“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

Friday November 22, 1963 Sam Pate, a reporter for KBOX Radio describing President Kennedy’s motorcade

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I was struck by recent tweets from Australia’s most troublesome, and arguably troubled, antivaccinationist.

In a splendid example of the transcendental world view that conspiracies are everywhere Meryl Dorey retweeted and commented on a pro-chemtrail tweet. Not just any pro-chemtrail tweet. This came from an account so packed with conspiracy tweets it’s almost suffocating to read. Ample antivaccine waffle, false flags, a comment on the strange absence of accents from Orlando shooting witnesses, the Sandy Hook “actors”, GMO, depopulation, etc, etc.

“TheMatrix” hashtag worked overtime and happened to accompany the tweet that caught Ms. Dorey’s eye.

Dorey_chemtrails2

This prompted a number of replies criticising the lack of thinking behind the chemtrail conspiracy theory. Meryl offered one critic:

Dorey_chemtrails

Understanding conspiracy theorists and the role implausible fallacy plays in their thinking is not as simple as accusing them of being crackpots. As individuals, they come from any age, race, socioeconomic status, education level, occupation, gender, political viewpoint. Uscinski and Parent wrote the 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories. They note on page 11 that laboratory experiments that induce loss of control and anxiety prompt subjects to draw conspiratorial explanations and see nonexistent patterns.

Such agenticity and patternicity are intuitive human qualities. Left unchecked they are qualities that steer one toward justifying the world as filled with interconnected events. Events that happen for a reason. Despite the evidence void, intuition can shape transcendental conspiracy thinking to believing the reason behind such events is generally one of malignant control.

Empiricism lacks the intuitive quality of transcendentalism. The empiricist accepts that coincidence and random events are part of reality. Any belief thus requires evidence. In this way skeptics are not prone to conclude based upon unchecked intuition. A simple but worthy example is the well used truism that correlation is not causation. For so many claims of the antivaccination movement (say, so-called vaccine injuries as opposed to genuine injuries) there is no evidence – just a claim based upon correlation.

These claims resonate with intuition. But subject to empirical examination and scientific skepticism we find these injuries (as opposed to genuine injuries) do not exist. The evidence supports another cause. With no evidence to the contrary and the inability to accept reality, we find the antivaccine lobby will cry conspiracy. Indeed there are a great many false claims kept in circulation by this lobby that are defeated with scientific evidence. Rather than accept the consensus the group cries conspiracy.

In March ABC Minefield produced Is the truth still out there? Why do conspiracy theories still exist? It’s an excellent episode. Hosts Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discuss the persistence of conspiracy theories with guest, Patrick Stokes. Enjoy.

© ABC

Dravet syndrome is not a vaccine induced genetic mutation

Recently I was sent some appallingly misleading nonsense on Twitter regarding Dravet (pron. druh-vay) syndrome and vaccination. Or more specifically that Dravet (a rare intractable form of epilepsy) is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”.

The phrase appeared on a screen grabbed page (below) full of harmful misinformation. It took advantage of the fact that in around 80% of cases Dravet is linked to a de novo genetic mutation. More specifically the uninherited SCN1A mutation leads to the development of dysfunctional ion channels in the brain.

Seizures develop within the first year of life and infants develop normally until this time. The first seizures infants experience may often be associated with fever. Later seizures can present without heat triggers or illness. Nonetheless the first seizures often occur around six months of age and are associated with vaccination. Although it begins in infancy Dravet syndrome is a lifelong condition. It is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI).

A range of health challenges accompany Dravet syndrome including a higher incidence of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy). According to The Dravet Syndrome Foundation other conditions which require proper management and treatment include:

Behavioral and developmental delays, movement and balance issues, orthopedic conditions, delayed language and speech issues, growth and nutrition issues, sleeping difficulties
chronic infections, sensory integration disorders, disruptions of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates things such as body temperature and sweating)

Whilst the screenshot below offers a copious amount of rubbish and does so with absurd confidence, we can see how important facts have been abused to push a fearful message of misinformation. Firstly the presence of a de novo (new, not inherited) genetic mutation. Secondly the association of vaccination with the first seizure.

McIntosh et al (2010) state:

Vaccination might trigger earlier onset of Dravet syndrome in children who, because of an SCN1A mutation, are destined to develop the disease.

