In scientific debates surrounding controversial topics we commonly hear the claim that scientists are the experts who shape consensus based on the facts and available evidence. If anyone questions the “evidence” or the conclusions of this consensus (including other scientists and health professionals) they are anti-science, pseudoscience peddling loons (or any other number of pejoratives frequently used).
Once we understand the conceptualization of social skepticism and what it derives from we can further understand the edifice of psuedo-skepticism and its faulty interpretation of reality (what is subjective and mistaken as objective).
The first mistake is to assume that scientists somehow dictate scientific reality. Scientists describe, measure, investigate, identify, and study phenomena. Through experimental investigation, and most importantly, asking questions, we build upon our knowledge base and can establish facts. The scientific method is a process and establishing facts requires rigorous science, question formulation, and laborious investigation. “Facts” must be differentiated between the social skeptic version:
¡fact! – lying through facts. Data or a datum which is submitted in order to intimidate those in a discussion, is not really understood by the claimant, or rather which is made up, is not salient or relevant to the question being addressed, or is non-sequitur inside the argument being made. The relating of a fact which might be true, does not therefore mean that one is relating truth.
Social skeptics use this quite often when citing studies that they have never even fully reviewed in order to claim that the said ¡facts! support their conclusion. They even throw ¡facts! around when people are merely asking questions. It is a way that they attempt to halt discussion on the issue under the guise of the so-called “facts” already being established and accepted (thus being incontrovertible and free from criticism).
I will provide an example. Here is a citation that has been thrown around with ¡facts! but is poorly designed and lead to questionable conclusions.
Jain, A., Marxhall, J., Buikema, A., Bancroft, T., Kelly, J., Newschaffer, C. (2015). Autism occurrence by MMR vaccine status among US children with older siblings with and without autism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313(15). doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3077.
The people using this do not necessarily understand the research methods and how the data is being used. When an independent scientist reviewed this study she found issues with the statistical testing. The authors also ignored statistically significant findings in the 5 year old group. It is another study being used in support of a specific conclusion but the avenue to this conclusion is flawed within itself.
With regards to consensus, here are some definitions to start with for a better understanding:
Consensus – is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists composing a particular field of study. It is not a popularity poll among scientists in general or even necessarily inside the field of study in question. Consensus can only be claimed when multiple opposing explanatory alternatives have been researched in objective detail, and a reasonable body of those scientists who developed the field of opposition alternatives, have been convinced of the complimentary alternative’s superiority. Just because a null hypothesis exists, and only that hypothesis has been researched, does not provide a basis for a claim to consensus, no matter how many scientists, or those pretending to speak for science in the media, favor the null hypothesis.
Consensus Appeal to Authority – in so far as scientists speak in one voice, and dissent is not really allowed, then appeal to scientific consensus is the same as an appeal to authority.
Interestingly enough, those claiming to represent the side of consensus don’t have a complete grasp on the meaning of consensus.
Here, I will speak specifically about the contention that vaccine safety is proven and agreed upon through the consensus of experts. On the issue of vaccine safety, have multiple opposing explanatory alternatives been researched in objective detail? Specific parts have indeed been researched and the purported safety of vaccines has not only not been proven, it has been proven otherwise.1 Other specific parts have not been researched objectively in detail. For example, to this date, there are no robust long-term prospective unvaccinated versus vaccinated studies looking at total health outcomes. There aren’t randomized control trials on the vaccine schedule either because it is claimed that it is “unethical” to do that type of study and leave children without vaccines. Vaccines are also labeled as biologicals instead of pharmaceuticals – with this classification they have been able to avoid the FDA research standard. The studies used to “prove” safety and refute causation are epidemiological and by methodology cannot even do what they are claiming.2
All scientific work is incomplete—whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.3
Within the framework that social skeptics have created the core of their argument is a consensus appeal to authority. Once you understand and identify this (you can do this easily in a debate—pick any social media website and bring up the topic of vaccines and count how many times this is used) you will see how banal pseudo-skeptics are, yet how crafty and sophisticated they are with rhetoric, the deceptive usage of language, misrepresentation of data, method, science, and assumption. Some of them are better at it than others but you will see similar tactics even amongst the varying degrees of developed sophistication within the social skeptic crowd.
