This week has been busy, but not here unfortunately. I had a minor crisis at a certain other weblog to deal with, leading me to neglect things here at the shebeen (as Charles Pierce would put it). When I came back, I started noticing a mantra from antivaxxers that I had seen before dating way back to the early days of the blog. It’s one that I’ve alluded to before but haven’t really looked at head-on, probably mainly because I haven’t seen it stated so baldly. Unsurprisingly, I saw it at Natural News, that repository of quackery, antivaccine fear mongering, and conspiracy theories that Alex Jones would have a hard time topping in the form of an article that “inspired” the title of this post, If you’re pro-science, then you should be anti-vaccine. It’s not by the big macher himself, Mike Adams, but one of his drones churning out less rabid content, S.D. Wells, whose real name is apparently Sean David Cohen. I rather suspect that Adams uses Wells to churn out the more “reasonable-sounding” content for his conspiracy site, leaving himself free to speculate about vaccine depopulation agendas in which the global elite conspires with extraterrestrials.
Let’s see what Wells has to say, shall we? The message is simple, namely that being pro-vaccine is antiscience and being antivaccine is pro-science:
You have to be anti-science to believe that vaccines are “safe and effective” because there is NO science proving that. The science proves just the opposite, that vaccines are much more of a risk than any kind of benefit. If you still want to believe that medicine can only work if it’s made in a laboratory, then take a close look at the science behind those creations, and the science that examines their true “safety” and “efficacy,” and you will see that the science proves vaccines and prescription pharmaceuticals are dangerous and cause much more health detriment than they offer benefit, if any of the latter.
This is, of course, projection, as you will see. It’s also very much of a piece with how antivaxxers think. Projection is part and parcel of being antivaccine. For example, antivaxxers love to try to portray pro-science advocacy for vaccines as a “religion.” One time, an antivaxxer even referred to it as “Vaccinianity.” Another example is the exaggerated claims of “shedding” of virus from the vaccinated; it’s a simple attempt to flip the script and portray the vaccinated, rather than the unvaccinated, as being somehow dangerous to those around them. Then, of course, there are the antivaccine grifters, who are numerous and include “luminaries” such as Del Bigtree, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Andrew Wakefield, Mike Adams, Joseph Mercola (who’s basically an alternative medicine and antivaccine tycoon), and many others. While it is true that big pharma is profit-oriented and hasn’t always behaved well, antivaxxers project the grifting nature of their heroes onto all pro-science advocates by automatically assuming we’re all somehow on the take from big pharma, hence the “pharma shill” gambit.
But claiming to be “pro-science,” or, as I’ve sometimes seen it, the “real pro-science” people is very much a thing in antivaccine circles. Usually, it comes in the form of antivaxxers denying that they are actually antivaccine, while asserting that they are “pro-science” and pro-…a lot of other good things:
Of course, they are really none of these things. They are only “pro-research,” for instance, if it’s the sort of research that they like. Whenever a large, well-designed study shows that vaccines are safe and effective, you can bet that antivaxxers will attack it, almost always on scientifically dubious grounds.
Of course, Mike Adams being Mike Adams, S.D. Wells being S.D. Wells (and a Mike Adams minion), and Natural News being Natural News, even a more “reasonable” take couldn’t help but end up going off the deep end, complete with rants like this:
Then came SARS in 2003. “We’re all going to die!” The news warned us. It’s spreading like wildfire around the world. The CDC warned us. And what happened? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than 8,100 people worldwide even became sick with SARS during the 2003 crisis (outbreak). How many died worldwide? 774. That’s not million or billion. That’s under 800.
In the United States, it turned out, that just 8 people actually had SARS-CoV infection, and every single one of them had just traveled to other continents where SARS was “spreading like wildfire.” That “scamdemic” also seriously threatened socioeconomic stability worldwide. Guess what caused it? “Accidental releases” of the SARS-CoV isolates from laboratories in mainland China and Singapore. Sound familiar? That’s because it is.
I remember a famous quote at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It came from Anthony Fauci, currently the latest villain to antivaxxers. Do you remember what Dr. Fauci said? I do:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it was better to err on the side of caution in coronavirus mitigation, even if the steps taken appear to be an overreaction.
“If you just leave the virus to its own devices, it will go way up like we’ve seen in Italy. That’s not going to happen if we do what we’re attempting to do and are doing,” Fauci told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
“The way you get ahead of it is that, as I try to explain to people, that I want people to assume that … we are overreacting because if it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing,” he added.
It is always thus with public health interventions to prevent epidemics and pandemics. As for SARS-1, it turns out that public health interventions, combined with a significant difference between SARS-1 and SARS-CoV-2 explain why SARS-1 did not become a pandemic like COVID-19:
Why did the original Sars epidemic come to end? Well, SARS-CoV-1 did not burn itself out. Rather, the outbreak was largely brought under control by simple public health measures. Testing people with symptoms (fever and respiratory problems), isolating and quarantining suspected cases, and restricting travel all had an effect.
