It’s not my fault I fall into repetitive self parody. You started it.

December 6th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in express, independent, mail, media, mirror, MMR, telegraph | 158 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday December 6 2008

Writing this column only really scares me because I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about. I’m not going to go on about MMR again. But this week the reality editing was truly without comparison.

On Tuesday, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Mirror, the Express, the Mail, and the Metro all reported that a coroner was hearing the case of a toddler who died after receiving the MMR vaccine, which the parents blame for their loss. “Toddler ‘died after MMR jab’” (Metro), “‘Healthy’ baby died after MMR jab” (Independent), you know the headlines by now. I wouldn’t want you to think the MMR story had died, just because a few kids have died of measles.

On Thursday, the coroner announced his verdict: that the vaccine played no part in this child’s death. So far, of the papers above, only the Telegraph have had the decency to cover the outcome. The Independent, the Mirror, the Express, the Mail, and the Metro have all decided that their readers are better off not knowing. Compare here and here. Tick, tock.

Does it stop there? No. Moron amateur physicians have long enjoyed speculating that MMR and other vaccinations are somehow “harmful to the immune system” – whatever that means – and responsible for the rise in conditions like asthma and hay fever. Doubtless they must have been waiting some time for evidence to appear, either supporting or refuting their claim.

This month a significant paper was published by Hviid and Melbye in the December 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. They examined the experiences of 871,234 childre in a Danish birth cohort, comparing asthma in those who had MMR against those who didn’t. MMR-vaccinated children were massively and significantly less often hospitalised with an asthma diagnosis, and used fewer courses of anti-asthma medication than unvaccinated children. This “protective” effect of the MMR vaccine was more pronounced for hospitalisations with severe asthma diagnoses.

Those results aren’t just incompatible with an increased risk of asthma following MMR vaccination, they actually support the hypothesis that MMR vaccination is associated with a reduced risk of asthma in young children. Tick, tock.

And most astonishing of all is the tale of the “the Uhlmann paper“, or the “O’leary paper” (journalists were often careful not to mention that Andrew Wakefield was a co-author, I’ve no idea why): this came out in 2002 and claimed to have found evidence of vaccine measles virus in tissue samples from children with autism and bowel problems, to massive media acclaim.

As I’ve said previously, two similar papers, by Afzal et al and D’Souza et al, in 2006 found negative results on almost the same question, and were unanimously ignored by the media (even though D’Souza actively went out of their way to show how O’Leary et al got false positives).

Stephen Bustin is Professor of Molecular Science at Barts and the London. He examined the O’Leary lab for the court case against MMR, as an expert witness for the drug company defendants (look how I was nice and told you that, if you’re a moron, you’ll use it to allow yourself to cheerily ignore everything he found). The case collapsed, and he was unable to discuss his findings. Then he was called to give evidence in the american “autism omnibus” case against the vaccine. The anti-vaccine movement did their best to prevent this. They knew what he had found: it appears to be incontrovertible evidence that the lab was detecting false positives.

Now Bustin has finally been able to write about what he found in O’Leary’s lab, on this crucial paper from 2002. He published this month. Nobody who covered the original O’leary paper has written about it. Not a soul will.

Measles cases are rising. Middle class parents are not to blame, even if they do lack rhetorical panache when you try and have a discussion with them about it: they have been systematically and vigorously misled by the media, the people with access to all the information, who still choose, collectively, between themselves, so robustly that it might almost be a conspiracy, to give you only half the facts. Today, I have merely given you some small part of the other half, and next week I will move on: but know that nobody else has.

Please send your bad science to ben@badscience.net


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158 Responses



  1. le canard noir said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Ben – the media are only doing it now to deliberately and specificaly wind you up. Leave them alone. They are not worth it.

  2. Flitcraft said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:37 am

    The coverage in The Herald was even worse – they are still giving a platform to anti-MMR groups to present themselves as noble under-dogs.

  3. Pro-reason said,

    December 6, 2008 at 3:09 am

    www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/06/bad-science-mmr-vaccine

    I notice that, although the copyeditors corrected your “childre” and a couple of other little things, they also stripped out some quotation marks that you had correctly included. Sometimes they should just leave things alone!

  4. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Looking at the press clippings does anyone else find it odd that the parents apparently phoned for an appointment with the GP the day after the vaccine (because the child was ill) and were still waiting for the appointment 10 days later when he died? to me that seems like a long wait (but is largely irrelevant to the MMR discussion)

    Just a minor point here – do you think its wise to include the word ‘protective’ with relation to the Hviid and Melbye paper in your own column? Yes I know you lifted the word from the abstract and it’s in inverted commas but I think by using this word you may leave youself open to criticism from the anti MMR lobby for being overly pro MMR. I haven’t read the paper just looked at the link to the abstract but surely they haven’t demonstrated that MMR vaccination protects children against asthma. What they’ve demonstrated is an association between MMR vaccination and a reduced incidence of hospitalisation with a diagnosis of asthma. (That isn’t the same thing is it?)

  5. emen said,

    December 6, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Excellent column.

    “I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about.”

    I’m afraid the answer is yes, at least in the area I know about.

    But back to the MMR. Some people make a living on keeping the scare alive, among them the Dutch homeopath Tinus Smits.
    www.tinussmits.com/english/

    He claims

    “Firstly that homeopathy can cure health problems caused by vaccination with the related potentised vaccine.
    Secondly that behavioural problems in general are linked with different vaccinations, not only with MMR.
    Thirdly that homeopathy, through the use of potentised vaccines, can provide evidence and proof of the relationship between vaccination and the side-effects they cause, namely behavioural problems of varying severity. ”

    and also

    “I will not restrict myself only to autism and MMR. I wish to show that vaccination in general can provoke different behavioural problems. Indeed if vaccinations have a severe impact on some children they cannot leave all other children perfectly healthy without causing also mild and moderate disturbances.”

    In other words it’s not just the MMR, not just autism and not just in some children – all vaccinations must cause something and in all the children. But he can cure them.

    There are some countries where vaccinating your children is compulsory (if they don’t get the vaccine, the health authorities are after you). It seems that Smits travels there and lectures homeopaths on how to…well, scare parents and then offer a treatment… and not for free.

    Oh, and he says:

    “The discussion seems to be extremely controversial in England because of the findings and declarations of Dr. Wakefield. The authorities in the Netherlands promote the view that there is sufficient scientific proof that MMR is safe and autism does not follow it.”

    The evil Dutch authorities.

  6. Mark Wainwright said,

    December 6, 2008 at 10:44 am

    It turns out you should not indict the media tout court. Go to this page:

    www.bbc.co.uk//radio4/science/streetscience.shtml

    and listen to Programme 4 in the series, on MMR. It’s 15 minutes long, and it’s like a breath of fresh air.

  7. warhelmet said,

    December 6, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Of course middle class parents are to blame, because refusal to vaccinate children is a conscious choice and one that disadvantages the whole of society not just their children.

    Acting out of ignorance is not a defence.

    People generally buy a particular newspaper not because it provides superior news but rather it because it re-inforces their own prejudices. It is not in the interest of newspapers to present factual reporting or expose their own failure to report the facts correctly. Publishing retractions erodes reader confidence in the newspaper.

    Of course, there is nothing wrong with another newspaper pointing out how wrong another newspaper is. Which is exactly what you are doing.

  8. Dr* T said,

    December 6, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Hmmm…..sort of, Warhelmet. Unfortunately, if parents did decide to ‘get to the bottom of it’, using newspapers as their source of information (not an unreasonable assumption) then they would have a much more distorted view of the situation. Throw into that the effect (can’t remember what it’s called) where if you are worried about an effect (e.g. autism assoc with MMR) you’ll subconciously pick out stories/editorials which confirm your suspicions, rather than taking a fully balanced approach.

    Hopefully someone will be in a minute to make this point more succinctly!

  9. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Wow! Have you seen the ‘retrospective and descriptive research’ on his site! It’s great! He basically says that some homeopaths estimated whether some clinical signs in some children might have been related to their vaccinations. They treated them with homeopathy (potentised vaccines) and then re-estimated whether the clinical signs they were showing in the first place were related to vaccinations. He says ‘the number of pronounced opinions increased strongly’ which means that potentised vaccines can be used to diagnose whether a patient’s problems were the result of vaccination. (!!) Oh and by the way nearly 1/3rd of the patients had their homeopathy supplemented with for example corticosteroids, bronchodilators, anti-epileptics and ritalin.

    Thanks for introducing me to such things. It’s keeping me greatly amused.

  10. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Warhelmet

    Surely acting out of ignorance can be defended if the person choosing not to vaccinate was not equipped with the knowledge or sophistication appraise the medical literature for themselves and is therefore at the mercy of selective reporting aimed at the general public?

    Do you mean that the parents who chose not to vaccinate deliberately bought newspapers with scare stories about MMR in order to reinforce their pre-existing prejudices on MMR? Surely their prejudices on MMR were generated by the media in the first place as the people we’re talking about here would not have been flicking through the lancet on a regular basis.

  11. warhelmet said,

    December 6, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Two other factors to figure in are:-

    1. Lack of critical reasoning skills.
    2. Lack of understanding of risk.

    Dr* T – Well, when it comes to public health, I would listen to public health professionals. After all, isn’t the provision of correct information to the public a key part of what they do? Of course, they do have opinions and new research is always coming along to make previous advice obsolete, but…

    Politicians, no. I remember Edwina Curry and the egg thing. I remember John Selwyn Gummer feeding his child burger during the Mad Cow scare. Which is another interesting one – where is the epidemic of nvCJD that was predicted by the press?

  12. warhelmet said,

    December 6, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    @Numbat – No, not to re-inforce prejudices about MMR but rather it’s the whole package of public fear driven by a whole series of scare stories that amount to nothing.

    There is nothing like a perceived threat to rally the troops and bring people together.

    Scare stories about MMR pander to prejudices about government, science and medicine.

    There is something that I am skirting round which is the issue of causation. Casting MMR as the cause of autism removes other causes from some people’s thinking…

  13. rosy said,

    December 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Blimey, having looked at the abstract of the Hviid and Melbye paper, and if I’ve interpretted it correctly (it’s not the sort of paper I’m accustomed to reading, and I can’t get at the full text), it seems to say that in the cohort studied the vaccinated group were 0.75 (or thereabouts) times as likely to be hospitalised for athsma.. have I misunderstood? That’s a huge difference!
    The questio that springs to my mind is – are children with athsma less likely to be vaccinated (is there a selection pressure keeping more athsmatic children in the non-vaccinated group), and is this dealt with in the paper (someone who’s read it)? I can think of two reasons why there might be an effect there – one is perceived links to worsening athsma, a particular concern for the parents of children already affected, and the other is the need for children to be healthy before they can be vaccinated, and I have an impression (from my own family) that athsmatic children often take longer to get back to healthy after contracting a cold so they might miss their vaccination date one or more times keeping them in the unvaccinated cohort. Does the study consider this at all?

  14. warhelmet said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    @Rosy – think about the Hygiene hypothesis…

  15. SubMoron said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Ah, so big pharma’s behind this. By promoting the anti-vaccine agenda they’re making big profits from selling more anti-asthma products. Another conspiracy!

  16. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    @ muscleman

    I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood (I’m not a medic and I don’t have a PhD so probably not qualified to participate in the discussions – but enjoying it anyway) I did understand that (but for out of laziness hadn’t typed it all) However, the point I would like clarification on is whether you can say from these results that a MMR protected the children against Asthma? I think you probably can’t (and Rosy has raised some points on this). I can’t be sure on this as I haven’t read the paper and am not experinced at looking at such data so if I am completely incorrect its not a problem but would like to know.

  17. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    @ muscleman

    I freely admit that I’m out of my depth here. I hope my motives were not misunderstood. It was not my intention to attack Ben or to try to say that he had misunderstood the paper. I agree with Ben and his article.

    My comment was a reflection of the fact that the anti MMR crowd are a pretty vociferous bunch and will not fail to use any chink in the armour to try to discredit people who point out evidence against them. It was motivated by wanting to protect the writer not by wanting to attack him. If my comments were incorrect – so much the better!

  18. emen said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    warhelmet:

    “People generally buy a particular newspaper not because it provides superior news but rather it because it re-inforces their own prejudices. It is not in the interest of newspapers to present factual reporting…”

    Well, I don’t buy newspapers because I want my prejudices re-inforced and I would expect them not to distort reality the way they so often do.
    Do you mean they can choose to present facts the way they think their readers want to see them?

    Numbat, yeah, Tinus is a joke… on this blog. (Some kind of god on others.)

  19. tomh said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I just spent about 15 minuets reading the Stephen Bustin paper, thanks to Ben for linking to it / hosting a copy of it…

    Took quite some reading, but it certainly put my complaints about our 2nd year lab supervise being picky about lab books into perspective.

    “your lab books should be good enough for someone else to pick it up and start working on it immediately the next day…”

    or, in this case, redo your analysis 6 years down the line!