Another example would be the statement “The dose makes the poison.” Here we can identify it as falling under these terms:
Ingens Vanitatum Argument – citing a great deal of irrelevance. A posing of ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’ framed inside an appeal to expertise, which is correct and relevant information at face value; however which serves to dis-inform as to the nature of the argument being vetted or the critical evidence or question being asked.
Ambiguity – the construction or delivery of a message in such words or fashion as to allow for several reasonable interpretations of the context, object, subject, relationship, material or backing of the intended message.
“The dose makes the poison” is both misleading and true depending on the context. At face value it is correct and relevant but it ultimately disinforms those who are asking questions and bringing up specific arguments about the various factors involved in a poison (a substance that causes injury, illness, or death, especially by chemical means). “The dose makes the poison” is also ambiguous. One reasonable interpretation of this is that “dose makes the poison” translates to “low doses are not poisonous.” If you have a debate over environmental exposures “dose makes the poison” is usually used when the claimant is arguing that the levels of chemicals (xenobiotics) we encounter are in “too low” of doses to cause any possible harm to an organism. When discussing aluminum adjuvants we also hear social skeptics say that “the dose makes the poison.” You want to know something both interesting and ironic about this? The dose does make the poison with al adjuvants; however, it is actually the low doses in vaccines that are more harmful—the exact opposite of what they are claiming. They are not clear in their statement either and should modify it to fit the true intended meaning, but this is not what they do, and there is a reason for this. It is successfully sophistical.
Crepeaux (paper): Non-linear dose-response of aluminium hydroxide adjuvant particles: Selective low dose neurotoxicity
The low toxicity of the higher dosages appears to be a consequence of dosage-dependent inflammation at the injection site. The high dosages caused intense inflammation at the injection site, forming “granulomas”. The 200 mcg/Kg dosage did not produce granulomas. Granulomas are hard nodules in tissue produced in response to injury, infection or foreign substances. Its a way the body “walls off” injured tissue and prevents the spread of infection or toxins. The granulomas apparently prevented Al adjuvant particles from leaving the injection site. This explains why the 200 mcg/Kg dosage affected the brain and behavior, while the higher dosages did not.
(The aluminum adjuvant used was Alhydrogel. This is used in the tetanus, Hep A, Hep B, HiB, pneumococcal, meningococcal, and anthrax vaccines. This study found that the lower dosages were actually more toxic than the higher doses used.)
It is also stated that the “consensus” is that aluminum adjuvants are safe and you ingest more aluminum than you inject (Ingens Vanitatum Argument – the second statement is true, but there is a difference in mechanisms, kinetics, and affected tissues).
Ingested aluminum cannot be compared to injected aluminum since injected aluminum is more metabolically available and ingested aluminum has lower absorption (0.1-0.4% and .5-5% for al citrate). Again, “the dose makes the poison” is a common and inaccurate one-liner/argument people have regarding this issue, but it is overly simplistic and not aligned with modern science on the kinetics of aluminum adjuvants.
The reason that there are vaccine-injuries is because of several factors, many involving genetic susceptibility. We do not entirely understand every single susceptibility factor involved—but we do understand some of them. We have enough science to further support the precautionary principle in this matter. More unbiased scientific research is needed of course, but even then, the science already available is overwhelmingly crucial yet remains unacknowledged and even denied by people and health authorities who wish to vigorously defend the vaccine schedule. Aluminum adjuvants are not safe for everyone and comparing them to ingested aluminum is highly misleading. You cannot scientifically compare studies of ingested water-soluble aluminum salts such as Al-lactate or AlCl3 to establish safety regarding injected aluminum adjuvants made of aluminum hydroxide/aluminum phosphate nanoparticles. The chemicals and route of administration are both different and the well designed animal studies thus far have shown that low doses of al adjuvant cause brain inflammation.