SARS-CoV-1 was most transmissible when patients were sick, and so by isolating those with symptoms, you could effectively prevent onward spread.
Of course, as we all know now, SARS-CoV-2 can spread asymptomatically. Scientists argue over exactly what the fraction of people with asymptomatic infection is and how effectively they can transmit the virus compared to symptomatic individuals, but there is no doubt that during the pandemic there has been a large pool of infectious individuals without symptoms who can transmit the disease. Public health interventions worked, although there were problems similar to the ones that we’ve seen over the last year and half. Were that not the case, the pandemic might never have happened. In any event, the world got lucky with the original SARS. Our luck ran out with COVID-19.
Then, of course, to Wells and Adams, these pandemics are all about selling vaccines:
As if the yearly multi-dose, mercury-laced influenza vaccine, a.k.a. “flu shot,” wasn’t enough, now everybody accepts dying of blood clots and early onset dementia, because they’re more terrified of dying of the Covid flu.
Notice how hard the flu shot has been promoted, for free, up until Covid? That’s because they not only want you to forget the flu ever existed, but they’re chalking up every flu case and flu death as Covid-caused. That’s the scare tactic that worked best on this whole scamdemic, along with the masks and social distancing. It’s all Marxist propaganda that’s anti-science, anti-democracy and anti-human. It’s called biological warfare, and the CDC has waged it against all Americans, and that’s why if you’re pro-science, then you should be anti-vaccine.
To be honest, I’m rather “grateful” (if you can call it that) to Wells for saying this so blatantly. As I mentioned before, the usual dodge that antivaxxers use is to claim that they are “not antivaccine” but rather pro-science.” Leave it to Adams’ minion to be too honest and admit to being antivaccine, justifying it by claiming that his antivaccine position is actually “pro-science.”
Not long ago, I wrote about how antivaxxers (and, in the era of COVID-19, antimaskers) have weaponized the tools of science and science visualization to attack vaccines and public health interventions (such as mask mandates) using what seems like convincing science. Indeed, their social media postings are full of appeals to science. They crave the validation of science, but can’t seem to realize that they are using science in the way the proverbial drunk who lost his keys uses a streetlight: For support, not illumination.
That’s because the cognitive errors to which humans are prone are what make scientific thinking difficult. However, science has great cachet in our society, and rightly so, which is why antivaxxers crave the legitimacy of science and are so eager to portray themselves as “pro-science.” However that self-identification of “pro-science” and “health literate” does not prevent them from embracing pseudoscience and conspiracy theories:
As far as we know, people who refuse vaccines use their health literacy skills to dive deeper into vaccine information, develop more sophisticated views and greater confidence in those views.
But health literacy doesn’t appear to make pro-vaccine evidence look more convincing to refusers. In fact, when people who distrust vaccination also have higher health literacy, they are even more likely to choose information that matches their biases, and to think that information supports their beliefs. Indeed high health literacy seems to help reinforce anti-vaccination beliefs among people who refuse vaccines.
Again, the example of the drunk and the streetlight comes to mind. Worse, the deeper antivaxxers dive down the rabbit hole, the better they become at motivated reasoning to support their position. They become experts at cherry picking scientific studies, finding small flaws in science disconfirming their beliefs that vaccines don’t work (or at least don’t work well), are dangerous (or at least, cause more harm than the diseases vaccinated against), and that they cause autism, death, and all manner of other health problems.
And they use their pro-science self-view thusly:
Vaccine refusers’ “pro-science, health literate” identity is not benign. In their eyes, it makes them highly credible, which helps them resist public health messages. It also makes them look more credible to others, who may in turn be persuaded to question vaccines.
It doesn’t matter if their self-identity as “pro-science” and “health literate” is a self-delusion and that they very much overrate their understanding of medicine and science, to the point that memes like this are very common in antivaccine circles:
It also leads to posts on antivaccine websites, in which advice is proffered to parents on how to annoy your child’s pediatrician with your supposedly “superior” knowledge and better understanding of science, complete with “pro-science” appeals like:
My decision has not been made lightly. I have spent many hours researching and learning about vaccines, their ingredients, the lack of placebo-controlled studies, and the fact that they have never been studied for safety or efficacy as they are administered according to The CDC’s Childhood Schedule.
As an aside, I feel obligated to point out that it is utter BS to claim that there are no placebo-controlled studies of vaccines. How many would antivaxxers like me to list? This link provides a start, as do Dorit Reiss and our scaly friend the Skeptical Raptor.
The bottom line is that, as much as antivaxxers want to don the mantle of being “pro-science,” they can’t, at least not correctly. They can certainly appear to be pro-science, especially to other antivaxxers but also to those not familiar with antivaccine conspiracy theories, bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpretations of science, but they are not.