  20. fineston said,

    December 6, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Rosy,
    Hviid and Melbye’s paper uses Poisson regression to estimate rate ratios according to vaccination status. I am no statistician, but if I understand this correctly they are comparing the incidence of asthma (hospitalisation or medication) with what might normally be expected in a large population. So the rate ratio of 75% for hospitalisation and 92% for medication for MMR-vaccinated sub-cohorts indicate that there is a 25% and 8% (respectively) ‘protection’ by the MMR-vaccine. Perhaps a statistion can confirm this. Whatever, it is clear from these results that the MMR-vaccine is clearly not indicated in causing or exasperating asthma. Just as it is not involved in causing autism. It would be good if the newspapers actually headlined these clear and evident facts.

  21. pv said,

    December 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Dr* T said,

    December 6, 2008 at 11:49 am
    …Unfortunately, if parents did decide to ‘get to the bottom of it’, using newspapers as their source of information (not an unreasonable assumption) then they would have a much more distorted view of the situation.

    Ok but newspapers, like Politicians, are after the same audiences. So they start to look and sound (and read) alike.
    In fact I don’t exonerate all middle-class parents either, even though as Ben says they have been systematically misled. They’ve only been misled down a road they want to go down. The news conforms to their prejudices and people are apt to take offence when one criticises the rag they read, because it’s criticising their intelligence and whatever they’ve invested their identities in.
    I think it’s a very difficult situation actually and that the news media have behaved criminally by their omissions. Until there is some legally binding requirement to present facts in a complete and impartial context then it’s only ever going to get worse. Basically most of the press are out and out liars with regard to MMR, because the public interest, unlike private interest, isn’t protected by law.

  22. T said,

    December 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Is it just middle class parents who are not giving their children MMR?? surely the reduction is found amoungst all the classes…certainly all the negative reporting has been across a wide spectrum of papers working class and up. Also the fact that there has been a drop in the past in measles (because children were getting the jab obviously :-) I would have thought that some parents just didnt bother because they thought there was no risk. Not just because of negative reporting by the media. I had measles as a child so I remember how bad it was and I knew a lady who was blinded because of it. My point being I had these references in my life, so my children all got immunised.

  23. muscleman said,

    December 6, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    @Numbat

    What is it about what I wrote that you don’t understand? The level of prescription of inhalers etc is the best measure of the incidence AND severity of asthma (the hospital admissions also measure severity). On both counts the MMR vaccinated kids have both a lower incidence AND less severity of asthma.

    Now on a strict level without controlling for all other variables (which you cannot do with humans) and without a shown mechanism the paper does not absolutely shows that MMR prevents asthma (the mechanism is likely to be indirect anyway). However the most parsimonious result of the research reported in the paper (did you see the numbers involved?) is that, by whatever mechanism, children vaccinated with MMR have lower levels of asthma than those who don’t. The MMR vaccine then seems to be protective against asthma.

    To argue against that you have to:

    1. Find a critical flaw in the paper’s methodology. Over to you.

    2. Demonstrate that some other uncontrolled variable accounts for the data better than the MMR vaccination (a hard ask considering those numbers).

    Studies like this, using the same methodology and the same large numbers are the gold standard of clinical trials.

  24. Numbat said,

    December 6, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    @ muscleman

    OK I’m safely put in my place and have every intention of using ignorance as a defence.

  25. warhelmet said,

    December 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    @emen – well, newspapers certainly put a slant on the way that they report factual information.

    And it’s also important to consider the non-news puff that they contain as well. These tend to revolve around pedalling lifestyle. They re-inforce the mindset.

    I don’t buy newspapers – I’m sick to the back teeth with magazines, supplements and give away cds/dvds/wallcharts of useless information. My wife reads the Guardian and the Observer.

    Ben was the one to mention middle class parents.

    Hasn’t there been a recent study linking incidence of cervical cancer to deprivation? But of course, there is an immunisation program that will deal with this in the long term. Ah, and there lies the rub.

  26. mortia said,

    December 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    @Ben:

    > “I wouldn’t want you to think the MMR story had died, just because a few kids have died of measles.”

    If “a few kids” really had died of measles since the MMR scares, and we hadn’t heard, it would be pretty shocking.

    So I looked it up. The most recent numbers I found were at www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733811885 , saying “In 2006 there was one measles death in a 13 years old male who had an underlying lung condition and was taking immunosuppressive drugs. Prior to 2006, the last death from acute measles was in 1992.”. This page is a couple of years out of date, although it says it’s been reviewed recently, whatever that means. In June this year, the Telegraph reported another sad death (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2164002/Teenager-dies-of-measles-as-cases-of-disease-rise.html), but referenced this same 2006 case as the most recent.

    Do you have more recent information that backs up this comment?

  27. puffin said,

    December 6, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    @ muscleman & numbat

    Sorry Muscleman, but you’re not quite right, and numbat (#6) is nearer the mark than they’re giving themselves credit for.

    The Danish study is what is called an “observational” study in that they followed through time some children who “just happened” to have been vaccinated and some children who “just happened” not to have been vaccinated. It is not possible to establish causality from this type of study (that is to say that vaccination itself caused the reduction in asthma incidence and not something else).

    With an observational study you can merely say that there is “an association” between vaccination and asthma incidence, because it is perfectly possible that there is some other un-measured factor that is truly driving the relationship… a trait of some kind that connects the children who happened not to be vaccinated to increased asthma incidence (ie. exactly the kind of uncontrolled variable you mentioned).

    This is why Ben used quotes around “protective” effect. Actually, “inverse association” would have been even better… but that is, alas, dull bookish language.

    To establish causality, the vaccine would have had to have been **randomly assigned** to the children (in the parlance: “a randomised clinical trial”). This randomness would ensure that **all** variables (measured and not measured) were distributed randomly between the children who did and did not receive the vaccine. If that randomness is achieved then there is no way that these “uncontrolled variables” can prevent us seeing the true association between vaccination and future disease.

    There are lots of reasons researchers may not be able to conduct a randomised controlled trial (ethics, expense, practicalities etc), and in such instances a well designed observational study can be helpful… but that the fact remains, you still cannot judge causation from one.

    Hope that helps…
    puffin

  28. elder_pegasus said,

    December 7, 2008 at 9:22 am

    emen ““I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about.”

    I’m afraid the answer is yes, at least in the area I know about.”

    Ditto…

    www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22video+game%22+site:dailymail.co.uk

  29. Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Does anyone know:

    - what proportion of the approx 1000 cases of Measles this last year was in vaccinated individuals
    - whether the cases were diagnosed by blood test or by visual examination

    I don’t see how this data can be interpreted usefully without this information.

  30. The Nameless said,

    December 7, 2008 at 10:36 am

    @Arnold.

    Um… why? Is it your belief that the measles epidemic was really an epidemic of something else?

  31. Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I don’t know what to believe, that’s why I want the information.

    What if, for example, a significant number of the measles cases are in vaccinated children?

  32. Steve Page said,

    December 7, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I don’t know what to believe, that’s why I want the information.

    What if, for example, a significant number of the measles cases are in vaccinated children?

    That would not prove that vaccines are uneffective; it would prove that as vaccination rates go down, incidences of measles go up. This may be due to a lack of herd immunity, which enables the virus to spread and mutate. Ergo, it’s still the reduction in MMR vaccination that causes the rise in cases.

  33. Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    @Steve Page

    I am not seeking to prove that the vaccine is ineffective.

    Just because two things happen as the same time does not imply a causal connection.

    I have seen nothing but surmise linking lower vaccinations and higher measles rates. But I have seen reported in many places that experts claim there is a link.

    If such a claim is to be credible it should be supported by evidence that eliminates other possible explanations, or relegated to the status of informed opinion/guesswork rather than fact.

    Your comment about herd immunity and mutation brought to mind what I had read about the 2007 Japan outbreak, where I saw it suggested that the effectiveness of the vaccine may *depend* on exposure to the actual virus.

  34. Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    @The Nameless

    Which leads us back to George Fisher. A child has an MMR jab. 10 days later, the child dies.

    So what’s the simplest explanation? The jab killed the child. And yet the evidence did not support this.

    It isn’t that crazy to look for other explanations than the simple one.

    I suppose the most interesting thing about this whole area is about choice. I see opposing camps each saying ‘I’m right you’re wrong’. Who cares who is right and wrong? Why not leave it up to parents? After all, it’s their job, not the state’s, to bring up their children as best they can. If the information is freely available and discussion (like this one) possible, ultimately people will be able to decide for themselves what to do.

  35. warhelmet said,

    December 7, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    @Nameless

    Occam’s Razor, eh? There is such a thing as over-application of Occam’s Razor. Arguments that are too reductive. You throw out too many variables.

    If the probability of A occuring before B is high, it does not mean that A causes B. There could well be hidden variables causing both. This is even more the case if we sometimes see B occuring before A.

    It is certainly possible to posit a potential model of causation. And with the correct Design of Experiment you could show an unambiguous correlation between the two. But causation?

    I used to be in the Root Cause Analysis business. Very interesting stuff. One thing that it did teach me is that statistics are very good at revealing correlation between variables but causation is best understood by looking at individual cases. The only problem is that when you are looking at really complex systems where there is incomplete evidence, it’s bugger all use. However, even having said that, what evidence you can get at and what you can’t get at is illuminating in itself.

    If you really wanted to be sure that MMR has a protective effect against asthma, you would want to identify the actual immunological responses involved.

    I’m very interested in the Hygiene hypothesis as a explanation of some of the apparent increase of allergic conditions. It would not surprise me if MMR did have some protective effect by down-regulating TH2 response. But then again, it wouldn;t surprise me if some other factor was at work as well.

    It’s worth pointing that the newspapers that Ben cites are more likely to be cited by JABS than other newspapers. And a casual examination of what gets discussed on the JABS forums often seems to draw on the newspapers that Ben cites. Occam’s Razor would suggest that sympathy towards JABS and vaccine-denialism is linked to which newspaper you read.

    Bsn This Daily Mail Filth NOW!!!

  36. BobP said,

    December 7, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    @Arnold – if you’re not flaming, then please give a link to the souce of “I saw it suggested that the ffectiveness of the vaccine may *depend* on exposure to the actual virus”

  37. Arnold said,

    December 7, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    @BobP

    No, not flaming, but another of those ‘experts say’ quotes:

    www.smh.com.au/news/world/japanese-measles-epidemic-brings-campuses-to-standstill/2007/05/27/1180205052602.html

    Don’t know if there’s any science behind the notion.

  38. Sarah S said,

    December 7, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    The most disturbing elements of the MMR-autism controversy are the diversion of resource away from other research into ASDs, and the lasting impression in peoples minds that there is a link. If someone were to say, categorically tomorrow, that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, how many people would still believe that MMR is to blame? The timing of the vaccination and ability to diagnose autism seems too much of a coincidence for some. The media’s desperation to provide a story means that lasting damage has already been done.
    Autism may be difficult, but an increased prevalence of three diseases which, in the worst case, can lead to death, infertility and congenital damage doesn’t seem much of an alternative.

  39. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 12:52 am

    @tom1

    I guess I think that ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are judgements flowing from what people believe, not universal truths. If I don’t like someone else’s opinion, however mad it seems to be, that is my issue, not theirs.

    I’ve no doubt redress is legally available to those misled by a newspaper. But, quite rightly, you would have to prove your case, and why not? But we do live in a culture that loves hyped up sensationalist news, so we get what we pay for.

    Yes, I think it is a parent’s role to make the best decisions they can for their children, until the children are mature enough to have learned responsibility. They are in the best position to do so by miles. I do not believe this is the state’s role. The more the state intervenes, the less people learn to be responsible.

    Those who are especially concerned to express their opinions have the ability, with less effort and more exposure than ever before, to publish the evidence and detailed argument that supports their viewpoint. The clearer and more convincingly the evidence is presented, the more likely people will agree with it. Surely they have only themselves to look to if people are not convinced.

    I mean, why can I not, as a parent, find out for myself simple information like what proportion of the 1000 annual measles cases are in vaccinated children, which has been reported now in god knows how many stories? It is insane that this information is so hard to find.

    Perhaps the singular failure of the vaccination lobby is the muddled lack of clarity in the provision of research information. I have to say, following a day’s trawling around for information about measles, the mass of conflicting information (purely in research and pro-vaccination sites)- is extraordinary. Comments like ‘It’s proven to be safe’, are scarcely convincing. The internet is there – if people are that concerned about educating the public, why not make the data easily accessible and well organised? Transparency is what is needed.

    So, on that note, does ANYBODY know anything about the 1000 cases of measles???

  40. The Nameless said,

    December 8, 2008 at 1:33 am

    @Arnold and warhelmet.

    I am not misapplying Occam’s Razor. (Yes, it is often misapplied, I agree.)

    That lower vaccination results in more measles *is*
    the simplest explanation that fits the facts.

    Naturally, if you can come up with good contradictory evidence, then everything changes.

    And I *said* it doesn’t, technically, prove it.