(This information was collected from VaccinePapers, a highly recommended evidence-based science website with citations. On this link you can learn more about the study and how the childhood vaccine schedule poses a risk with the amount of aluminum that is injected.)
The analyses used in support of aluminum adjuvant safety (Mitkus and Keith) are also scientifically flawed. These are used by the FDA and other health authorities, and in turn, this is used by other major health organizations who misinform doctors that aluminum adjuvants are completely safe. The very people claiming to be experts are getting their information from other “experts” who are using pseudoscience. Having the label or status of an expert does not somehow negate the unsound evidence being used in support of a specific conclusion. The evidence should be objectively studied and analyzed—and it has been. It is found to be erroneous. You can learn more about that here as well.
There is the issue of al adjuvant toxicity, but there is also the issue of immune activation (including postnatal) and its role in brain injury. We know that immune activation (from infections) during pregnancy has been associated with schizophrenia and autism. What wasn’t entirely understood in the beginning was how vaccination could also activate the immune system in such a way to also cause damage. Now the science on cytokines, neurons, glial cells, purkinje cells, and microglial activation has given us more information on why immune activation causes damage to the fetal brain and how immune activation is related to conditions such as autism.
It is an incredibly heated and complex debate, but the existing science shows that vaccines can and do in fact cause damage. If someone presents the false and specious dilemma to you that you must be either “pro-vaccine” or “anti-vaccine”, they are being dishonest. Not everyone is arguing that vaccines have never prevented disease or that they are not needed. Many vaccine skeptics are simply giving the facts and showing the holes that exist in the research that claims vaccines are safe and effective. 90% of infectious disease mortality was also on the decline before vaccines were even introduced – another fact that is rarely mentioned by those who claim to be “pro-vaccine”.
For clarity: Guyer et al, “Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans During the 20th Century”, PEDIATRICS, 2000.
“Once again, nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccines were available.”
If someone makes the claim that vaccines are responsible for saving all of those lives from infectious disease, they are wrong.
People are afraid to not vaccinate because of the threat of infectious disease and the supposed herd immunity that mass vaccination gives, but they should also be afraid of risks that do in fact exist and are not disclosed to parents. You have to understand each disease and vaccine available before you come to a complete conclusion on what to do for your child; you also have to understand the risks, which for many, far outweigh the benefits. You can learn more about the science of each vaccine and its ingredients here. You cannot force someone to vaccinate when there is a risk to their child that will negatively affect them the rest of their life. Unfortunately, the risks are usually unknown and unheard of until after the event of vaccine injury occurs. It is also unethical to tell everyone to vaccinate when there is experimental and observational evidence that vaccines cause damage to a genetically vulnerable sub-population (which major organizations have refused to properly study in order to prevent other people from being harmed).
IOM, pg. 127
What is even more unethical is when proper research is blocked or never completed because social skeptics, health organizations and biased scientists assume that vaccine safety is already proven and anyone who suggests otherwise should be shamed and ridiculed. The scientists, doctors, and parents who do speak out are considered “anti-vaccine loons” even when they bring up valid concerns. The fact that a majority of health organizations and doctors state that vaccines are completely safe does not make it so. What would make that statement a fact would be if the scientific evidence supported it, but the scientific evidence in favor of that conclusion is actually lacking and distorted because of biased and poorly designed studies. Immunity is a very complex subject and every person does not respond exactly the same; the “one size fits all” approach does not work when it comes to vaccination. It isn’t that we want vaccination to be stopped—it’s that we want vaccine injuries to be stopped. We want the at-risk groups to be studied so that we can prevent future injuries in people who also share that susceptibility. We also don’t know the true “benefit to risk” ratio of vaccination because adverse reactions to vaccines are not properly reported. Less than 10% are reported and physicians don’t encourage patients to report when there are visible symptoms following vaccine administration. And even when parents do take their concerns or observations to doctors, many times they are told that “It can in no way be related to the vaccination and is just a coincidence. Correlation does not imply or equal causation.”
