The Believer’s Brain – Vicki Green & Amy Allbright

Well once again I find myself in a debate with a believer, although this time there are two stark differences. The first difference is that I was debating multiple believers (Vicki Green & Amy Allbright) simultaneously (there was a 3rd, Lyn Oneil, however this person deleted their comments before I could copy them). And the second difference is that this debate was not about religion (which is actually why this ongoing segment was named “The Believer’s Brain” and not “Conversations with christians”, because I had always hoped to examine all types of beliefs). This conversation began on a post by a mutual friend of the three of of us.

My initial comment was actually directed at the original post and not at Vicki or Amy or Lyn, but I include it here, since it sparked our conversation. (again the believers, Vicki and Amy, will be in black, while my thoughts are in blue)

Jeff: For somebody who has their religion listed as “control through fiction”, it seems odd you’d post something from an anti-choice group that promotes humanity is defined in “the eyes of God”…

Vicki: I think Dan posts lots of things just to get people reacting….in one way or another….he rarely comments himself to any extent… interesting way of getting a debate going though.

Jeff: When one posts something without comment it’s typically understood as accepting or condoning the position given by that which was posted…

Dan has a habit of posting some asinine crap, and despite my calling him on it many times, he has never once responded to his reasoning.

Without clarification from him, I take it to be that he really believes many of these idiotic ideas and is unable to justify his beliefs to any extent so he chooses to remain silent to hide his ignorance…

This next comment was directed to Lyn. I recall that they claimed that I said something I did not (which I correct in my response) and that I should respect somebody’s beliefs and not attack them for those beliefs.

Jeff: I did not say he’s ignorant because he does not comment.
I said he’s ignorant because of many of the things which he promotes (such as anti-vaccination propaganda) are not just ignorant of the facts but dangerously so.

As for “respecting somebody’s beliefs”, I’m sorry but we will never agree on this. I don’t respect the beliefs of people when those beliefs are dangerous. Those who oppose science based medicine are promoting a cause which kills children and that type of belief is worthy of my disdain, not my respect.

Amy: Jeff, what I find ironic is that you are concerned about killing children, or so you claim. I presume you are speaking about stem cell research. I support stem cell research. I do not think abortion is an ethical choice if it is chosen because a person was too irresponsible to take birth control precautions. I do consider a fetus to be a human being, once it is viable. That being said, I do support legal abortion. I just wish it were not so common in modern society.

Jeff: Amy,
You presume wrong. I was referring to those who oppose vaccinations because of unscientific beliefs. Dan has posted many anti-vax articles and has yet to ever respond when questioned about them.

But to deal with the other two topics you mention. I fully support research on stem cells. And I fully support a woman’s right to choose.

I fail to see the irony in any of those positions.

This next reply was again to Lyn, who was the first to mention anything about autism and vaccinations.

Jeff: Lyn,
ALL of the evidence shows there is no link between MMR and autism. The ONLY study to ever find a link was the Wakefield study which has been shown to have FAKED the data in order to come to a predetermined conclusion.

Amy: Jeff,

Hmm do you work for Merck or something? YES there IS a STRONG link between autism, or autism-like syndromes, and vaccinations. I know many children here in the United States who have never been vaccinated and are extremely healthy. How many children have died from allergic reactions to vaccines? Are you familiar with the rotavirus vaccine that was given to infants? Several babies died in AGONY because it caused blockages in the intestines. It was later pulled off the market. Perhaps SOME vaccines are necessary in developing nations where there are poor sanitary conditions, no running water, stagnant water full of mosquitoes, lack of clean drinking water. However, in the developed world, there is essentially NO NEED for the MMR and many other vaccines. Chicken pox–I had it as a kid and I”m doing great, thanks. You probably own stock in Pfizer.