That statement is quite unambiguous. Infants are destined to develop the disease because of the genetic mutation. Not because of vaccines. Vaccination may trigger a seizure; the early onset of Dravet syndrome. In what may be considered a firm conclusion that vaccinations do not cause Dravet syndrome, they continue:

However, vaccination should not be withheld from children with SCN1A mutations because we found no evidence that vaccinations before or after disease onset affect outcome.

We’re now in a better position to judge how misleading this insult to evidence is.

P01YN0NYM0U55_2016-May-24

Interestingly I have not been able to source it. Nonetheless it is intellectually offensive to see so much effort go in to falsely accuse the scientific and medical communities of hiding information. Apart from targeting the WebMD page on Dravet syndrome, the piece merely insists “the medical establishment” studied six children “who had previously been diagnosed with vaccine induced Dravet”. Then the children were “re-diagnosed” as not vaccine injured. Keep an eye out and one can see a “pattern of coverups like this…”.

Below is a short audio of Dr. Linda Laux, MD, of Lurie Children’s Hospital speaking on behalf of Dravet Syndrome Foundation [Which can also be accessed here]. She is quite clear in stressing that in Dravet, vaccinations can trigger seizures. “It is not the cause of the epilepsy syndrome. But it may precipitate seizures just the way an illness may precipitate seizures”.

Dr. Laux argues this was first shown by “an Australian group” (McIntosh et al) wherein the authors chased up adults who had previously been compensated for vaccine encephalopathy. They checked for Dravet and found the majority were positive for the SCN1A gene mutation. As we saw above there is good evidence to continue vaccinating. Laux reminds us that vaccine preventable diseases would trigger seizures for such a cohort.

The researchers checked the sample’s seizures as children. They defined the “vaccine proximate group”, who had their first seizure within two days of a vaccine. The second group who had their first seizure not associated with a vaccine, was labelled the “vaccine distant group”. Then the researchers studied subsequent seizures, severity of seizures and development of both groups.

They found no difference in the prognosis of these variables. This suggests that in this study Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by vaccination did not lead to a more deleterious prognosis than Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by another means.

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Another study (Pediatrics, 2011) by Reyes et al entitled Alleged Cases of Vaccine Encephalopathy Rediagnosed Years Later As Dravet Syndrome, includes in the abstract:

It was reported recently that a proportion of patients previously diagnosed with alleged vaccine encephalopathy might possess SCN1A mutations and clinical histories that enabled a diagnosis of Dravet syndrome, but these results have not been replicated. We present here the cases of 5 children who presented for epilepsy care with presumed parental diagnoses of alleged vaccine encephalopathy caused by pertussis vaccinations in infancy. Their conditions were all rediagnosed years later, with the support of genetic testing, as Dravet syndrome.

Verbeek et al studied data of 23 children with epilepsy onset after vaccination. In October 2014 they published in Pediatrics Etiologies For Seizures Around The Time Of Vaccination. They write in their abstract conclusion:

Our results suggest that in most cases, genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination, including both cases with preexistent encephalopathy or benign epilepsy with good outcome. These results have significant added value in counseling of parents of children with vaccination-related first seizures, and they might help to support public faith in vaccination programs.

The constant theme that emerges as one pursues research on vaccination and Dravet syndrome is that the SCN1A mutation underlies Dravet, and as demonstrated by Verbeek et al, “genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination”. The valuable work of McIntosh et al, reinforces the importance of maintaining vaccination regimes for these at-risk populations.

As for nonsense claiming Dravet syndrome is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”, supporters of vaccine programmes should be aware that perpetrators of these lies can distort facts to cause fear and confusion in the unaware. Evidence to confirm vaccination does cause Dravet syndrome has not been forthcoming.

Fortunately the medical establishment has never tried to hide the truth. Vaccines can trigger seizures in infants with the SCN1A mutation at a rate of 1:16,000 – 1:21,000. The reality is that if not a vaccine causing a fever, then another trigger will certainly bring Dravet syndrome to the fore. Evidence suggests there is no difference in prognosis between the vaccine proximate and vaccine distant.

Dravet syndrome remains a very rare condition and there is still no vaccine conspiracy.

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Audio: Examining the anti-vax movement

Preamble…

Recently with the decision by Robert De Niro to pull the dangerous and fraudulent film “Vaxxed…”, from the Tribeca film festival, antivaccinationists have been amusingly “outraged”.