Furthermore, there are other problems we face when it comes to VAERS. Two variants of complexifuscation will be explained here.
Complexifuscation – the introduction of similar signals, inputs or measures, alongside a control measure or an experimental measure, in an attempt to create a ‘cloud of confusion or distraction’ around the ability to effect observation, control or measure of a targeted set of data. Preemption of a phenomena with in-advance flurries of fake hoaxes, in order obscure the impact, or jade the attention span of a target audience, around a genuine feared phenomena.
In quotes below you will see how this was explained by a special scientist friend of mine (articulated perfectly – I could not summarize this any better than the given description).
Hiding Through Data Flood
“The VAERS database of vaccine injury is one example. – There are tens of thousands of vaccine injuries each year, and in order to mask this statistic, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a database where not only are those injuries recorded, but EVERY side effect of a vaccine is also reported. So rashes, slight fevers, ‘didn’t feel good’ reports come in by the hundreds of thousands and squelch out both the usefulness of the database and the ability to spot ‘permanent disability through encephalopathy’ data. It is a way of killing an idea by tendering the appearance of giving it overwhelming attention.
Hiding Through Cladistic Categorization
“Autism is a great example here. In this method of counter-intelligence, you take a threatening data trend, and in order to mask its growth – you start identifying subcategories inside the malady so that old numbers are apples-to-oranges in comparison to new numbers. You cannot track the 1970’s ‘autism’ stats versus the 2010’s autism because there are so many gradiations now. Incumbent in the Cladistic Complexifuscation tactic, is the built in excuse when any growth is observed = ‘Well it is simply a case of increase in diagnosis, ability to detect and maladies which used to not be included, which are now included.” This is how Steven Novella attempts to diffuse the topic.”
Moreover, as I have stated before, there are also no well designed prospective studies comparing total health outcomes between the vaccinated and unvaccinated so that we can better understand the effects. Pharmaceutical companies refuse to label vaccines as drugs; this makes it to where they do not have to do the same type of thorough safety studies like the ones that are completed on pharmaceuticals. It is purported that vaccines do not have negative effects and that vaccinated children are healthier in totality while unvaccinated children are dangerous. We have to move beyond the argument from ignorance that asserts that “a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, or is false because it has not been shown to have any evidence” and the existential fallacy of data “the implication or contention that there is an absence of observation or data supporting an idea, when in fact no observational study at all, or of any serious import has been conducted by science on the topic at hand.”
We constantly see doctors and nurses claiming they are the experts (next in line to the scientists who support the conclusions they espouse) and that we unqualified plebs better take a step back. Unfortunately for them, their claims are rooted in erroneous conclusions and social skepticism. This means that what they are saying is not “settled science” but rather deceptive rhetoric influenced by deep indoctrination and a lack of information. No amount of adverting to asserted consensus or authority will change the scientific method or epistemological accuracy.
The nurses and people in medical school who make these claims have been taught how to administer vaccines and/or that vaccines are life saving, safe, and effective, and that that’s all there is to it. They are given courses in immunology and microbiology as well. However, they are not given the facts about the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the national vaccine injury compensation table of injuries, the science of aluminum adjuvant neurotoxicity, thimerosal neurotoxicity (thimerosal is still in multi-dose flu shots), the science of immune activation and its role in brain disorders, or how to discern the difference between sound research methods, biased science, and research flaws/manipulation. They are given one side of information and in many cases misinformation in regards to safety. You cannot expect to see the whole picture if you take advice and listen to people who only give one specific side of regurgitated one-liners. Aside from the pretentiousness and hubris of these purported “experts”, we also have to understand most of these people genuinely think they are doing the right thing.
