December 14, 2009

Reposting: Unscientific Scientists

[Looking back over what I have written this year, I think that the two most important pieces were this one and the follow up "Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Lori Kozlowski, Rosie Mestel, Thomas Maugh, David Gorski, Virginia Hughes, Science Journalists, The Dying of the LA Times and an Angry Autism Mom" that I wrote last summer. If there are any messages I have to offer in this debate right now, they are contained in these two articles.

So I am reposting them for the remainder of the year. I guess I still hold out a hope that in this season of contemplation and self-evaluation that those who are addressed in them, both by name and by description, will take a hard look at this, and themselves, realize how destructive a course they are on, and change it.

For anyone who might be inclined to do so, a reminder on how to practice the good, old honorable practice of repentance. When you are doing something wrong 1. Stop doing it. 2. Admit to what you have done wrong. 3. Clean up your mess.

The simple act of repentance, even in the little things, especially in the little things, prevents the corruption and downfall of entire civilizations. No one who practices it regularly can become eaten up by hubris. How is it that we have let it fall out of fashion?]

My letter in response to the LA Times article: Bringing science back into America's sphere on Chris Mooney's book "Unscientific America"

Lori, Chris and Sheril,

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism.

I saw Lori's piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don't seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing "science" as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public.

I feel like you may have confused actual hard "Science" with "things that most scientists think", as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been, and most assuredly still is in many places, wrong.

Chris and Sheril wrote: " this country is also home to a populace that, to an alarming extent, ignores scientific advances or outright rejects scientific principles."

I would put it to you that it may not be the "scientific principles" that are being rejected, but the principles of the scientists.

When my son regressed into autism following his 18 month shots and I spent a year trying to reconcile all of the contradictory positions of my own pediatrician, the AAP, the CDC, HHS, the "science" you say exonerates vaccines from autism causation, the whole of the research out there and the facts of my own son's case. What I found was a ridiculous mess.

What you keep referring to as "science" is making contradictory statements all over the place. It resembles nothing like the thing that "Science" is actually supposed to be, the methodical study of phenomena to figure out what is ACTUALLY, TRULY happening.

Yet the statements that scientists make claim that all the vaccine/autism questions have been answered, purport that all the possibilities have been explored and suggest that people should just kill what intellectual curiosity and concern for child safety that they have left and move on? How is that "Science"? How is that not laughable?

Case in point from Lori's article: "science has come in and we can't detect the correlation between a rise in autism diagnoses and use of childhood vaccines. And study after study has been done."

Yet "science" has never done a simple study that took a large group of vaccinated children and a large group of children whose parents chose not to vaccinate them, and compared them for autism incidence! Yet you suggest that it is time to let the vaccine/autism question go? The FIRST study that "science" should have done, still has never been done! And it may take an act of congress to actually make "science" do something it apparently really does not want to do. And that is only the beginning of the studies that have not been done.

Not to mention the fact that "study after study" is picked apart by other researchers, and even by lay parents, but those critiques are ignored by people like you who don't want to follow the actual scientific method. This same bizarre conversation is carried out over and over:

Mainstream science: "Here is a study... look no vaccine/autism connection".

Autism community: "Hey... look here... you guys forgot to carry the 3. Wait... half of our kids' medical histories are in the exclusion criteria!".

Mainstream science (now with their back to the autism community and facing the microphones): "Awww.... poor desperate, scientifically illiterate parents looking for someone to blame. At some point they really have to let go."

There are about a thousand questions on the vaccine/autism connection that neither scientists nor research has ever addressed, and the medical establishment won't even allow to be asked in their "pulpits" because "science" is the new religion and their dogma cannot be questioned. Scientists are the priests, and those who diverge from the canon are branded heretics. Vaccines are inherently "good" and cannot be "bad". The research that points to vaccines causing autism is treated like the evidence that priests were molesting young boys... ignored, buried and those who dared call attention to it are bullied into silence. And yet you have a problem with the suppression of discussion of evolution in churches? Again.... from where I sit, the hypocrisy of your statements are stunning.

The scientific community overstates the benefits of vaccination and understates the risks. And of course they do, vaccination is their baby. Yet they don't seem to have the insight to understand that there is a conflict of interest there. Last year the AAP sent a representative to a Defeat Autism Now! conference to evaluate the state of their science into autism/vaccine causation. They sent Louis Cooper of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, one of the inventors of the Rubella vaccine. Seriously? Lou Cooper is the objective guy that is going to return to the AAP and declare, "You know what guys... I think the vaccine I invented and that is my greatest accomplishment in life may be playing a role in an epidemic of lifelong and deadly neurological disorders that are striking around 1 in 100 kids! I think we may have caused an epidemic!"????