Jeff: Lyn,
First of all, I never claimed I know everything. I follow where the evidence leads. In case of vaccinations and autism the evidence is clear that there is no link. If those who believe there is a link wish to make their case I would suggest they do a double blind study and submit the results to a peer reviewed journal. This study should then be replicated by another group, unrelated to the first, and verified. At that point there would be a reason to question the current understanding of the causes of autism.

Amy,
No I do not work for any pharmaceutical company nor do I own stock in any. And according to every single peer-reviewed, published study (except for the discredited Wakefield one) there is no link.
You are correct that many people who do not get vaccinated will be fine and not get sick. To say that this somehow proves vaccinations does not work shows you don’t understand vaccinations. I’d suggest learning more about vaccinations and how they have eradicated diseases such as polio and smallpox.
And you are also correct that some vaccines have side effects. And if you did the research you’d see that the small percentage of people who have these side effects is minimal when compared to the larger numbers saves from such diseases as pertussis. I’m curious how you’d explain to the parents of a child who died from such a disease in “the developed world” how vaccination for this disease is unnecessary.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/04/dana-mccaffery/

Amy: Jeff, give me a several millions dollars and I’ll get you your double-blind study. As for Wakefield, there is reason to believe that the pharmaceutical industry spent many efforts to discredit his study and his good name. And, his study was very, very limited. Polio was spread by fecal contamination and probably would have been eliminated over time due to increased sanitation, such as indoor plumbing, and wastewater treatment which was rare even 50 years ago in many parts of this country.

As for pertussis, that is one of the most controversial vaccines, which has had a high rate of allergic and negative reactions. Even with vaccines, children can still transmit the viruses and bacteria. Pertussis death rate is less than 1 in 500 in the United States and UK of reported cases.

I am terribly sorry for people whose children die from diseases. But who is to say that that child might not have been one for whom the vaccine didn’t ‘take’? I feel just as sorry for parents whose children DIED as a result of an allergic reaction to the vaccines, which doesn’t seem to concern you in the slightest. And I feel sorry for people whose children are killed in car accidents, cancer, etc.

Jeff: Amy,
Wakefield did more than enough to discredit his own work. He did not need others to do that for him. Many of his own co-authors were the first to distance himself from the study before it was even published.

As for funding you, if I had a few million to spare, I’m sorry, but you would not be real high up on my list of worthy causes.

And polio:
Polio (also called poliomyelitis) is a contagious, historically devastating disease that was virtually eliminated from the Western hemisphere in the second half of the 20th century. Although polio has plagued humans since ancient times, its most extensive outbreak occurred in the first half of the 1900s before the vaccination, created by Jonas Salk, became widely available in 1955.
At the height of the polio epidemic in 1952, nearly 60,000 cases with more than 3,000 deaths were reported in the United States alone. However, with widespread vaccination, wild-type polio, or polio occurring through natural infection, was eliminated from the United States by 1979 and the Western hemisphere by 1991.

A couple thousands deaths a year
Vaccines come along
And then 0 cases per year
Hmmm, I wonder if the vaccination was worth it.

Re Pertussis:
The vaccination is not 100% effective. Very few treatments are in fact. However with herd immunity (i.e. a large enough percentage of the population being vaccinated) it makes it much harder for the disease to spread through the population. When the level of vaccination drops, as it has done in various areas due to anti-vaccinations groups lobbying efforts, the number and severity of cases inevitably rises, causing easily preventable deaths.

As for those who die due to adverse reactions to vaccinations, I do care. But it’s analogous to seat belts. Some people will die in a crash DUE to a seat belt that may have otherwise lived. However the number of lives saved by seat belts FAR outnumbers those who were harmed by the seat belt.