    How am I “throwing out too many variables”? All I’m saying is that “measles vaccinations actually protect against measles” isn’t a bad working hypothesis.

    Do you have a problem with that?

    (The asthma business is a different issue, and one I wasn’t discussing.)

  41. The Nameless said,

    December 8, 2008 at 1:45 am

    By the way– I don’t know enough to comment on this “previous exposure” theory in the “Sydney Morning Herald” article Arnold links to– but he seems to be an awfully selective reader.

    From the same article:

    “Health authorities are stunned at the rapid spread of the illness, which usually affects infants and only rarely strikes people in their 20s and older. Most Japanese in that age group have only been vaccinated once.”

    and

    “Japan is the only developed country to still experience large measles epidemics. The US, which introduced a double vaccination program in 1989, and Australia, which phased in a booster shot for measles from 1994, have largely eradicated the disease.

    In Japan, however, the government bowed to strong public pressure in 1994 by repealing laws that made childhood immunisations mandatory. In 2000 there were an estimated 200,000 cases of measles and 88 deaths.”

    So… um… yeah.

  42. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 9:15 am

    @Nameless
    My citation of the reference was simply to refer to the exposure notion.

    @BobP and Nameless
    You’re quite right, it hadn’t appeared!

    Thanks BobP for this information, which seems to point, like other reports I have read of measles epidemics, to a high incidence in non-vaccinated, significant vaccine failure in single dose cases, and small failure in double doses.

    So this points to a short term connection between vaccination and not catching measles. I might reason that this would apply elsewhere. It’s an opinion, however, not a fact.

    I want to preface my next comments by making clear that my focus is neither pro one side or the other, but in identifying unaddressed issues that create concern.

    Firstly, Nameless’s observation:

    “That lower vaccination results in more measles *is*
    the simplest explanation that fits the facts. Naturally, if you can come up with good contradictory evidence, then everything changes.”

    This is frankly a bit controversial on a bad science web site! ‘I’m an expert, here’s my opinion, prove I’m wrong’. This is not convincing. I expect facts to be supported by evidence, not opinion. And if BobP is right, that the 1000 cases have not yet been analysed but experts are making factual claims about those cases, I ask why? Why express an opinion as a fact?

    This is exactly the type of thing that undermines credibility. On the one hand, provacs complain about unscientific antivacs. On the other hand, we have opinion dressed up as facts from provacs.

    So here are some other areas I have found that do not seem to have been adequately addressed:

    - The single dose measles vaccination seems to have limited effect. An extra dose was introduced, I believe in the 1980s. So it appears that an interval of 20 years was necessary to identify significant failure.
    - The 2-dose strategy appears to have been based on a hypothesis that this would make the immunity last longer. whether this hypothesis is true or not can only be found out in time
    - I have found very few studies into the long term effects of vaccination, but I did find this: pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/5/e59?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=measles&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

    This study suggests that the children of vaccinated mothers are more prone to infection by the disease than the children of unvaccinated mothers.

    This seems to point to another important question – what is the long term effect of artificial immunity programmes, on natural immunity?

    Obviously, this is not possible to find out without analysis of long term data, and long term data requires long term trials with real people.

    I suggest:

    - that onthe face of it vaccination appears in the short term to be effective for resisting certain diseases
    - the claim that it is safe in the long term is not yet supported by any significant evidence
    - there are potentially damaging effects that have not been fully researched, as there has been insufficient time for them to become apparent
    - thus the vaccination program is in the nature of a long term experiment

    I see nothing wrong with a long terms experiment on people – it happens all the time – but I do see something wrong with such an experiment unless it is with their fully informed consent.

    This is surely a matter of individual choice.

    It all seems to point relentlessly towards good, clear information presented transparently and honestly. If something is an opinion, why cannot it not be clearly stated as an opinion? If something is unknown, why not accept it is unknown? If something is claimed as a fact, the evidence should be available to support it.

  43. muscleman said,

    December 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

    there are potentially damaging effects that have not been fully researched, as there has been insufficient time for them to become apparent

    And you have the temerity to call others to task for making unsupported opinion statements. This negative studies seems to be based on your inability to find any. Also we have been vaccinating people for a long time so I take issue that we have not had time for such studies.

    You are also ignoring several salient facts.

    1. immunisation generally presents the body with far fewer antigens than the disease itself. Thus it cannot be said to present a greater stress than the disease.

    2. The hypothesis that immunisation with measles makes the next generation susceptible would only work if antigen immunity aquired during immunisations worked through a different mechanism than be exposed to live virus. We know that women give their infants IG in the milk tailored to the maternal immunity status. I would like to see hard biological mechanisms before I accept this. I suspect some confounding factor like those who come from anti vaccination environments are also likely to be strong on ‘Natural’ things like breastfeeding for ages.

    3. The reality of your scepticism is that unvaccinated kids get measles, mumps and rubella (I have had all three btw) and thus been exposed to significant, known levels of harm. Children have died in this country from measles since the MMR scare blew up. So unless and until you have some evidence that the supposed harm from vaccination is of the order of this risk I think your scepticism has become a case of balancing on the fence for the sake of it and you have lost perspective on the realities.

  44. warhelmet said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:01 am

    @Nameless – I don’t disagree with. Was merely making a point about causation.

    @Arnold – Artificial immunity? A strange concept.

  45. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:05 am

    @muscleman
    I have never condemned unsupported opinion. I object to unsupported opinion *pretending to be facts*. I prefixed the text you quote with the words ‘I suggest’. I do not think this an unreasonable statement, especially as I have cited an authority that indicates other, far more qualified people than me, think it is also a possibility, and also seem to have found evidence.

    In your Point no 2, you say you are dissatisfied with the finding of the study I cited, and believe there may be an alternative explanation. Great, but it is not convincing simply to dismiss evidence cannot be dismissed out of hand as not fitting into your no doubt very informed, but still theoretical, opinion. If the study is flawed, are people doing more studies to show why? That one is 11 years old. Surely such a finding would provide motivation for people to investigate it further?

    You’re right, people are dying. The more the need to present data clearly and accurately the parents, face the apparently conflicting evidence honestly and openly, and follow up on findings of previous research swiftly and effectively.

    I approached this issue as a parent, intending to explore the implications of vaccination with an open mind. I am a lay person, and you can consider me to be one of those hapless individuals caught between conflicting viewpoints and trying to make sense of the information available.

    And yet, whilst I attempt to formulate that opinion by asking questions, your response is that I have ‘lost perspective on the realities’.

    The whole point is that I am trying to gain a perspective by finding out.

    If the genuine concerns and questions of ordinary people are greeted with such dismissal, I am not surprised that they are sceptical.

  46. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:24 am

    @warhelmet
    “Artificial immunity”
    A good point, it is a strange concept.

    I am interest to know, what is the difference between immunity arising from vaccination, and immunity from catching the disease? What I have read indicates that there is a difference – for example the chicken pox vaccine does nto provide lifelong immunity, and neither does a single measles jab.

    Why do vaccinations not provide lifelong immunity?

  47. muscleman said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:27 am

    The whole point is that I am trying to gain a perspective by finding out.

    Seemingly without applying too much in the way of critical analysis of the two positions. Also being sceptical and having an open mind does not mean being irrationally suspicious of everything you read, regardless of the source.

    I have a biology PhD and numerous years of lab research experience, I can critique studies with the best of them. It is my professional opinion that the study you cited on the children of vaccinated mothers having less resistance is likely to be bogus. This based partly on it being biologically and immunologically improbable. IOW for it to be true too much well known and attested science would have to be untrue. So they need more than just that study to be taken seriously. They need a mechanism.

    I have said the same thing wrt the MMR/asthma study cited by Ben. However I think that likely to be true since there are good mechanisms by which it might work and it does not require major parts of biomedical science to be wrong.

    Do you see how it works yet? The idea is often encapsulated in the aphorism: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    You are also ignoring all the work of the economic epidemiologists. These are the people who do the work which shows NICE etc that a treatment is worth doing because it saves more money that doing nothing or using another treatment. If there was good, well attested evidence that vaccines were as useless as you claim these guys would be shouting it to the heavens. People can make their reputations with stuff like that.

    The WHO employs such people too so they can show the governments of third world countries the benefits fo immunising their people in terms of cold hard cash. Sad that this should be necessary, but it is.

    For your scepticism to be reasonable ALL these people must be deluded or venal or stupid or ill informed. Whereas you, a parent has better reasons? Get over yourself.

  48. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    @muscleman

    And yet you seem to expect me to be able to judge the evidence from your own knowledge base.

    How can I possibly know that the study I have read may be bogus owing to the technical explanation you give, if I do not have the technical knowledge to determine this?

    And yet you castigate me for not having the ability to determine this for myself.

    I don’t understand why anyone technically skilled in this area should resent questions being asked about it. How else are people like me, trying to learn about the area, going to understand?

  49. BobP said,

    December 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Hey, ho Arnold. This isn’t the right place to get into an discussion of basic immunology and I don’t have the time or the expertise.

    The basic principle of vaccination was established 2 centuries ago by Edwar Jenner and it has been extensively researched & refined since then.

    The MMR vaccine itself was researched thoroughly for effectivity and safety before it was adopted by the Dept of Health (in the UK) and other health authorities worldwide. My daughter was one of the first to receive MMR (in 1995, I think) and we were given background material at the time. Sorry I can’t find internet sources for this.

  50. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    @BobP

    Fair comment…

    I shall have to try elsewhere.

  51. The Nameless said,

    December 8, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    @. warhelmet. Fair enough. Sorry if I sounded snappy.

    @Arnold. I believe you got jumped because stuff like: “unsupported opinion *pretending to be facts*” comes out a bit rude, which I suppose you didn’t mean.

    Okay, you’ve got this *one* study… plus some vague fears about unspecified future effects… plus a suspicion that vaccination doesn’t really work… based on nothing, as far as I can see…

    Can’t you *see* how thin this all is?

  52. The Biologista said,

    December 8, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    @Arnold”I am interest to know, what is the difference between immunity arising from vaccination, and immunity from catching the disease? What I have read indicates that there is a difference – for example the chicken pox vaccine does nto provide lifelong immunity, and neither does a single measles jab.

    Why do vaccinations not provide lifelong immunity?”

    Some do, some do not. It’s really beyond the scope of the discussion here to explain why some vaccines work better than others and how vaccination and natural infection differ. I’ll try to roughly summarise that.

    I can tell you that the first and most obvious difference is that natural infections tend to be first seen by our immune systems in places like our mouths, lungs, stomach and gut. We call these the mucosal surfaces.

    Vaccines are first encountered in the blood adipose tissue (fat) or muscle tissue. And usually accompanied by some sort of slightly harmful compound to help the system “see” the vaccine as harmful.

    Those two different “contexts” at the initiation of immunity, a stage called priming, is what starts the immune response down certain paths. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But you get the idea.

    Main point is though, scientists are fully aware of the above. We’re not generating vaccines in ignorance of that any more so than we would do so in ignorance of efficacy.

  53. warhelmet said,

    December 8, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    @The Nameless – No apologies needed. All I would say is that my experience of causation in a completely unrelated area is that the underlying root causes are often more subtle and insidious that simple correlation suggests,

    In the context you were discussing, it’s not the absence of disease that’s really in question, more what is the root cause of the rise in the number of cases of, say measles? It’s not the lack of uptake of MMR that is the issue, is the “why” questions behind that which are of real interest… Tnat’s what needs to be dealt with it. Making MMR compulsory is an effective “countermeasure” but it’s not addressing the root causes. Why do parents deny their children vaccines?

    @Arnold – I can understand some of your frustrations resulting from not being given information that you want in the format that you want it, but this is not the forum to deliver Immunology 101. Many universities do put teaching notes on line. There are some good textbooks out there as well. Even though I’m not a medic, I’ve PubMed access as well as other access to academic journals for nowt, but I appreciate that not everyone does. If you are really interested, there are “dummies” style books aimed at med students that might be of help. My wife has PCOS and I had to cram endocrinology very quickly. Many people slate Wikipedia, but it is a good place to start.

    Is there a difference between immunity derived from a vaccine and immunity derived from having survived the disease? It’s too simple a question. There are various types of vaccines and they work in slightly different ways. Diseases themselves provoke different immune responses.

    However, the live measles virus can be deadly. It kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Death rates are falling due to immunisation. Yes, double immunisation, but this doesn’t mean that immunisation is not effective. It just doesn’t work in the simplistic one-shot = total preventation way for all diseases. And you need to figure to in that different people will have different immune responses to the same disease. Anecdotal example – cold, flu-like things – I tend to get short high fevers whereas my wife is less ill but for longer.

    And this crap about “measles parties” scares the living daylights out of me. I’m too old to have been vaccinated against measles. I’ve never had measles. One thing I do not want to do is bump into children full of the virus because some idiot thinks it’s a good idea not to immunise their children and “let nature take it’s course”. Nor have I had mumps. So, vaccine deniers are putting me at risk. OK, it maybe the case that I have resistance anyway, but it’s about risk.