I don't think that you have fully grasped what has happened in the vaccine/autism wars. A very large group of parents, physicians and researchers have made the accusation that mainstream medicine, the scientific community and public health authorities have created one of the largest iatrogenic epidemics of all time via an overzealous and under researched vaccine program. A very serious charge. Your community has responded to that charge by doing a minimal amount of shoddy research, in most cases paid for and carried out by the pharmaceutical companies that made the products in question and the agencies that made the policies that put these products into almost every tiny body in this country regardless of their risk factors, while simultaneously mocking those making the charge.

You have declared that YOU HAVE INVESTIGATED YOURSELVES AND FOUND THAT YOU ARE NOT GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES! And the policy makers among you have made sure that no appeal can be filed in an actual court where your accusers can bring evidence against you, compel you to testify under oath, or compel you to turn over internal documents, as you have passed legislation exempting yourselves from any liability or litigation. You claim innocence and just tell us that we have to take your word for it, as if "smart" also mean "honest", "incorruptible", "omniscient" and "looking out for the best interests of the public and all individuals".

Why in the world do you think that your reputation should be on the rise?!

What is happening is denial on a scale far grander than what transpired during the initial Semmelweiss Reflex. You want the public to embrace science, even the science that they don't want to face? You go first!

I started to write more on all of the corruption that is going on in the medical and scientific industries, but who has that much time.

Yes... to solve the problem that you want solved, reportedly that you want mainstream American to embrace "science", "Scientists are going to have to have a culture change."

But the change you suggest is the wrong one. You don't need more scientists (or more nerds rapping about super colliders), you need the scientists you already have to have a come to Jesus moment. The scientific community needs to understand that their hubris, arrogance, devaluing of the individual, ethical problems, legal problems, widespread conflicts of interest and constant denials of any evidence that is inconvenient to the advancements of their "scientific" agenda is the problem, and has to come to an end.

The scientific community needs a big dose of humility, and needs to consider the fact that their critics and those ignoring them, might have a few good points.

They need to listen to, and be able to cogently address their critics, instead of marginalizing and maligning them. And if they don't have an answer, they have to offer informed consent to the public and admit that they don't have an answer.

People see right through condescending BS. People have a tendency to treat you with the same dismissal with which you have treated them. What you are seeing may not be a "deep-seated streak of anti-intellectualism" but a deep-seated distrust of self-proclaimed "intellectuals" who openly disdain the unwashed masses, then wonder why their scientific pronouncements hold no sway with them.

Take minute and go read any autism/vaccine post on Orac's blog, as he is the rock star of the "woo" bashing 'skeptics' in your universe. Now pretend that you are a parent who has learned that thimerosal at nanomolar amounts causes mitochondrial dysfunction so severe that it can cause the cell to self destruct, and that HHS has conceded that in the Poling case mito dysfunction + vaccination = autism symptoms. And pretend that one of your questions are that if vaccines are known to cause Guillian-Barre, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, then why can't they cause autism, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system? And pretend that you want to understand that if one vaccine contains enough adjuvant to stimulate the immune system sufficiently to put it on a search and destroy mission for viruses, then why do docs give five shots at once and claim it couldn't possibly overstimulate the immune system in some into a search and destroy mission for its own tissues; and why can't it cause the autoimmune state and neuroinflammation found in autism? And then pretend that you are confused by the stance of "science" that a fetus contracting Rubella is a known cause of autism, but that that a one year old being given a live virus rubella vaccine couldn't possibly cause autism; while remembering that VICP has ruled that Baily Banks would not have had ASD if not for his MMR.

And pretend you saw Julie Gerberding go on CNN and say that vaccines can cause autism and cannot cause autism.

And then pretend that you spend untold hours on pubmed and in chat rooms and on HHS/CDC/AAP web sites and you can't find any cogent answers for the questions you have. And pretend that your own pediatrician just got annoyed with you for asking questions he couldn't answer and then just stopped returning your calls.

And then go read Orac again (or any 'skeptic' blog or even your own article in the LAT) and ask yourself... 'why would any thinking person want to listen to us when we can't answer their questions and instead treat them with contempt to cover the fact that we can't answer their questions'?

Your 'skeptic' community's message to the public and parents like me? "You are an idiot and we have nothing but contempt for you. Now think what we tell you to think and do what we want you to do, even if it doesn't make sense".

Treat your audience like crap, and they will leave. Claim to be a scientist and spout completely unscientific and illogical statements (mean ones at that), and no one will care what you say.

Chris, when your own suggestion on how to fix the problem that you have defined is to lean more about the people who are resisting your message, not so that you might learn from them as to where you might have gone off the tracks, not even so that you might enter into a mutually respectful relationship with them where you are on the same level (what with you being "super smart", "highly educated" and "doing great stuff" while they are way behind you on some imaginary starting point), but so that you might condescend to where they are in order to manipulate them into believing what you want them to believe... can you see that you can't even see what the real problem is?

It is clear from this article that those you target, you do not consider your equals.

"Smart" is not the only virtue, and it may not even one of the most important virtues. Look back at the people who have done the most damage to humanity through out history. You will be hard pressed to find a dummy among them.

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