Amy: Jeff, it’s very interesting how you throw in a few ad hominem attacks and straw men in all of your arguments. Speaks of logical fallacy. I’m not a cause, Jeff. I believe that blanket immunization is NOT good for children in the developed world. Perhaps some immunizations are still necessary, but I would like to see alternative methods of delivery and ways of making these vaccines (such as pertussis) less reactive for the majority of children. Interesting how you link the end of polio unequivocally with the vaccine, despite increases in sanitation at approximately the same time. Surely, there is no coincidence there? Also, why do you worry so much about vaccines, and obsess about ‘easily preventable deaths.’ Perhaps some of the BILLIONS spent on pharmaceutical research could come up better ways to treat these diseases, rather than new vaccines to sell to a gullible public? Would you get a vaccine for ‘overactive bladder syndrome,’ ‘restless legs syndrome,’ ‘social anxiety disorder’ or any of the legion of newly created illnesses for which there are drugs now available? You say that vaccines have done more harm than good, and that is certainly possible. But I know that if it were MY child who had a bad reaction to vaccines, went into a severe fever and died, or starting getting a huge swelling on the thigh and screaming endlessly for days, then never acted like a mild mannered baby as it had before (experience of someone I know) I would be mad as hell that idiots like you try to play God and tell us what to think. Go take your soma and go back to sleep.

Jeff: Amy,
You’re accusing ME of ad hominem? Really? Have you read what you’re written to me?
As for a straw-man, where exactly have I done this? Please cite an example and I’ll apologize and correct any such thing I have said.

I agree we should make the vaccinations as safe as possible, but 100% safety is never going to happen. We have to work to make them as safe as we can while understanding this.

As for polio, yes sanitation may have had something to do with it. But according to the research done on it, the vaccination was the primary cause of the eradication of the disease in the Western world.

As for your ideas of vaccinations for things which are not potentially life threatening, it would depend greatly on the risks of the vaccination. If the potential reward was less than the risk, then it would seem logical to do so. If the potential risk was death, and the disease which it cured did not cause death (such as with those you listed), then I don’t think any medical professional would suggest such a thing.

As for what you would do if something happened to you or your family, I’m sorry, but I trust double-blind, peer-reviewed studies over your personal feelings.

I don’t recall what these next two replies were to exactly, but Lyn had said something called me a “nutter”. I really need to start remembering to copy these things as they are said so I don’t miss comments that other people delete after the fact.

Jeff: I follow evidence and science.
You two seem to follow anecdotes and feelings.

In the long run, my way is better for humanity.

Jeff : Yes Lyn… Being in favor of science and evidence is the nutter position. What a fool I’ve been, if only I could learn to follow unsubstantiated claims instead, then I could be wise…

Vicki: Vaccines are dangerous to a proportion of society and its easy to be arrogant and judgemental when you don’t walk in the shoes of a a mother who lives daily with the fall out of vaccines – my husband is a doctor, a biomedical scientist who works for Cambridge Universities NHS Trust we kept on vaccinating our child after his reaction – we believed so much in the good of vaccines and the dangers of not doing so – its been a long and hard realisation for us. I don’t blame or judge anyone for their strength of feeling about the good of vaccines – how can I? I only know OUR truth and the truth of the others who tell the exact same story -I’m not here to get into a debate so don’t bother, it will not change my truth, just fight amongst yourselves if you must. I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO MY CHILD.

Amy: Jeff, it is impossible to have a cogent argument with you. You ignore many of my questions because you are a one-note instrument. The arrogance of your statements: “My way is better for humanity.” You sound like one of those New World Order folks who think that we should blindly obey the authorities because, after all, they are the ‘experts’ who know better than we do what is good for our children. As for your highly touted ‘evidence,’ has it ever occurred to you that evidence can be MANIPULATED to make almost any result that a group would like to see? Ever hear of lies, damn lies, and statistics? Did you ever run it through your tiny, gerbil-like brain that the big pharmaceutical industries have infiltrated the FDA, the CDC, and more? That there is an enormous conflict of interest within the system as it is right now? That it is morally vile for groups to work for the FDA and CDC and then ‘retire’ to a highly paid position at Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck? That Measles and Mumps are rarely fatal, and yet children are ‘MANDATED’ to take the MMR in countries where Measles has a death rate of 15%?