    One thing that I would urge is that you don’t look at the JABS website.

    @BobP – Jenner? No, understood well before that. He was in the right place at the right time for his ideas to – eventually – be propogated through the West.

    I’m glad someone mentioned diptheria. I was thinking of it but wasn’t sure it was germane. The Soviet Union had good immunisation programmes. The collapse of the Soviet Union saw problems with immunisation programmes and a huge rise in diptheria. I’m hoping that someone else has a better understanding of this and can point to us to a good study.

  54. warhelmet said,

    December 8, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    @Sarah S – Exactly. Why is it the case that once a lie is printed in a newspaper that no-one is interested in when that lie is refuted? It’s partly the case that newspapers don’t report their factual failures in a meaningful way. Q.v. Guardian spanking of Matthias Rath, and no reportimg of it by those that gave him the oxygen of publicity. And, there is only legislation to protect private interests and not the public interest. Indeed, the newspapers often use a special pleading of “public interest” not only to print lies but also to break the law.

    Ahem. When it comes to “moral” failings, I’ve seen some odd behaviour. I’m thinking of The Independant and it’s stance on cannabis. Several years ago, cannabis is harmless. Now, oh no, it’s terribly harmful. And they big up on their “mistake”. Pah. Any powerful new scientific findings? No. Just a wave of crappy anecdotal stuff. And yes, I empathise with the parents who found them on the short end of dealing with a mentally ill child, but…

  55. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks everyone for loads of information!

    I agree, this isn’t the place for detailed discussion.

    @warhelmet.

    You ask why parents deny their children vaccines. I think they believe it may damage their children, and require a high level of convincing before permitting a significant intervention.

  56. warhelmet said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    @Arnold – but WHY do they believe that it might damage their children? That’s one of the central spokes of Ben’s article.

    And note my language. Parents DENY their children and society the benefits of vaccination.

  57. Arnold said,

    December 8, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    @warhelmet
    Intuition. Feelings are not based on reason. People often believe unreasonable things – it’s one of the hallmarks of being human.

    @pv
    Thank you for your advice, I shall certainly include it in my investigation, although I’m puzzled why you think it won’t make any difference.

  58. treeofpain said,

    December 9, 2008 at 12:47 am

    @Arnold

    ‘You ask why parents deny their children vaccines. I think they believe it may damage their children, and require a high level of convincing before permitting a significant intervention.’
    Unfortunately it is the persuasiveness of our modern media that everything should be bite sized that convineces all and sundry vaccination is going to be an easy topic to understand and make up your own mind about. It comes down to comparative risk, and the trading thereof. If I allow myself an analogy: speeding and speed limit enforcement, I think some of the meedja would have us believe that safe speed calculations are things that we can all do on the fly (Clarkson et al Vs speed cameras), changing backgrounds, altering conditions, collision parameters, transfer of energy etc. etc. The basic speed/accel/kinetics covered in A level maths. I know a great many people wouldn’t have a clue where to start to make even a guess at the square law relationship of speed and energy: and they want to persuade us that we can do immunology with half baked truths? Denying funding for single jabs was an own goal for the health prof lobby, it made things seem childish and petty, the the reality is that the whole topic is so complex, the risks vs cost are too lengthy to go into that the system moved on to try to protect the rest of the herd perhaps hoping that we would keep you, safe.
    I hope that wasn’t too mad…

  59. treeofpain said,

    December 9, 2008 at 1:05 am

    One more thing, why is it that the ‘vac-lobby’ appears to have to show deaths as a result of non-vaccination, whereas the ‘anti-vac’ lobby can discuss somebody’s mate who knew someone who knew of a bloke that thinks on the whole, their son might not be exactly 100% (apart from the recent case stuff discussed above with the coroner… can’t be bothered to look). Dear Police Force: we are withdrawing protective clothing, because, errmm, err, they, err make you all look a bit fat, and are therefore detrimental to society in general… this is one of those nice ‘feelings’ versus horrid dirty logic + science things aint it… go figure… tired, must sleep… ERROR ERROR….

  60. Arnold said,

    December 9, 2008 at 1:39 am

    @treeofpain

    I agree. Society picks and chooses which risks to take and which to avoid. But are these decisions taken purely on reasoned grounds? I don’t think so – otherwise why do we accept smoking, which places a considerable burden on the community in health costs, and also kills people?

    This is in a way a bit of a deviation, but it is relevant to what choices are offered to people. Here’s an interesting snippet from a 2003 study in the Lancet:

    “We estimated that in 2000, 4·83 (uncertainty range 3·94—5·93) million premature deaths in the world were attributable to smoking; 2·41 (1·80—3·15) million in developing countries and 2·43 (2·13—2·78) million in industrialised countries. 3·84 million of these deaths were in men. The leading causes of death from smoking were cardiovascular diseases (1·69 million deaths), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (0·97 million deaths), and lung cancer (0·85 million deaths).”

    4.83 million premature deaths per annum, from a voluntary activity.

    How does that compare with the worst known data on deaths from infectious diseases?

    If we were a reasonable, basing our decisions on maximising life and minimising cost, it seems to me that banning smoking would have a far higher priority than vaccination.

    I hasten to add, as this is probably somewhat controversial, that I merely mention this as a context for the mystery I hear expressed about why people resist vaccinations.

    Governments and individuals are inconsistent and unreasonable, and prioritise in an inconsistent and unreasonable way. It’s normal.

  61. mikewhit said,

    December 9, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    “is that, by whatever mechanism, children vaccinated with MMR have lower levels of asthma than those who don’t. The MMR vaccine then seems to be protective against asthma.”

    Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc ?

    The conclusion does not follow.

  62. mikewhit said,

    December 9, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Why can’t it be made a requirement for school entry that proof of vaccination from the GP is required ?

    That would go a long way to keeping levels up.

  63. smithers said,

    December 9, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    @ Bagpuss

    Good point about risk. It seems to me that the uncertainty over immunisation has arisen because people had previously had no concept of there being any risk associated with immunisation (which, as other people have said, there is with everything that we do).

    The suggestion in the Wakefield paper and elsewhere that MMR might cause something as serious as autism therefore shattered a lot of illusions, that people wouldn’t have had if they’d started from a more realistic point re. risk, and led to a lot of unecessary panic.

    No-one, I think, would criticise parents for wanting to do the best for their child but people in Arnold’s position, for instance, appear to risk being blinded to the most straightforward conclusion – that the weight of evidence is heavily in support of the efficacy and safety of vaccination – by that fact that some questions and/or risk remain.

    Add to that the parents’ fear that they will make the ‘wrong’ decision and inflict horrible consequences on their child, the media’s selective reporting of sensitive public health issues, and the unfair burden of proof put on advocates of things like MMR (“show me that there’s no chance this will make my baby autistic”) and you’ve got a fairly toxic mix.

  64. The Nameless said,

    December 9, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    @Arnold.”Probably everyone is fed up and bored stiff by years of wrangling, and easily stimulated to irritation.”

    Very like. However– I realise that you’re neither an anti-vac fanatic nor a troll, but quite a bit of what you’re doing is coming across that way.

    You’ve been told the risks of not vaccinating, and that the weight of evidence shows that it’s safe… and you keep asking for proof that there no chance whatever of unspecified bad things happening at an unspecified future time.

    I know you don’t mean this, but don’t you understand that what you’re asking is simply impossible?

    And then you suddenly throw in an apparent red herring:

    “If we were a reasonable, basing our decisions on maximising life and minimising cost, it seems to me that banning smoking would have a far higher priority than vaccination”.

    Look– I think I understand the point of that post, but at first glance it looks trollish.

    This is why people are jumping on you.

  65. Arnold said,

    December 9, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    @Nameless

    I don’t expect proof that nothing will go wrong in the future. That’s a crazy idea, and I have never suggested that a medical intervention should be totally risk free. What I was asking for was clarity around what we actually know.

    At no time have I ever asserted that vaccination does not work, or that there is anything wrong with vaccination. Pretty much everything I have said has been about finding information. I have to say, however, that the reactions to these questions are surprisingly hot.

    The purpose of mentioning the smoking issue was to highlight that there is a context for everything. When the issue moves from ‘does vaccination work?’ to ‘shall we compel everyone to be vaccinated’, the context completely changes and other factors become relevant as well.

    Anyhow, this is all water under the bridge. What has become clear is opinion from the ‘expert contingent’ as I shall call those who understand and know about the evidence and technical espect of immunity that:

    - people should be vaccinated
    - vaccination is safe, having regard to the benefits weighed against the possible downsides
    - unvaccinated people are, for want of a better expression, a health risk.
    - parental choice not to vaccinate their children is irresponsible.
    - understanding about vaccination and the implications is too complicated for unqualified people to understand. It is thus necessary for expert opinion to be followed

    Why are people moaning about the public not getting it, rather than campaigning for compulsory vaccination?

    From what I hear in this discussion there is a cast iron case for it.

  66. Numbat said,

    December 9, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    @ puffin

    A belated thank you for your comments on observational studies.

    That was very helpful and easy to understand. I now don’t feel quite so stupid.

  67. treeofpain said,

    December 10, 2008 at 12:27 am

    @ Arnold at 80.

    A good summary. You are very lucky, you have found Bad Science, and hopefully links to other bits of the growing blogosphere joining with the old ‘net of scepticism and scientific reason. As a new parent only half a decade ago, Wakefield appeared to be news again, it was hard to see the real arguments and reasons. As I mentioned before, the lack of support of single vacs seemed bizarre. A very weak strategic position to hold. Perhaps supported by civil servants with no real understanding of people. Only in hindsight does it make sense (according to what I have read… somewhere). We have to accept our NICE interferred with health service, run to a weird national/local provision scheme with open battles about policy. There is dissent amongst most scientific communities, and this is occasionally seen as a weak point to be exploited by the unscrupulous, but rarely in the wider science community are ideas challenged in their entirety, thus it would appear for vaccinations. They do work (for a given value of work). But for the smoking simile: how many people would actively choose Measles (May damage your health and the health of someone else’s child). Good hunting.

  68. Jurjen S. said,

    December 10, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Arnold wrote @ 64:
    “What I have read indicates that there is a difference – for example the chicken pox vaccine does not provide lifelong immunity, and neither does a single measles jab.”

    They don’t, but that doesn’t mean there’s a difference from so-called “natural” immunity. Having had chicken pox or measles doesn’t confer subsequent lifelong immunity either; you can catch those diseases more than once. I myself have had chicken pox twice, once when I was 9, and again when I was 28 (I’m 38 now). I should add that I caught that second dose in a rural village in the UAE, where (being too old to have been vaccinated myself) I was not protected by herd immunity.

  69. Arnold said,

    December 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    @Jurjin

    Thanks. My wife has had chicken pox 3 times as well, but her doctor wouldn’t believe her – he thought she must have made a mistake.

    @tree of pain

    We don’t have to accept anything. Change comes from people having the courage to act on what they are passionate about.

    But suddenly it’s all gone a bit quiet here. No one seems to be answering the call for action for compulsory vaccination I suggested in posts 77, 78 and 80. Why not? Is it someone else’s problem?

    It seems to me that if expert opinion is as I have summarised it, those experts have a *responsibility* to the public (and surely to themselves) to act, not just to talk.

    So how about it, why not start a campaign for compulsory vaccination. I even have a name – how about “Immunity for All”. It could be a ‘Bad Science’ initiative.

    Perhaps I should transfer the idea to the forum?

  70. thom said,

    December 10, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    mikewhit: “Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc ?
    The conclusion does not follow.”

    It is a perfectly reasonably conclusion provided you accept the (pretty uncontroversial) semantics of the phrase “seems to be”. Ben didn’t claim MMR protects against asthma – he claimed that the present evidence suggests, however tentatively, MMR may protect against asthma rather than it seems to cause it.

  71. gazza said,

    December 10, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    @Arnold

    I don’t know about others on this forum but I’m generally against making any medical intervention compulsory, no matter how clearly beneficial. Perhaps if we were being struck regulalry by high mortality rate diseases like smallpox one could argue a special case but I’m sure education and pursuasion is the best route.

    Smoking is clearly the biggest self-inflicted cause of pre-mature death today, and a major expense to us through our contributions to the NHS to tackle the resultant ill health. But I doubt anyone would realistically call for a legal ban.

    Perhaps ‘anti-vac’ parents, if vaccination rates stay below the ‘herd immunity’ levels, should get further encouragement such as restrictions on children’s attendance at state schools but education first.

  72. Arnold said,

    December 10, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    @gazza

    But the people who know feel that education is not feasible, as the area is too complex for people to understand.

  73. gazza said,

    December 10, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Straw man. I know of virtually no scientists who feel that any science issue,and certainly not one of health policy, should be too complex to explain to the layman/woman. If that’s how it seems then we’ve failed and must try harder.

    I hope you’re not trying to wind us up though…..

