more interesting and most often you can read much about them. Joel is not the only contributor whose content is sprinkled with profanities, especially as a frustrated reaction to the frequent inanities of a few of those you list. If you recognize Joel’s ‘fake’ information then counter it with something factual. Finally I do believe that Orac is perfectly capable of defending the situation regards his busy schedules and workload etc. Methinks you complain too much.

It also seems rather odd that he would “give up” on this blog AND SBM because one commenter annoys him. Do the blog posts stop having value just because he doesn’t like one regular commenter’s contribution to comment threads in both blogs?

@ Leonard Sugarman

I agree

@ Joel

“I really don’t understand why Orac allows people like Scott to continue to post.”

I believe Orac allows posters such as Scott Allen or Aelxa for many reasons. One of them being to deflate to nil, zilch, the claim that they are being censored; and thus letting them brew a tempest in a teacup, screaming, squeaking and screeching that they are being silenced by totalitarian scientistic overlords that dare not let them speak.

Maybe he also has got into a habit of letting whackos exhibit the extent to which they really are whackos. I guess he picked up this habit over time, and that it formed at the time he was dealing with Holocaust denial.

But, then, I may be overstretching my telepathic skills. My 2 cents. Status: Speculative.

I also appreciate Dr. Harrison’s posts.

Orac has always been very tolerant of anti-vaccine comments, at least as far as I’ve followed. You have to go pretty far to be banned or even moderated here.

I venture that allowing assorted BS artistry encourages sceptics to learn how to respond to it following Orac’s and others’ leads. It is a form of apprenticeship for newer minions and a way for SB supporters to learn from their colleagues. So anti-vaxxers provide sceptics with opportunities for refutation in a semi-protected RW environment where if one falters, someone else will pick up the slack or provide new insights.

Solidarity forms amongst participants as well which must surely aggravate trolls because we can assist each other and re-force viewpoints mutually.. Anti-vaxxers are used to echo chambres and conceptualise RI as the same when it is rather different- it relies upon OUTSIDE consensus from experts rather than internal cohesiveness based upon shared misinformation. People here do disagree but seek reality based outside data to settle disputes. And we do it in different ways!

-btw-
Joel provides great resources always

Denice & Dorit

yes, “DEARY”.

As professional women if someone said this to you in a work place environment, you would have them in Human Resources so fast, they would pass out from the G-forces.
But it has been stated he is on your side so you will tolerate his sexism and his school boy fantasies about his blond female teachers in school.

@ Prohias

NOTE. I am currently on hold to speak with representative of my gas & electric company, so have time on my hands.

FIRST, THANKS LEONARD SUGARMAN AND F-86.10, MAYBE DENICE WILL CHIME IN AS WELL?

You write: “You on the other hand are retired, you walk your dog, which pretty much leaves you to post stuff here (and other places)(if you type 40 words a minute it has got to take you hours just to type your responses to Scott, Natalie, Kay, Charles, Narad, Denice et al.) which has the unintended consequences of making the rest of the readers of these blogs spend time reading your stuff, which quite frankly is boring retelling of things in your life. There are 7 Billion people in the world all with stories of their life, and probably a lot more interesting than yours.”

Yep, I am retired; but currently, as I’ve mentioned in several comments, proof-reading and making editorial suggestions for a colleague’s over 800 page next edition of a best-selling undergraduate microbiology book. And, yep, in high school I was one of only two boys in a typing class, so I do type 40 words or probably more per minute, though I have now have arthritis in my hands. Since most of my comments are under 2,000 words, takes less than an hour, except I also devote considerable effort in obtaining actual scientific papers for references. And I regret not also having taken high school course in short-hand, would have been great when taking notes in university courses.

As for retelling my life, two reasons: a. as an example of a point I am making and b. to explain my life-time passion with science and my education and training. While education and training don’t necessarily mean what someone writes is correct, when I’ve, for instance, asked several antivax commenters if they have read anything on immunology, microbiology, epidemiology, infectious diseases, they answer no and don’t need to. If one doesn’t understand the basics of immunology, then impossible to understand how a vaccine works. If one doesn’t understand the basics of epidemiology, then impossible to understand how vaccines are approved, etc. And if one doesn’t understand critical thinking, well . . .

You write: “But as an outsider I will try to show you what the rest of the visitors to this site see.” Actually a number of commented positively on my comments. So, how do you know what the “rest of visitors to this site see?” Do you have ESP? Or are you delusional? A number have actually posted positive comments regarding what I write.

You write: “Now you post comments that are profanity laden, sexist, demeaning, condescending, long winded, boastful and sometimes just fake information. This does have the tendency of people to ignore your post (some which may contain useful information).”

Yep, sometimes I really get angry when someone, like you, attacks me without even addressing what I write, e.g., totally ignoring, making up things I said, taking out of context, etc. Sexist? Nope. The fact that I rebut what several women write doesn’t make me a sexist. I devoted a lot of time and effort into rebutting men as well, e.g., Scott Allen. And losing my temper doesn’t depend on gender, just simply tired of attacks based on lies. As for “fake information”, give a few examples. Bet you can’t. As for “long winded,” even in college on exams we had essay questions requiring 1,000 words. As opposed to people like you, I actually carefully explain my position, including examples, and with numerous references, a nuanced position, not simply absurd dichotomous positions ignoring the real world, the world of science based on probabilities, not absolutes. Sorry if you have a short attention-span or simply are incapable of absorbing a nuanced developed argument.

You write: “Now for the next part you need to sit down with your favorite beverage and get into your zen mode and think about this.”