Jeff: Which questions did I ignore? I’ve attempted to answer all of them.

As for it being arrogant to claim that trusting evidence and science is better than trusting anecdotes and feelings, I’m sorry, but history has shown that to be true.

If you want to claim that the science has been tampered with, you’ll need to show evidence of that, not just your speculation.

Amy: Jeff, Would you at least agree that there is a LOT of money to be made in vaccinations? And that it’s POSSIBLE that there is evidence that they are harmful to at least a good portion of children, and that that information has been suppressed? And that the pharmaceutical industry is in bed with WHO, CDC, FDA?

Jeff: Yes there is money to be made from vaccinations.
For example, one of Wakefield’s MANY problems was that he failed to disclose his alternative to the MMR vaccine before he wrote his paper saying the MMR vaccine causes autism.

And yes it’s possible that there is evidence that has been suppressed. It’s also possible that I could win the lottery next week. It’s possible that you are Wakefield under an assumed name. It’s possible that Glenn Beck was secretly born in Kenya. A LOT of things are possible.

And yes there are many times between pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. There are also many ties between pharmaceutical companies and companies that sell herbal supplements. And there are many ties between lots of other large organizations.

None of these things is evidence of anything though…

If your claim is that vaccinations are more harmful than helpful (i.e. the negative side effects outweigh the protection the vaccines provide against disease), then PLEASE show me the evidence. Show me the double-blind, peer-reviewed study. Show me that study replicated by an independent group and verified.

Jeff: I’m still waiting to hear where I am guilty of an ad hominem against you or a straw man argument. I’ve already asked you for where I did this once, and you’ve failed to respond. If you need examples of what those are I can give you good examples from your own comments:
“Hmm do you work for Merck or something?”
“You probably own stock in Pfizer.”
“idiots like you try to play God and tell us what to think.
“Go take your soma and go back to sleep.”
“you are a one-note instrument”

I’m also curious where I ignored many of you questions as you claim. I have already asked you once since you said that for which questions I ignored, yet you failed to provide any examples in your next reply after I asked that.

If you’re going to make these claims about me, I’d appreciate evidence. Nobody’s perfect, but I try not to report to logical fallacies and I do try to answer all questions posed to me, so pointing out where I failed will help me to be better in the future.

Amy: Okay. I have plans for tonight, so I’ll make it brief. You’re an asshole. All the rest I’ll refute later.

Jeff: And you accuse ME of ad hominem… Gotta love it…

Amy: I’ve just read your ‘arguments’ again. You have the flimsiest argument. You ask me to prove a negative. You come across as extremely prissy and bitchy. You argue around my points rather than confronting them head-on. You probably work full time in PR for one of those evil Pharma companies and get your jollies out of annoying intelligent people who are free thinkers and won’t drink your Kool-Aid. Get bent.

Jeff: I’m curious, which arguments SPECIFICALLY are flimsy. Can you point out the flaws in those arguments?

I have not asked you to prove a negative at all. Actually I’ve asked you to provide evidence OF something (in this case a link between vaccines and autism).

Again you resort to insults and accusations (while you’ve been the one to accuse me of ad hominem attacks).
And again you refuse to answer direct questions.

At this point it became clear in my mind that none of the three was likely to respond further on the original post, so I invited Amy to respond here if she chooses.

Jeff: Since you seem unwilling to continue the conversation and answer the questions I posed about your accusations of me, I assume the post on Dan’s page is all but dead. With that in mind I wanted to let you know I have blogged about our conversation about welcome you to join the discussion there if you feel I have made any misrepresentations or failed to quote you properly, or if you have any other thoughts or comments you wish to share.
I have tried to invite Vicki and Lyn as well, however they have their fb settings done in such a way that I can not message them. Perhaps you’d be willing to pass this along to them if you know them.

About Jeff Randall

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
This entry was posted in Debate, Pseudoscience, Science, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s