  74. Arnold said,

    December 10, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    @gazza

    I’m certainly not winding anyone up. I entered this thread trying to find out information to educate myself – exactly as you suggest, but the responses I have received are pretty clear if you look back. True, some people are certainly very helpful but clearly a number of technical people who have contributed to this discussion think that education is not fruitful.

    I have no idea whether the opinions expressed here are unusual, or commonplace amongst scientists. By and large, however, what people actually do is much more revealing than what they say.

    What interests me is that no one at all has responded positively to my encouragement regarding compulsory vaccination.

  75. Wonk411 said,

    December 10, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    While not proof of causation, the information on Japanese erradication efforts vs incidence is quite compelling to me:

    www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5738a5.htm?s_cid=mm5738a5_e#fig1

  76. emen said,

    December 10, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Arnold (87: it’s funny you should say that because somehow I had the same impression. I wouldn’t want to wind anyone up, either, but I doubt it would be THAT difficult to answer your question.)

    But compulsory vaccination: as I said earlier, I know of countries where vaccinating your child is compulsory, and a lot of people there think it is a good idea. If you deny the jab, it’s not just your child you are putting at risk but other, eg older people who haven’t had the vaccine.
    However, I doubt it would ever be introduced in Britain. Here it’s always about “informed choice”. Have you got the right to refuse treatment if you have TB?

    Also, what would be the practicalities? If you still say no, will your child be “force-vaccinated”? Or will your child be refused entry to school? Or will the NHS not offer treatment if your child DOES catch the measles? Or will you just pay a fine?

    I don’t think compulsory vaccinatin as such is a very bad idea, I just don’t think it’s ever going to be considered in Britain.

  77. sensecommon said,

    December 10, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I put up a graph of measles cases from 1996 until today:
    www.thatsfuckingstupid.com/index.php/2008/11/just-a-quickie-you-wont-feel-a-thing

    Does anyone have info on the number of articles published per year on MMR? It’d be an interesting mashup I think.

    By the way, forgive the swearing but UK tabloids really make me angry!

  78. Arnold said,

    December 11, 2008 at 12:13 am

    @emen

    Noted. And frankly, with no support for any action over it I think you’re absolutely right, it’s never going to happen. I don’t get why all these convinced experts have no passion to act.

    But then that leaves the education issue.

    Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed, on THIS site of all sites, dedicated to rooting out bad science, to hear scientists saying what amounts to, too bad, we’re not going to tell you because you’re not qualified, but you’re still crazy for not understanding – I reckon that’s one of the most hopeless things I ever heard, and I don’t think it will enhance their credibility.

    Still, no point flogging a dead horse, as they say…

  79. gazza said,

    December 11, 2008 at 10:00 am

    @Arnold

    I don’t know what you want. You’ve seen on this thread a lot of people who believe themselves informed on the matter say that the benefits of the currently recommended vaccinations far outweigh the risks. And that it is irresponsible to your family and people in wider society to opt out of them. As simple as that. We can’t make you believe that – it’s up to you to think it through from what you’ve heard.

    As for achieving any desired public health outcome then its like politics – its about the practically achievable. Different people will have different views on how to achieve ‘herd immunity’. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus at the moment on the best way forward – but you might expect that from rational individuals exploring the options on a difficult subject like this.

    You do seem to be creating a martyr role for yourself. No one is going to force your hand on this issue (how to achieve a rational and effective vaccination regime) – think it through for yourself and tell us what you think and why.

  80. Arnold said,

    December 11, 2008 at 10:27 am

    @sensecommon

    I’ve given up my campaign for compulsory vaccination, as no one is interested, so I’m falling back on educating myself from the hopeless mess on the internet. Please forgive me therefore if I am talking rubbish.

    I thought, from my albeit amateur research into vaccination, that herd immunity happens when lots of people are vaccinated, so they act like a firebreak, preventing the disease spreading to unvaccinated people.

    Surely if anyone wanted to complain about losing herd immunity it would be those people who are unvaccinated?

    And anyway, if they did complain they’d be crazy, because they could get vaccinated.

    If vaccinated people think that unvaccinated people who have the disease can infect them, I don’t understand this, as it would seem to imply that the vaccine is suspect – ie it might not work. And surely the main self-interest in vaccination is to become immune.

    This was one of the issues I was trying to clarify in my very first question at 32, in the effort to establish what proportion of last year’s cases were vaccinated.

    If there is a significant possibility of getting the disease even though I have been vaccinated, isn’t this quite important for the public to know? If there isn’t any significant possibility, what have I missed about this herd immunity problem?

  81. Arnold said,

    December 11, 2008 at 10:53 am

    @gazza

    The energy I have behind this is simply the desire to know and understand – to clarify what for me are areas of confusion. I agree it is for me to think through, but that is exactly what I have been seeking.

    If you ask me to accept the opinion of people who are better informed, I say yes, that’s great. But experts should welcome questioning about their viewpoints and be willing to provide support for those opinions. If they don’t, their opinions rapidly lose credibility. Isn’t that the whole point of the Andrew Wakefield issue – that he issued an opinion that he was not able to support? Experts *need* to be open to questioning. It’s a vital safeguard.

    I realise that for people who are working in the field, this is all cut and dried clear. But I don’t think it is – not because it isn’t, but because I don’t have answers to the questions that have naturally come up in me. I don’t think I am alone in this. Neither do I think this is paranoia or extremist in any way.

    I am extremely puzzled that there should be any resistance in the scientific community to answering what seem to me to be obvious questions to ask, and that anyone rational would be interested in knowing.

    If the answers are clear, why not give them. If not, then why not be honest that they are not clear.

    On a wider level, what I want is very simple – either access to the information and the opportunity to raise questions that occur to people; or for the experts to act responsibly, if they believe that it is not feasible to educate people, and push for compulsory vaccination – essentially put their money where their mouth is.

    What I see instead is a lot of moaning about people not understanding, attacks on the press for bad reporting (an opportunity only available because of the confusion of information), and reluctance to answer really quite straightforward questions.

    All this energy is being wasted in trivial arguing and point scoring, which could be spent far more productively in achieving something useful.

    Maybe that’s the lesson of this – perhaps people just enjoy moaning about other people, but don’t see the point in doing anything else.

  82. Deebles said,

    December 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    @Arnold,

    In reference to your original queries, I did a quick check on the Health Protection Agency website and found the following:

    1) The figures they report are those of lab-confirmed measles cases

    2) I didn’t find what proportion of all of the 1000+ cases so far reported this year had previously received vaccine, but of the 289 cases confirmed in the 3rd quarter of the year, 9 (3%) had previously been vaccinated.

    Source:

    www.hpa.org.uk/hpr/archives/2008/news4808.htm#measles

    www.hpa.org.uk/hpr/infections/immunisation.htm#measles

    If you have a look around their website yourself, you might be able to get the corresponding figures for the previous two quarters etc.

  83. The Nameless said,

    December 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    @Arnold. Please help me out here: what are these “really quite straightforward questions” that you say no-one will answer? Unless I’ve missed something, all your questions *have* been answered, and in plain English.

  84. mikewhit said,

    December 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Did Messrs. Blair and Brown eventually let us know whether they had their kids MMR’d ?
    Just asking …

    Bet John Gummer (of child/hamburger fame) would have let on!

  85. Deebles said,

    December 11, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Brown has, as has Cameron. Don’t know whether Clegg has or not.

    Blair, however, (in)famously refused to disclose on privacy grounds.

  86. Deebles said,

    December 11, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Sorry to clarify – Brown and Cameron have both let on that yes, their kids have had MMR.

  87. emen said,

    December 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Arnold, you and sensecommon’s gragh made me think about compulsory vaccination again.

    I know vaccination is compulsory in Hungary, so I asked scientists on a blog very similar to this one over there. I was kindly offered a link to a TV programme about it.

    It turns out that it seems to work: Hungary is not an island and it has been able to protect its population very well during epidemics in surrounding countries. 4000 children died in diptheria in the ex-Soviet countries in the last 10-20 years (no cases in Hungary), they recorded 300 measles cases in neighbouring Austria last year, and many more in Romania and the Ukraines, but the last measles infection recorded in Hungary was in 2002 (just one).

    But it seems that the anti- vaccination lobby is loud in Hungary as well. One argument coming from homeopaths (who else), who notice problems developing in children after vaccination, and they claim the vaccines make the immune system somehow “forget” how to be ill and recover. The other argument is that vaccines are not free, and schoolchildren bring home adverts for 100-pound-vaccines against sickness and diarrhoea, therefore parents are suspicious that all vaccination is just manipulation from Big Pharma.

    I’m young enough to be vaccinated against measles, but if this MMR hysteria means I’m not protected, then I’m not sure I would mind making it temporarily compulsory.

    But it’s tricky.

  88. mikewhit said,

    December 12, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    “There will be some people who have, say, religious convictions that do not allow for vaccination.
    This is somewhat different from those on those who make a decision not based on a moral conviction but rather out of fear and ignorance.”

    Hmm, there are those who would say they do not see the difference between those in sentence 1) and sentence 2) …

  89. kim said,

    December 12, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Ignoring all the rest of the debate, I just want to comment on the idea that children who are not vaccinated shouldn’t be allowed to go to school, which to me is idiocy. Schooling is compulsory, so forbidding some people from doing something which is compulsory for everyone else sends out mixed messages, does it not?

  90. used to be jdc said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know…) Islam and Judaism make exceptions to their dietary rules when it comes to medical products made from unclean animals and the Vatican, while concerned about the origin of the rubella vaccine, concluded that until an alternative becomes available it is acceptable for Catholics to use the existing vaccine. I don’t recall reading anything in the holy books I have slogged through that related to vaccines (I’ve read most of the Bible, all of the Book of Mormon, and bits of various other tomes of that nature) and I’ve always been a little suspicious of the religious argument against vaccines. According to reliable sources (OK, I lied – it’s still Wikipedia), “The number of religious exemptions rose greatly in the late 1990s and early 2000s; for example, in Massachusetts, the rate of those seeking exemptions rose from 0.24% in 1996 to 0.60% in 2006. Some parents are falsely claiming religious beliefs in order to get exemptions, and some pediatricians are advising parents to lie on their applications.” [Their source - USA Today.]

    Re Leo Blair and MMR – Cherie has told us that Leo did get the MMR vaccine. At the time she wanted to protect Leo’s privacy, but now she has a book out…

  91. warhelmet said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    @Kim. Children who are not vaccinated shouldn’t be allowed to go to school? Well, that’s certainly not the case in the UK but I know that some schools in other countries do take this line, although I’m not sure whether is a legal thing.

    Litigation is another matter. If I were a teacher and I died as a result of measles brought into school by a vaccination denier who had taken their child to a measles party, could my family sue? And who would they sue? The school or the parents of the child?

    And if schools and nuseries are allowed to set their own admissions policies, what’s the problem? I don’t think that my children would be allowed into any church school given me being a card carrying humanist. Given the international nature of their intake, what are the policies of public schools re vaccination? Universities? I remember having to have a chest x-ray before going to universities?

    @mikewhit – But I do see a difference. Let’s assume that there is a vaccine that is cultivated in live chick embryos. Assume that I belong to an ancient religion that has a profound taboo against the taking of animal life. I do not deny the science, but I can not use it. This is objection rather than denial. This is fundamentally different to what we are seeing with MMR denialism.

    And there a couple of other tests: 1) Shrillness and 2) is there something for sale behind this.

    It is understandable that social sanctions may be deployed against vaccination deniers. Of course, it may well be the case that they are not only poorly informed as to the benefits of vaccination but also the sanctions that may be employed against them.

    I am not sure if there is a correlation between home education and vaccination denial but I do recall reading somewhere that some measles outbreaks have started with home educated children.

  92. warhelmet said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Jains.

  93. The Biologista said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Amazing that the MMR topic still has the power to generate these same old debates. Six years later and there’s still no compelling evidence, but lots of dark speculation and yet another needless dent in the public confidence in modern medicine.

  94. Arnold said,

    December 13, 2008 at 9:57 am

    @Deebles 97 & emen 03

    Thanks for this information.

    But I would really like to understand the theoretical concept behind herd immunity. Do why have any idea why it seems to work?

    I outlined my thoughts around this in 95.

    @Nameless

    What I am saying is, look guys, you want to know why the public don’t understand or are misinformed, have a look at your own reactions.

    I think most of questions I have asked have received answers from some very helpful people, although they also raise more issues.

    But this was not my point. My point is that I seem to have been obliged to endure a kind of trial by ordeal to get to a point where people are prepared to take anything I ask seriously.

    Asking questions about vaccination seems, at least initially, to be like sticking one’s head in a hornets’ nest.

    For example, Nameless, can you explain to yourself your response to my very first question at 33? I simply wanted some information so as better to assess understand the implications of the data.

    It seems that asking questions triggered some instant reactive assumptions

    I don’t think you science people are as rational and detached as you believe – what I have experienced is a group of people very emotionally attached to certain beliefs, and sensitive about questions.