The film appears to be a collation of misleading to bogus claims, deceptively produced to appear as a “documentary”, with the aim of selling the ludicrous claim by one Brian Hooker that CDC scientist William Thompson had blown the whistle on CDC fraud. The fraud purportedly being an increase in autism in African-American boys receiving MMR “on time”. This nonsense brings us to the final card that the film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, is not only innocent of the fraud that saw him deregistered but an ethical hero “working to make vaccines safer”.

The hilarity of deceit at play here requires length and focus. The facts are examined here, here and here. This blog’s Wakefield tag is here. What has been predictable is the conduct of the anti-vaccine lobby. The film’s producer Del Bigtree reached new heights of conspiracy laden fallacy in an interview on USA’s ABC. It was “censored” (it wasn’t) because Big Pharma didn’t want “you” to see it. To accept that, one must accept the whole global Pharma-vaccine conspiracy.

Supporters believe this rot without seemingly questioning a jot. But why? How do they reach a state of intellectual helplessness and gullibility? Why are they incapable of discerning reputable information? As it turns out there are many sources discussing conspiracy theory mindsets, cognitive bias, distrust of authority and more. But for now I’ll avoid such in favour of the audio narratives below. I’m sure I’m not alone in musing about the conduct of antivaccinationists, particularly the similarities in spreading deception and abusing those who hold them to account for such dishonesty.

Here in Australia last January saw the acceptance of a PhD thesis from antivaccinationist and conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman, by the University of Wollongong. This has rightly attracted wide criticism with respect to academic rigour as the work advances a conspiracy theory by advancing incredulous and debunked claims, citing criticised authors and works.

What is of note here is the contribution of her supervisor Brian Martin who has written that Wilyman has been unfairly attacked by critics. This is not an accurate portrayal of the intellectual and academic challenges Wilyman was met with by any means. Martin goes on to accuse Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) of making complaints to “official bodies” and of seeking to prevent anti-vaccine talks.

This is quite true but I note that SAVN has never been so much as cautioned for vexatious conduct. Complaints are made with good reason and can only take shape thanks to the irregular conduct, or worse, of those complained about. Preventing the abuses of free speech that opponents of evidence based medicine and antivaccinationists engage in is essential to the defence of sound public health.

So what would drive an educated individual to work to enable the scurrilous conduct of his student, rather than encourage critical thought and intellectual honesty? This got me thinking of a worthy production.

Audio…

In August 2015 the BBC broadcast an inquiry, What’s behind the ‘anti-vax’ movement? [© BBC] It could dig a little deeper if we consider the abuse of grieving parents and vile threats that pepper social media. However I think the building blocks of such anti-vax conduct is presented.

  • Listen with the player below…

The four part programme features Dr. Dyan Hes, Brian Deer, Juniper Russo and Heidi Larson. The producers take the view that the so called debate surrounding vaccination has not only been settled, but in view of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud, is a misleading claim. Thus the programme is introduced with the promise that false balance will not be entertained.

Be sure to catch Juniper Russo (Part 3 – The Crunchy Mom) at the 11:15 mark. Juniper was the ideal nature loving mom from Tennessee, convinced Big Pharma had conspired to silence Wakefield. She was wired into the online anti-vax movement and chose to keep vaccines, and other awful medicines, away from her daughter. Juniper’s vaccine beliefs changed when her daughter was diagnosed with autism.

Juniper now takes an evidence based approach to lifestyle and is the author of the blog, Back From Nature.

Enjoy.

Don’t Mess With Anti-Discrimination Laws

A fortnight ago Australians learned that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was urging the federal government to set aside anti-discrimination laws during the marriage equality plebiscite. This would facilitate free speech for the “no side” which was, according to ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton, fearful of being prosecuted if they expressed their views on same sex marriage.

According to Fairfax, Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission described it as “a disgraceful way of dealing with the issue”. Suggesting the ACL failed to understand how the anti-discrimination law worked, she added. “It’s an outrageous proposition and it’s highly misguided.”

In a radio interview with Jon Faine on Melbourne’s ABC 774 Shelton raised the example of the rather unambiguously titled “Pastoral letter” Don’t Mess With Marriage (below at 1 minute mark).

… at the moment we’ve seen the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference taken to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission because someone felt offended by a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage.

Speaking to Fairfax about the same case Shelton is quoted as saying those who argued against same sex marriage faced a “constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action”. Apparently as Shelton sees it these laws are not fair. State anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold” and thus, according to Shelton, the ACL is very concerned about fairness during the campaign.