If you are referring to an alcoholic beverage, don’t indulge. Except for a few episodes where barely tasted in my youth, have been a teetotaler my entire life. I do like a cup of decaf with half water and half vanilla soy milk.

You write: “First Denice tries to dissuade you from responding to Scott, to the point of you launching an attack against Denice. Then Orac tries to dissuade you by posting this On April 19 at 0918: “As longtime readers know, I definitely do not like pedants, but in this case I’ll allow it.” Now I know you haven’t had any real military training but one of the first things that happens in an offensive is the distraction/diversion.”

Military training. Well, as I’ve written I was in Army ROTC Freshman and Sophomore years of college, which included classes in military strategy. Also, spent two years aboard U.S. Naval Ships in Western Pacific teaching in PACE Program (Program for Afloat Continuous Education). When draft ended to get recruits Navy offered chance to earn college credits, even at sea. And when not teaching or tutoring, observed, interacted with officers and crew,etc. So, nope, not expert; but not exactly uninformed.

As for Denise, following is my exchange with her, not an attack by any standards; but a respectful exchange of ideas. Again, are you delusional?

Denice Walter
says:
April 3, 2021 at 1:08 pm
Joel:
I notice that scott quotes me a few times, edited, as if to imply that I am critiquing you but nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe degrees ALONE are not enough and that WOO-MEISTERS frequently parade their faux credentials and crappy degrees to disguise their lack of data
..
Your degrees reflect a lifetime of learning and originate from respectable institutions. I often observe that we have areas of overlapping studies in psychology and biology. Educatiis a start but doesn’t mean that you automatically have carte blanche to say whatever you will but most times, you learn – especially in SB fields like those mentioned- how to cite research, understand statistical analyses and come to conclusions.
I don’t respect Orac ONLY because of his degrees but because of how he utilises them .: he criticises people who have medical degrees but who fall prey to unsubstantiated hypotheses and misuse of research data.

Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
says:
April 3, 2021 at 9:48 pm
@ Denice Walter
Scott doesn’t just misquote us, he ignores most of what we write and just cherry picks stuff taken out of context. He also makes stuff up, attacking based on “facts not in evidence.” And, as I over and over pointed out to him, it isn’t my degrees, it isn’t who I am, it is simply my use of critical thinking, my willingness to look at all sides and to explain why I disagree with some, it is what I write. Does it make sense? Do I back it up with references?

Denice Walter
says:
March 30, 2021 at 10:49 am
@ Joel:
” What matters is what I write.” Amen.
As sceptics we should always remember that degrees aren’t the final word if we do not ground our assertions in evidence- although in some cases, acquiring the degrees involved learning how to support your position adequately.

Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
says:
April 16, 2021 at 1:19 pm
@ Denice Walter
You write: “A few observations: scott just likes to argue. I suggest that you shepherd him away from general topics ( war, politics, prejudice) because those have a tendency to spread beyond their original boundaries. SBM topics are easier to manage- we can stick to data. I’ve read lots of what he writes and I can’t tell if he is predominantly SB or not. Maybe he really likes you as a sparring partner, take it as a compliment.”
Maybe; but some of his comments indicate more than just sparring, much more. I don’t know if you continued to follow our exchange at “WTF happened to John Ioannidis?” but if not read the last dozen comments or so. Some of his comments just go way to far over the line of any type of human decency. And, though science-based medicine allows for databased discussion, other topics certainly allow for applying critical thinking.
And Christine refuses to even consider that she cannot possibly be absolutely certain that a vaccine was responsible for her infants tragic death. And she continues on her Gish Gallup of finding studies that she believes support her anti vaccination stand as, once more, I point out in the previous comment.

And just plain dishonest when you write: “Then Orac tries to dissuade you by posting this On April 19 at 0918: “As longtime readers know, I definitely do not like pedants, but in this case I’ll allow it.”

Notice that Orac’s comment was directed to F68.10 concerning his comment about Scott Allen:

F68.10
says:
April 19, 2021 at 6:15 am
@ Scott Allen
“Actually the Greeks invented napalm, it was called “Greek fire”.”
Wouldn’t call that napalm. But would you call mysorean rockets rockets ?
Pedantism is a scourge.

Orac
says:
April 19, 2021 at 9:18 am
As longtime readers know, I definitely do not like pedants, but in this case I’ll allow it.

So, are you really Scott Allen or just another troll who doesn’t really read what people write, who lies about some comments, etc.? Doesn’t matter, gave me something to do while waiting online. Impossible to read because they play music.

This is baseball season so
STRIKE 1 for Inspector Clouseau.

Who has time to waste to actually call the power company.

I am currently on hold to speak with representative of my gas & electric company, so have time on my hands.

I get to wait all afternoon for somebody to come and deal with the AC, which went out on Saturday. This is a Bad Thing in Florida. But $80 just for the house call? L-rd only knows what the final tally is going to be.

Thanks. Leonard, I really appreciate your valuable contributions..

I think that we have to choose our battles carefully or else we’ll be reacting endlessly to trolls, scoffers and contrarians. They incite us to get upset, angry, attack and argue amongst ourselves
What’s most important to me is that anti-vaxxers/ woo-meisters spread misinformation or outright lies about health concerns to vulnerable audiences who conceivably might follow their advice..

A long time ago, I characterised** RI as The School for Sceptics because we illustrate how to counter gossip, rumour and SCANDAL as perpetrated by non SBM proselytisers. Although misinformation of any sort on the internet is a great concern, that which misleads people about medical information most worries me- I’ll leave the political arguments to others.

** not original I know .

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