    I’m not complaining – I think this it quite reassuring that scientists are human. I’m trying to give feedback about what it’s like on the receiving end.

    Education is not a rational, mental process. Newspapers understand this, which is why their messages get through.

  95. Arnold said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:30 am

    @Biologista

    What do you mean by no ‘compelling’ evidence? The impression I have received is that there is no evidence at all.

  96. Arnold said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:52 am

    @mikewhit 04

    But what, really, is a religion? I guess you could define it as a belief based on faith rather than on experience.

    In that case, beliefs based on the existence of, say, non-subjective truth are religions.

    Which is as much as to say that the belief in an objective reality is a religion.

    I read recently in a paper by Melissa Saenz, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology, Koch Lab Lecturer in Computation & Neural Systems. She says:

    “Our visual perception is an illusion generated by neural activity.”

    Kind of obvious, but with interesting ramifications, surely, in considering the boundaries between science and religion.

  97. The Nameless said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    @.Arnold. “For example, Nameless, can you explain to yourself your response to my very first question at 33?”

    Certainly. I wanted to know what you were getting at, that’s all. The implication of your question was surely, “did they really have measles?”

  98. Arnold said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    @Nameless

    Exactly – that’s one assumption about the question. As it happens it isn’t what motivated my question at all.

    My actual intent in asking was to find out whether any of the cases were in vaccinated people. If they were, I would have some other questions.

    The strategy of questioning the motivation behind a question and responding with a judgement about that assumption made, changes the direction completely, as then the questioner feels they have to justify why they asked in the first place.

    This blocks education around the issue, and transfers attention to the personalities. It is typical of an emotional response around defending a position.

    I see it all the time in this area, where instead of focusing on the evidence and reasoning out what it means, people start to attack each other for being idiots, or having dodgy ulterior motives.

  99. The Nameless said,

    December 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    @Arnold. “Exactly – that’s one assumption about the question. As it happens it isn’t what motivated my question at all.”

    And this means I was wrong to ask you to clarify your meaning… exactly why?

    As for the “strategy” you are attributing to me… no. I am not using “strategy”. Why should I?

    People have done their best to answer your questions, and you have either misunderstood or refused to accept their answers (which *did* involve “focusing on the evidence and reasoning out what it means”!)

    Worse, you’ve made a series of downright offensive comments– e.g. when I put forward the startling suggestion that *gasp* vaccinations vaccinate*, you called this:
    “opinion dressed up as facts from provacs”.

    Arnold, I understand you are not *trying* to be offensive, but please go back and read through some of your own posts.

    *and even took pains to qualify it.

  100. Arnold said,

    December 13, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    @Nameless

    I don’t see any connection with right and wrong. My point was the shift from the information, to the motivation behind the question. I have encountered this behaviour from quite a few people in this thread. It’s interesting, and it diverts away from the subject towards personalities.

    Do you feel this is a good thing?

    I have not rejected anyone’s information, in fact on several occasions I have expressed thanks for it. I have also raised supplementary issues that their comments have triggered for me.

    I’m afraid I can’t find the reference to vaccination vaccinating, and my response – where was that.

    But I am troubled about this issue around opinion and fact. To me, the opinion of an expert is of completely different value to agreed-upon fact. Is this true in scientific circles? If not, I would like to understand why.

    If it is true, then for an expert to express an opinion in a form that suggests it is a fact, strikes me as misleading. It is a pity if seeking clarity around this seems offensive.

    I have seen numerous reports on the 1000 cases of measles that claim these to result directly from the lower vaccination rates, and further claim this is detrimental to herd immunity. These have been frequently expressed in a form that most people would interpret as factual, not opinion.

    What is claimed may be true or it may not, but if people are to assess the significance of an expert’s statement, it seems important to me that its value – opinion or agreed fact – is clear. Otherwise, again, there is a fudging about information.

    This is what I meant about opinion dressed up as fact.

  101. The Nameless said,

    December 14, 2008 at 4:31 am

    @Arnold.”I don’t see any connection with right and wrong.My point was the shift from the information, to the motivation behind the question.”

    Arnold, it was a fair question. Unless I’ve overlooked something, there is no point asking
    “whether the cases were diagnosed by blood test or by visual examination”
    unless you suspected that the measles cases had been misdiagnosed.

    You are allowed to ask the question. I am allowed to ask why you’re asking it. It’s not an attempt at evasion, it’s an attempt at finding out where you’re coming from.

    The impression I get from you– rightly or wrongly I couldn’t say– is that you entered the discussion with a preconceived idea that people had something to hide, and have interpreted responses in that light.

  102. Arnold said,

    December 14, 2008 at 11:08 am

    @Nameless

    I see where you’re coming from about my opening question – it seems ages ago now and I’m trying to remember why I posed it. I vaguely recall trawling through a study – I’m afraid I cannot place where – that put what seemed to me to be a considerable difference in value between cases diagnosed visually and by blood test. It seemed an obvious thing to ask.

    It had not occurred to me that anyone had anything to hide, and indeed I had every reason to expect the contrary – openness, willingness to discuss, clarity.

    Here is a site that condemns, in a vigorous and often ruthless manner, irrespective of peoples’ feelings, unsupported claims about science. It’s virtually a cardinal principle of the site. Most of my questions have been exactly on this line – trying to sort out the value of the various things people say.

    When I referred in my previous post to the ‘strategy’ of not answering a question by examining its motives, perhaps ‘strategy’ was a confusing word. I am very interested in the connection between an action and the feedback I receive from it and I use the word to refer to a method (usually habitual) of doing something. As I see it people follow these ‘strategies’ all the time without noticing. Every action is in the nature of an experiment.

    I do not wish to convey that you should or should not have asked a question – after all that is the very thing I have been bashing on about and it would be rather hypocritical of me. My intention was not to condemn the question.

    What I am illustrating is what it feels like to experience this. If you are interested in educating people, surely this feedback may be very useful.

    So if I have made an assumption it has been that this site offers the opportunity to explore issues ruthlessly and openly. This assumption, I find, is not justified by my experience with it.

    What I have found is that people are human, and by and large identify with cherished viewpoints, rationally held or not. They will react emotionally to a perceived attack on that viewpoint, whether this is rational or not. And it doesn’t matter whether they are scientists or lay people, everyone has feelings that continually over-ride rational processing.

    Perhaps I have also found out that this is something that people really don’t like to accept – the idea that feelings over-ride reason. And I suppose I don’t find it that surprising to see it projected onto others.

  103. The Nameless said,

    December 14, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    @Arnold. Read through your own posts, as I suggested. People reacted, not to the fact that you questioned them, but to your manner of questioning– specifically, what looked very like familiar troll/fanatic tactics, such as shifting goalposts. Some people assumed you were an anti-vac troll and were high-handed with you. But you have been pretty high-handed yourself, and have responded in an extremely defensive way.

    You have throughout made comments about “opinion dressed up as fact”, lack of transparency, and let us not forget this one–

    “there are potentially damaging effects that have not been fully researched, as there has been insufficient time for them to become apparent
    - thus the vaccination program is in the nature of a long term experiment”

    Now, regarding the “opinion” issue, which seems to be so important to you:

    All *I* was *ever* trying to explain to you was that in the absence of absolute proof– which is very hard to come by in this world– you need to look at where the weight of evidence lies. If that’s overwhelming enough, it’s perfectly fair and normal to speak in terms of facts, rather than qualifying *everything* with “of course, this is just my opinion”– which is what you apparently want.

    As an example– you mentioned that smoking can cause disease. Ask yourself *how you know*, hmmn?

  104. Deebles said,

    December 14, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    @Arnold,

    With regards to herd immunity, and why it works, well, it’s quite simple.

    You get infections from other people, who got the infections because they were susceptible. If you make it so that they are probably not susceptible, you protect yourself.

    This gives us a mechanism by which vaccinating a whole population may be more effective than just vaccinating a part of that population, even for the vaccinated proportion.

    e.g. To throw some very crude calculations at it, let’s say your vaccine is 90% effective. If only you are vaccinated, then you only have that 90% protection. But if all of your close contacts are vaccinated, then 90% of them will be immune, and you’ll only have 10% of the chance of being exposed you would have had otherwise. And then, as if by magic, you get a lot more protection (especially once you factor in contacts-of-contacts etc.).

    Now, given this, it’s OK for a certain small percentage of a population to not be vaccinated, and for the herd as a whole to still be very unlikely to see an outbreak of the disease. In terms of modelling exactly what proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated with a vaccine of a known protective efficacy, you’d also need to know how infectious that disease is (often described in terms of its basic reproduction number, ie the number of people that the average infected person will infect in the course of their infection if all their contacts are susceptible). In the case of measles, the basic reproductive number has been estimated at 12-18, which is at the high end of the scale. Therefore, even with a very effective vaccine, you’d still want to vaccinate a very high proportion of people to totally prevent transmission. Luckily, it’s been shown that this can be done, with the total elimination of endemic measles transmission in the Americas. And it’s kind of interesting to note that in consequence the measles disease burden is one public health indicator where the UK scores worse than, say, Haiti.

    I’m not sure I’ve explained this very well… if it still doesn’t really make sense, perhaps you’d better get an Epidemiology textbook out of a library if you want to make more sense of it.

  105. Arnold said,

    December 16, 2008 at 12:14 am

    @Deebles

    Thanks very much for a very helpful and clear explanation.

    So to summarise, the benefit of herd immunity is that it dramatically reduces the chance of infection where the vaccine is unsuccessful, and conversely, presumably the more successful the vaccine, the lower the importance of herd immunity.

    I suppose thinking about it that this idea has been around for years – the notion of quarantine is similar, in that those who are infected with an illness are isolated from the community in order to prevent the disease from spreading – like the old leper colonies.

    I wonder if in the future a ‘stigma’ will develop on unvaccinated people like it used to with diseased people. Interesting thought…

  106. Arnold said,

    December 16, 2008 at 1:01 am

    @Nameless

    Well I agree that feelings have run a little high at times, although I did come with the assumption that it was OK to talk about controversial issues.

    I don’t know about goalpost shifting – my interest is in learning and that is my goal. Learning has, for me, a natural flow, like water, from one idea to the next. It’s a bit like a journey – the view is constantly changing. I don’t see any point in being hung up on an opinion that doesn’t seem to work, so if something I believed appears no longer tenable, I just let it go. I guess this may look like goalpost shifting, but to me it’s just an efficient way of learning. Neither do I see any point in leaving an apparently controversial area unexplored – if it seems to bear upon the issue, why not face it, even if it seems crazy on the face of it? Buckminster Fuller, prefaced Synergetics with the words ‘Dare to be naive’. I think that’s great advice.

    I’m still trying to work out what is wrong with the quote you extract. It was, in fairness, prefixed by the words ‘I suggest’ – it was an opinion, not a statement of fact. And I’m not sure that it is inaccurate to describe a programme of mass medical intervention as a long term experiment, is it? From one point of view it obviously is, as surely the long term implications cannot be assessed purely from trials?

    I am not saying that everything has to be expressed in the ‘right’ way. From a lay person’s point of view, I simply wanted to be clear about the difference between opinion and agreed fact. And of course my ‘complaint’ about this was primarily in relation to the way in which the measles figures were presented in the reports I had read.

    I agree with you that it is not possible to prove anything 100%. But as I understand it, peer-reviewed evidence has a value that is experimentally validated, which opinion does not. For example, the reference I made to smoking was supported by a study, which I understood was in turn based upon research evidence.

    Perhaps I am making a meal of this, I don’t know, but Ben seems soundly to condemn arguing from authority (as opposed to fact). Perhaps his view is an extreme one, I don’t have the experience to know.

  107. The Nameless said,

    December 16, 2008 at 3:06 am

    @Arnold. “For example, the reference I made to smoking was supported by a study, which I understood was in turn based upon research evidence.”

    Exactly. Please recall that the “opinion” was simply that measles vaccination is effective against measles!

    The problem seems to be that you regard this as some kind of bizarre fringe theory, which needs extraordinary evidence to support it. Is that so?

  108. Deebles said,

    December 16, 2008 at 10:43 am

    @Arnold,

    You got it. As for stigma… well, it’s tricky in the instance of measles vaccination, because it doesn’t leave any marks and because measles isn’t that scary a disease. A non-vaccinating parent would likely only meet serious social consequences in the instance of self-reporting to another parent who (a) understood herd immunity and (b) had a child who contracted measles.

    However, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that back in the days of smallpox eradication, people without the prick marks to show they’d been vaccinated did apparently experience some stigma of this kind.

  109. Arnold said,

    December 16, 2008 at 11:47 am

    @Nameless

    Where was this comment about vaccination being effective? I don’t recall criticising it.

    No, I don’t see vaccination as a fringe theory. I just question things when they don’t make sense, a bit like the child in the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    There are many things that don’t make sense to me about science, especially about the connections between different parts of science.

    For example, I understand why it restricted to that which is observable, empirical and measurable. This results in a body of knowledge that is limited to the collectively agreed upon, and excludes the subjective. It is A intersect B, not A union B.