The “gentle and respectful booklet”, as Shelton labelled Don’t Mess With Marriage was published in November last year. It points out on p.13 that:

Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father. And there are countless reliable studies that suggest that mothers and fathers enhance – and their absences impede – child development in different ways.

[…]

‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.

Lyle SheltonLyle Shelton

A few pieces of this “gentle and respectful” wisdom require an entire paragraph in large font. Don’t think the fact that many children are happily raised in single parent families might get in the way of the ACL “Christian teachings on marriage”.

There is a big difference, however, between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and planning from the beginning artificially to create an ‘alternative family’ that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother. (p.13)

Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve. (p.9)

Under a photo of a sad child staring expressionless into space with disheveled hair and wearing a singlet is the heading Consequences of redefining marriage. Large font paragraphs sum up:

But if the civil definition of marriage were changed to include ‘same-sex marriage’ then our law and culture would teach that marriage is merely about emotional union of any two (or more?) people. (p.14)

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs as gender would no longer matter. (p.14)

As always with such bigotry we’re reliably informed there is “sociological research” or simply research to back the claims. One citation mentioned on page 16 is M. Regnerus (2012): How different are the adult children of parents who have same sex relationships? His methodology and conclusions are condemned by a number of experts in this fact check from Equality Matters.

Indeed there was no comparison of same sex couples raising a family to heterosexual couples raising a family. Rather the criteria used is whether a parent had ever had a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. The parent subjects were in fact part of a failed heterosexual union. Only a minor part of the sample spent “more than a few years living in a household headed by a same sex union”.

D. P. Sullins’ Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition is cited. It is also the subject of Emma Green’s Using Pseudoscience To Undermine Same-Sex Parents. Green notes:

This is not a new argument. Especially in the past decade, as gay marriage has been legally recognized in many states, a small number of scholars have claimed that kids of same-sex parents are exposed to more potential harms than kids of straight parents. This, in turn, has been used to argue against gay adoption and marriage.

In 5 Things to know about the new “gay parents are bad for kids study” Democratic Underground lay out how poorly data collation was conducted by Sullins, and note a lack of controls or adjustments for ambiguous variables (Point. 2). They ask in point five, So why bother authoring a study that is very obviously flawed?

This is essentially the problem with the deeply offensive Don’t Mess With Marriage. Children are the innocent victims of same sex marriage. They are to endure a “grave injustice”. Also the booklet is sprinkled with apparently awful outcomes for individuals and institutions across the globe. Again the tone is that same-sex marriage has a victim count.

So why would any objection be raised against Don’t Mess With Marriage, if Shelton deems it “a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage”? We find out in this Australian Women’s Weekly article that the “anti-gay” scribe was handed out to Catholic school children. 56 schools in Canberra according to Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse. Students discovering sexual orientation and gender or aware they are gay attend these schools. One mum stressed she was “furious”.

Referring to “sociological research” to quietly pass the buck to justify emotionally destructive and psychologically harmful biases might be intended to lend academic integrity to organised bigotry. Yet it appears any such consensus as put forward doesn’t exist.

The American Psychological Association published a statement on June 11th 2012. It includes:

On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other health professional and scientific organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. That is, lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. This body of research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.

[…]

In fact one study which did have the religious right unsettled was the 2014 University of Melbourne (Australia) study by Crouch et al. Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey (Full paper). Abstract Conclusions read:

Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes

Lyle Shelton’s appeal to antiquity is one for those who love to dig through history. In defending the request for an “override” of anti-discrimination laws Shelton claimed,

…those in the “no” camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted, but to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

A History Of Same Sex Marriage by William Eskridge Jr., offers a markedly different view of marriage, history and culture. There are the fascinating accounts of fourth century Christian martyrs and Roman soldiers St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. Perhaps married lovers as John Boswell concluded – to much criticism. Or simply “made brothers” via adelphopoiesis. Or as others postulate was the Christian tradition of adelphopoiesis the ideal vehicle to allow a same sex union in all but name? Nonetheless the real answers would lie in a firm grasp of history and anthropology.

Still, it matters little what is “millenia-old”. Appeals to antiquity are regarded as logical fallacies because in all their forms they are bankrupt of evidence to persuade. Today in our present social climate the denial of same sex union requires discrimination and frequently, bigotry. Expecting “override” of anti-discrimination legislation hints at the tone of argument the conservative religious movement would like to get away with.

The ACL should be ashamed they feel justified in making such a request.

 

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