In closing, it is essential that you understand the differences between political consensus that is derived from deception and scientific consensus that is formed through the proper usage of the scientific method. Political consensus has to do with the politicization of science and agenda driven misinterpretations of data, information collection, and epistemological solecism that is used in order to cite a false consensus that would not even exist if scientists were given the complete information from both sides (along with being properly informed about the lack of data on the given subject and the reasons why you shouldn’t jump to a conclusion precipitately and wrongfully). Political consensus covers the social and political dimension of subjective interpretation in social skepticism and pop science. The antithesis to this is scientific consensus that properly follows the scientific method through arriving at conclusions based on time, objective understanding free of human bias, meticulous consideration, and at the apex—ethical skepticism.
Human Studies that Indicate Autism/Vaccine Link
Definitions worth learning:
Appeal to Tradition (argumentum ad antiquitam) – a conclusion advertised as proven scientifically solely because it has long been held to be true.
Appeal to Probability – the false contention of a skeptic that the most probable, simple, or likely outcome in a set of highly convoluted but unacknowledged assumptions, is therefore the compulsory or prevailing conclusion of science.
Appeal to Ridicule – an argument is made by presenting the opponent’s argument in a way that makes it appear ridiculous.
Appeal to Scientific Democracy – the contention that if the majority of scientists believe something to be true, regardless of epistemological merit, then it must be assumed as true.
Appeal to Scientists Fallacy – an argument that is misrepresented to be the premise held true on the part of the prevailing group of scientists; or concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to a more successful career in science.
Appeal to Skeptic – citing a skeptic as an authority, recitation or expert witness on a subject or observation, when a skeptic in reality provides no particular relevant expertise. In recitation rules, not qualifying as an authority. Under the Rules of Federal Evidence, skeptic testimony is the lowest ranked of any kind, being ranked under eyewitness testimony, not possessing any particular expertise other than a specious claim to know the scientific method, or lacking in the court’s Duty of Candor.
Appeal to Skepticism Position – the argument assumption or implication that an opinion possesses authoritative veracity or a proponent possesses intellectual high ground simply through allegiance to a consensus skeptical position on a topic.
Appeal to Skepticism Status – the declaration, assumption or implication that a consensus skeptical position on a topic is congruent with the consensus opinion of scientists on that topic.
Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy – the presumption or contention that taking a denial based or default dubious stance on a set of evidence or topic is somehow indicative of application of the scientific method on one’s part, or constitutes a position of superior intellect, or represents a superior critical or rational position on a topic at hand.
Appeal to Tradition (argumentum ad antiquitam) – a conclusion advertised as proven scientifically solely because it has long been held to be true.
Argument from Incredulity – the contention that because something is too difficult to imagine or possibly exist, then this is proof that it does not exist.
As Science as Law Fallacy – the implication or assumption that something is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ under the scientific method, when in fact this is an incorrect philosophy of hypothesis reduction.
Bunk Nauseam Fallacy – the argument that a point is invalid by implying or citing incorrectly that the topic has been de-bunked many many times, and is now nothing but an irritating myth inside circles of stupidity.
Cannot be Reliably Tested Error – the malpractice of disqualifying a subject, study or researcher from science by citing that it has not been or cannot be tested or reliably repeated in testing. When in fact many conclusions of accepted science fall under such a reality. This often is achieved through blocking its access to the scientific method, ignoring the topic, conflating the scientific method with the experimental method, ignoring discovery science protocols, refusing to research/test the contention, or misrepresenting its appropriate next steps or empirical questions, and further then citing that therefore the subject has failed the necessary testing methods of science.
Cherry Picking – pointing to a talking sheet of handpicked or commonly circulated individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring or denying a significant portion of related context cases or data that may contradict that position.