    But then I read, for example, things like the quote I mentioned at 12 above.

    “Our visual perception is an illusion generated by neural activity.”

    I think the word ‘illusion’ is a difficult one, as it implies there is nothing there – which is not consistent with most peoples’ experience. I don’t think this is what is intended, as clearly everyone experiences a reality. However, what it does suggest is that the reality is created ‘inside’ a person, whatever that means, rather than outside.

    Now that gives rise to all sorts of problems for a discipline based on the observable and measurable.

    If I take this simple idea further, I instantly enter what I imagine is very controversial territory, perhaps more akin to philosophy, but still relevant as it affects the value attached to the scientific approach.

    For example, how do we know the neural activity is there – it too is a visual (or visually enhanced) perception.

    Whatever way you slice it, you have to come back to the idea that studying the ‘things’ as separate from the observer is nonsensical. It seems a bit like pretending that the pictures on a cinema screen are real, and ignoring the projector and the film.

    I know this is a deviation from the discussion (goalpost shifting again, but it is obvious to bring it up). But from this I could ask, what is a virus if it is an illusion? Why does my ‘neural activity’ create the perception of viruses, and the illnesses that arise from them?

    And here’s an even more controversial thought. Is there any difference between a witch doctor identifying an angry spirit that is is affecting the tribe, and a biochemist identifying a virus, if both of these are collectively agreed upon illusions that apparently ’cause’ the symptoms of illness?

    Perhaps what is known as the placebo effect is actually far more significant than people realise – is it, for example, an illustration of how changing the projector/film changes the screen? If so, perhaps it the *primary* healing tool, and of far greater significance than chemical intervention.

    I can’t really see much difference between administering a placebo, and a tribal ritual to deal with an evil spirit.

    Insights, that seem more and more regularly to be appearing from scientists, like the one I mentioned above concerning visual perception, seem to me to unearth a completely new level of understanding, that is very uncomfortable to look at. Things previously assumed to be clear are suddenly not so certain.

    Is science inherently restricted by its method, to examining the illusion and ignoring the projector? Isn’t it about time we had a science of the projector?

  110. The Nameless said,

    December 16, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    @Arnold. “Where was this comment about vaccination being effective? I don’t recall criticising it.”

    *blinks* Arnold. For the last time, go back and read your own posts.

    Re: everything else in your last post: all this applies only if you agree with solipsism. If you don’t, it doesn’t. It’s that simple.

    “Is science inherently restricted by its method, to examining the illusion and ignoring the projector? Isn’t it about time we had a science of the projector?”

    I was under the impression we already had several.

  111. Arnold said,

    December 16, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    @Nameless

    No, sorry, still can’t find it.

    I’m not sure it is necessary to agree with solipsism to question what research uncovers. How do these issues around the nature of perception, which are clearly a focal point of some areas of science, fit with scientific method?

    And what are these sciences of the projector?

  112. Deebles said,

    December 16, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    @Arnold,

    On solipsism: this is the philosophical idea that “my mind is the only thing that I know exists”.

    Your argument above – that the perception of the mind that the body is being healed is all that is important – has been proven false by thousands of studies comparing interventions to placebo – the so-called gold standard of medical research, double-blind randomised controlled clinical trials. Studies in which no-one, not the patient, not the doctor, knows whether what the patient is receiving is a placebo or a chemical agent. And the chemical agents that work better than placebo make up the vast majority of those that can be prescribed.

    There are some extensions to this – for instance, a drug may also be prescribed if it has been shown to be equivalent to or better than other drugs which have previously been shown to be better than placebo.

    For some interventions – many surgical ones, for instance – a placebo comparison is not possible, which can sometimes make it harder to research what works. But with regards to almost all chemical & biological agents (including drugs & vaccines) used in medical science, the interventions used are based on an exercise where a hypothesis was tested, using standard, repeatable measures, and a conclusion reached with a hefty degree of statistical confidence. So we know that statins, antibiotics, antiretrovirals, etc. work because they have been tested and shown to work. And although some agents, such as morphine for pain relief, may not have been tested in this exact way, such a “lapse” is for good reason. (In this particular case, because it would be merciless to deny a patient experiencing agonising pain morphine and give them sugar solution instead, and because we have other very direct evidence that morphine works to block pain.)

    Whereas homeopathic interventions, on the other hand, are shown by the same tests to indeed have the same effect as a sugar pill. Strange, don’t you think?

  113. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    @Arnold
    I come with no claim to authority on this, but here’s my 2 cents…

    It certainly isn’t a solipsism to take into account limitations on human perception (Science does do this, surely!). It is heading that way when you start to talk as if imagination was the reality:

    “Is there any difference between a witch doctor identifying an angry spirit that is is affecting the tribe, and a biochemist identifying a virus, if both of these are collectively agreed upon illusions that apparently ’cause’ the symptoms of illness?”

    Do you believe that a witch doctor can cure measles? Do you believe that if you don’t believe in measels you can’t get it? Do you believe in father Christmas (if not why not)? One of the differences between evidence based medicine and what you’re talking about is that evidence based medicine works regardless of whether you believe in it, or know what effect to expect. That’s one of the reasons why it doesn’t seem plausible that it’s just a product of our perception systems. When you can show me a witch doctor who can use *magic* to do anything significantly better than chance (under controlled conditions) I’ll show you a witch doctor with a cheque for $1million from James Randi.

    Your thoughts on the nature of reality have been around a while. Descartes for example…?

    It’s good to think and you’re thinking about some interesting stuff. There are better people than myself here to talk to you about it. You might want to have a chat to the good people at the Religion and Philosophy forum at forums.randi.org/ if you get no joy here. They can talk for months about how-and-whether-and-in-what-sense-we-know-there-is-no-God etc…..

    If you are really wondering whether we might be living in the Matrix…. until Morpheus gets here, I’m going to assume it is real.

    Tom

  114. The Nameless said,

    December 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    @Arnold.”No, sorry, still can’t find it.”

    Oh, you can’t? Let the Nameless jog your memory:

    In the early part of this thread you expressed considerable scepticism about the efficacy of vaccines, apparently wanting proof that the repeatedly observed link between higher vaccination rates and lower infection rates (and vice versa) isn’t just a coincidence.

    e.g. “I have seen nothing but surmise linking lower vaccinations and higher measles rates.”

    I said:

    “That lower vaccination results in more measles *is*
    the simplest explanation that fits the facts.”

    You called *even this* “opinion dressed up as fact” and “a bit controversial on a bad science website”!

    Bobp presented you with stats from an outbreak in Italy. You conceded only:

    “So this points to *a short term connection* between vaccination and not catching measles.”

    You talked about the possibility of long-term ill-effects, with the strong implication that researchers have been remiss in not finding them. You talked of the vaccination program as an “experiment”conducted without “fully informed consent” because of those “potentially damaging effects that have not been fully researched”.

    You then followed this up with other fun stuff like the “smoking argument”.

    Then you took us all to task (yet again and at length) for not being objective enough.

    And now you’ve decided to hide out in the Matrix!

    “I’m not sure it is necessary to agree with solipsism to question what research uncovers.”

    No. But you were advancing solipsism as a point against the validity of observation. In your previous post. Remember?

    “And what are these sciences of the projector?”

    :eyeroll:Well, there’s this thing called psychology, Arnold, for starters.

    To sum up: Look, I’m really thinking of calling troll on you. For a long time I bought the idea that you were an earnest, well-meaning soul with an unfortunate way of putting things… but this is too much.

    Confess it, you were just yanking our chains all along, weren’t you?

  115. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    @Arnold

    I realize I may have come off a little aggressive there. But, The Nameless has already mentioned the unusual style of your posts… are you sure you aren’t a troll?

    You said many posts back:
    “You’re right, people are dying. The more the need to present data clearly and accurately the parents, face the apparently conflicting evidence honestly and openly, and follow up on findings of previous research swiftly and effectively.

    I approached this issue as a parent, intending to explore the implications of vaccination with an open mind. I am a lay person, and you can consider me to be one of those hapless individuals caught between conflicting viewpoints and trying to make sense of the information available.

    And yet, whilst I attempt to formulate that opinion by asking questions, your response is that I have ‘lost perspective on the realities’.

    The whole point is that I am trying to gain a perspective by finding out.”

    So, you accept people are dying, but you question the reality in which those people and their deaths exist? You want accurate data, but you question the existence of the reality that the data comes from? You want to explore the implications of vaccination and are trying to gain perspective – so far so good – your perspective includes questioning the existence of an external reality… there is such a thing as too much perspective. What would not be in the scope of such a detailed analysis… why not add Quantum Mechanics…? You need to understand that if you are going to get to the root of all the ‘alternative’ energy medicine vibrational explanations of vaccination.

    It’s a fine and good thing to question the core beliefs of Science, but it’s hugely confusing to have a Science conversation without telling anyone you don’t believe in the core beliefs of Science.

    It’s a shitty way to argue, so I’m sorry in advance…. You say you’re a parent… do you question the existence of your child[ren] in a way that makes any practical difference to you day to day…. If you left your child[ren] at Tesco would you say to yourself, perhaps they were only ever phantoms of my all too human perception system. If this seems plausible then you questioning reality relates to your questioning vaccination. If not then you don’t really disbelieve in reality.

    If I have misunderstood you please let me know in what other sense you do question reality and I will recant at once.

    Tom

  116. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    @The Nameless.
    Swine! You called troll a mere 1 minute before me. I feel cheated!

  117. The Nameless said,

    December 16, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    @tom1. Swine, eh? I’d be deeply insulted if I didn’t know you were just the product of a deranged imagination.

  118. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    @The Nameless
    I choose to believe I called troll first. My subjective reality is just as valid as yours.

    _ ___ ___ __ ____ _
    | | | _ || __| | _| | _ \ | |
    | | || ||||__ ||_ | |_| | | |
    | | || |||__ | | _| | / |_|
    | |__ ||_|| __|| ||_ | |\ \ _
    |____||___||___| |__| |_| \_\ |_|

  119. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Darn it! My sense perceptions have let me down. Oh the irony! I can’t quite persuade my reality to render my post in a fixed width font.

    M U S T B E L I E V E H A R D E R!!!

  120. warhelmet said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    ?

  121. tom1 said,

    December 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Sorry about that. A long day.

  122. Arnold said,

    December 18, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Whoa, hold up there guys, while I crawl out from under the mountain of assumptions and judgements.

    I have not at any time claimed to support the solipsism viewpoint, which is clearly the product of superficial thinking.

    I asked the question, how does the idea that vision is self-created fit in with the scientific method. I also drew out some apparent inconsistencies that appear to arise from holding this viewpoint.

    From this, you have boxed and labelled me with a viewpoint I do not have, nor have ever expressed, attacked me for holding it and branded me a troll.

    I do not hold any specific viewpoint. I am exploring. Can’t you let someone explore an area without bashing them for views they don’t have?

    You have completely missed the point of the question. I am interested to know *your* viewpoint, which assists me in formulating my own. I am not defending any specific viewpoint, and I don’t see why I should.

    @deebles

    I’m much impressed by your ability to reduce complexity to lucid prose. It’s a great skill. You should write stuff.

    I’m not arguing that the placebo effect is currently more effective. What I was wondering was whether it is an indication of an approach that does not rely on a chemical agent for change, but some internal process. If perception is internally created, this is not so far fetched an idea. However blind trials would surely not prove anything if somehow the intentions of the participating individuals – and the people carrying out the test – are involved in the result.

    @tom1

    I repeat:

    “I think the word ‘illusion’ is a difficult one, as it implies there is nothing there – which is not consistent with most peoples’ experience. I don’t think this is what is intended, as clearly everyone experiences a reality. However, what it does suggest is that the reality is created ‘inside’ a person, whatever that means, rather than outside.”

    I do not disagree that I experience something I call ‘reality’. And yet you fly off into some crazy fantasy about unreal children.

    @Nameless

    Can I recommend retrieving the rolling eyeballs and placing them back in their resepective sockets, as it might be easier to see.

    Regarding your reference to the outrageous ‘opinion dressed up as fact’, you have left out the most relevant part, to which this comment referred. This is what prefixed it:

    “Naturally, if you can come up with good contradictory evidence, then everything changes.” This is frankly a bit controversial on a bad science web site! ‘I’m an expert, here’s my opinion, prove I’m wrong’. This is not convincing. I expect facts to be supported by evidence, not opinion. And if BobP is right, that the 1000 cases have not yet been analysed but experts are making factual claims about those cases, I ask why? Why express an opinion as a fact?”

    I still see nothing wrong with this.

    “No. But you were advancing solipsism as a point against the validity of observation. In your previous post. Remember?”

    No, I don’t remember. I remember asking a question about visual perception, and drawing out some apparent conclusions. You seem to think this is solipsism. I think it’s a question.

    No, psychology is not a science of the projector, as it is still dealing with the projection. The notion that the mind creates perception seems utterly implausible. I do not experience identity with my mind (if ‘mind’ here means the thinking part of me) – I am able to ‘watch’ my desires, thoughts, my feelings and my sensations, so it makes no sense to believe that ‘I am’ these things.

    Nameless, you seem have a wild tendency to connect together things that are not intended, and then take offence. Perhaps this is related to squeezing me into those boxes and then believing that is who I am.

  123. The Nameless said,

    December 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    @Arnold. I cannot be bothered picking apart your latest batch of self-contradictions.

    There are two possibilities:

    a.)either you are being annoying on purpose, in which case– excellent job, now please desist; the joke’s not funny any more.

    or

    b.)you really mean all this, in which case you are, quite frankly, the second-worst arguer I have *ever* encountered*. I mean really, totally clueless. Please get better at it. Join a debating team or something.

    I call you a troll, Arnold because you’re acting exactly like one. If it posts like a troll, talks like a troll… *shrugs*

    Enough.

    *Unless Number One was also you. Your “philosophy”, plus your modus operandi of
    1.Ask loaded question
    2.Deny you meant obvious implication
    3.Accuse opponent of misrepresenting you

    seems strangely familiar.

  124. warhelmet said,

    December 18, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    @Tom 1 & @The Nameless – Sigh.

    It is against my nature to flame, but, in the words of the Human Torch “Flame On!”

    You two riff off each other. Keep stuff alive when everyone else has moved on. It’s boring watching you jump through hoops.

    In the words of Dogbert “bah!” and I wave a paw at you.

    ;-)

  125. Deebles said,

    December 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    @Arnold,

    Thank you for the compliments. Without throwing the accusation of troll around, I’m just going to address this one claim of yours:

    “However blind trials would surely not prove anything if somehow the intentions of the participating individuals – and the people carrying out the test – are involved in the result.”

    Actually, they would. Let’s say you do a study of a new drug X for condition Y in 1000 people. 500 of these people are randomised to drug X, 500 to a placebo control. Care is taken to ensure that the placebo may not be differentiated by look, smell or taste from drug X. Participants are given an ID number. Either drug X or placebo is assigned to that number courtesy of a random generator (such as a coin toss), carried out by someone with no vested interest in the outcome of the study, and the allocation recorded securely but secretly. The doctors then are provided with pills that may be placebo, or may be drug X – they don’t know – to the patient, who again, does not know whether they are receiving drug X or placebo, i.e. both are “blind” to the allocation, hence “double-blind”. (However, both doctors and patients – or patient’s carers, if the patient is incapable – should be made aware of the process).

    Ergo, the intentions of the individuals don’t bias the outcome, because they don’t know whether they’ve received drug X or placebo. And then you can see which has more of an effect on condition Y (and which is more beneficial overall once you take side effects etc. into account).

  126. used to be jdc said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Oh, yeah – more on vaccination status and measles infection can be found here: euvac.net (PDF). Figure 4(a) on page 7 of the document shows that most of the cases [from case-based reports in 2007] were in unvaccinated subjects (83%). Seven per cent of those with measles had received a single dose of the vaccine, 2% had been vaccinated more than once, 1% were vaccinated an unknown number of times, and for 7% the vaccination status was unknown.

    If lower vaccintation rates and higher measles rates weren’t really connected and vaccines didn’t work, then I would not expect to find that measles cases were higher in those vaccinated once than in those vaccinated twice – and higher still in those who were unvaccinated.

  127. Arnold said,

    December 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    My impression of trolling was when someone pretends to be one thing but actually does something else. I don’t pretend to share your views, or the views of anyone here, indeed I have repeatedly said that I don’t have a viewpoint, and I am gathering information and ideas.
    Trawling rather than trolling.

    But is this trolling? If so, please can someone explain what is wrong with it?

    @Deebles

    Thanks for this.

    But it seems to me that this type of trial is about testing a substance.

    Let me make myself clearer. It seems to me that the effect of placebo arises from what I might call a ‘symbolic act’, and not the chemistry. In a double blind trial, what is being tested is the effect of the substance, not the nature of the symbolic act.

    Presumably no one denies that somehow, people who benefit from the placebo effect experience an improvement in their condition. So how would you construct a test to identify the effect of a symbolic act?

    @Nameless

    Thank you for your comments.

    I wonder whether you have considered what a ‘loaded question’ is. Is it the nature of the question, or your reaction to the question, that makes it loaded?

    It certainly appears that you have become upset by my questions. Perhaps you are used to people defending viewpoints rather than exploring them. I notice you use the idea of arguing, and perhaps winning arguments is important to you?

    But by and large when people become upset in a discussion they are smashing themselves against the walls of their own belief systems, and not learning from it.

    And I don’t know who Number One is.

    @warhelmet

    I think that ‘self’ can be looked at in different ways. For example, I can look at a picture as a whole. Or I can look, say, at the pigments used and analyse them. This does not mean that the pigments are not part of the picture, but neither does it mean that the pigments are the same as the picture.

    Similarly, I see the mind is part of the self, but not the same as it. If the observer seems to be about anything, it is the experience of consistency within a perceived system. Reason is one form of consistency within a system (and as you point out will inevitably change depending upon the system of assumptions it is based on). But reason is clearly not the only form.

  128. The Nameless said,

    December 20, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    You know, Arnold, the only reason I’m getting irritated at you is that you’re so damn self-righteous. Other than that, you’re hilarious!

  129. Arnold said,

    December 20, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    @Nameless

    I’m pleased at least that you find me entertaining…

  130. K9 said,

    December 20, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Been watching this unreal debate for a week or so.

    Larks folks; stop responding to Arnold. Either he is 1. a WUM or 2. Has a view point he ain’t gonna reveal or 3. Is someone who struggles with reality.

    We’ve done our best and despite our very considered efforts to provide educated (and scientifically accurate) data – not opinions I must emphasise – he still keeps coming back with obtuse stuff.

    Let sleeping dogs etc.

    Merry Crimble to one and all

  131. Arnold said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:39 am

    I’ve been thinking about K9′s comments, and this evening I realised something.

    Most of the people here are interested in explaining what is common to human beings, and don’t seem that interested (at least in this context) in how they behave and react themselves, believing these things to be something or someone else’s responsibility, and especially in the idea of something to blame.

    I found this puzzling, but I think I get it now. It’s about generalised information, masses of depersonalised people, not individuals. Then this generalised viewpoint is applied as if it is true for everyone. It’s really very mechanical, and hard for me to see the point of it all; although I understand that behind the mechanical approach there is a lot of emotional attachment to this way of seeing things, which I guess many have heavily invested in.

    Anyhow I realised that I am not really interested in this at all. I am interested in my own experience of life, not a generalised theoretical one, and helping people to notice their own experiences. I see now why people have become so upset.

    So, K9, I reckon it’s your No. 3. Thanks for the tip.

    So thanks guys for all your input, it’s been great hearing from you all.

    Have fun with your theoretical reality, and I’ll have fun with my experiential one!

  132. The Nameless said,

    December 21, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    A request: Arnold, before you leave this reality, how about letting us in on your actual belief system? It wouldn’t happen to be Religious Science, Theosophy, or something along those lines, would it?

    Just a wild guess. ;)

  133. Deebles said,

    December 22, 2008 at 12:02 am

    @Arnold,

    > It seems to me that the effect
    > of placebo arises from what I
    > might call a ’symbolic act’,
    > and not the chemistry. In a
    > double blind trial, what is
    > being tested is the effect of
    > the substance, not the nature
    > of the symbolic act.

    Yes, that’s right. The psychosomatic benefit of receiving something (let’s call this “a”) is what you see in the placebo arm; in the intervention arm, you get this benefit + any effect the drug might have (a+b). If a+b is measurably greater than a alone, then you can say that the drug has an effect.

    > Presumably no one denies that > somehow, people who benefit
    > from the placebo effect
    > experience an improvement in
    > their condition. So how would
    > you construct a test to
    > identify the effect of a
    > symbolic act?

    If you look through the archives of this website, you’ll see the description of a few such trials (such as the one that told cleaning ladies that their work was good for them). Such things are done by comparing a sugar pill or other placebo to no intervention (a vs 0, to use the above notation). To avoid deceiving patients who may already be distressed, however, I don’t belive this is ever done in the case of patients facing immediate life-threatening conditions, or the mentally ill, but where it has been done it’s shown considerable efficacy.

  134. Dudley said,

    December 22, 2008 at 12:44 am

    > I am not attached to what
    > point of view it happens to
    > be, only that it is obvious
    > to experience it. My
    > experience with this forum
    > has taught me that this is
    > not easy for others to deal
    > with, as it is perhaps
    > too ’slippery’.

    Or, just possibly, too ‘meaningless.’

  135. Arnold said,

    December 22, 2008 at 3:02 am

    @Dudley

    True, it can be meaningless to drift. But to me letting go of viewpoints when I’m done with them rather than hanging on, is a bit like the difference between travelling the world and going back to Bognor every year.

    Mind you, Bognor can be quite nice, I’ve been told.

  136. The Nameless said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:59 am

    @Arnold. “It seems to me to be a ghastly mistake to attempt to describe these models in scientific terms, and makes them sitting ducks.”

    But alternative practitioners love using scientific terms themselves. Besides, when people claim they can cure things like cancer and Aids, it is most necessary to test their claims. Don’t you think human lives are more important than your personal beliefs?

    “If the objections could be eliminated so that both doctor and patient totally believe without reservation in the effect of the treatment, I wonder what would happen?”

    What happens in the case of homeopathy and faith healing. People with minor and/or psychosomatic illnesses often get better. People with something really nasty have an unfortunate tendency to die. The mind does act on the body, but that doesn’t mean *all* disease is imaginary. (By the way– Arnold, do you understand that new treatments must be shown to do *better* than a placebo?)

    Finally, some questions.

    Why– since you reject all research and accept only your own personal experience– did you yourself cite studies and ask for evidence?

    Why did you play the role of a concerned parent who just wanted advice on vaccination?

    This is you at #53, Arnold:

    “If the study is flawed, are people doing more studies to show why? That one is 11 years old. Surely such a finding would provide motivation for people to investigate it further?
    You’re right, people are dying. The more the need to present data clearly and accurately the parents, face the apparently conflicting evidence honestly and openly, and follow up on findings of previous research swiftly and effectively.

    I approached this issue as a parent, intending to explore the implications of vaccination with an open mind. I am a lay person, and you can consider me to be one of those hapless individuals caught between conflicting viewpoints and trying to make sense of the information available.”

    In other words, Arnold, *why did you conceal your agenda?*

  137. Arnold said,

    December 22, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    @Dudley

    I think I may not have explained myself very well. What I am talking about is acting as a ‘whole’ rather than in bits. There is a difference between these three things:

    - acting on an intellectual viewpoint and suppressing a feeling
    - acting on a feeling and suppressing a thought
    - acting when it is obvious

    The first two lead to the experience of conflict. The last is the most efficient action available at any one moment, and leads to the fastest learning.

    It seems you make a distinction between conscious and unconsciously held viewpoints, perhaps prioritising the intellectual viewpoint above the unconscious viewpoints. But these are part of the same system. Ignoring the information from feelings produces a lot of suffering.

    I like to explain it to myself in terms of systems. A system that is in conflict will always be acting inefficiently, except in one respect. It will be an efficient way of experiencing the effect of acting in conflict. I see myself as a system of uncountable hierarchical systems. My role is to ‘defragment’ them. This role I have discovered leads to the greatest satisfaction and happiness in my life, and is always perfectly successful – otherwise I wouldn’t want to do it.

    Being persuaded is just about the worse thing that can happen, unless the whole system, conscious and unconscious, aligns to the new viewpoint. If the unconscious patterns are squashed, or an attempt is made to force compliance, inefficiency and stress become built in. I will have fragmented, not defragmented. The system then becomes an experiment in conflict.

    Children seem to know this spontaneously. Unless their emotions are engaged, words fall off them like water off a duck’s back.

    It’s like a car engine. Even if it is slightly out of tune it produces substantially lower power. Not only are out of tune parts not aligned, but they actively impede performance. Who wants an out of tune engine? I guess anyone who want to know what it’s like to drive very slowly with lots of effort, and damage their vehicle. No thanks.

    The most efficient way I have found for re-educating unconscious patterns, is for the conscious mind to align to them. The unconscious patterns are revealed simply by noticing what is obviously happening already. Aligning to them intensifies the feedback, and of course learning only happens through feedback. The nature of the feedback is of great importance, and it seems to me that most educational failure arises from paying attention to the wrong feedback.

    Of course, the conscious mind also has to be educated to the point where it understands this is useful.

    Of course, it’s quite fun talking about these things, but if you want to learn whether what I have said is true for you or not, you just have to take a notebook and pencil, and watch yourself for a day, recording briefly with as much honesty as you can what you perceive is happening. By ‘happening’ I mean anything you experience (which of course includes very importantly thoughts, especially thoughts about yourself).

    You will soon find out that when you know you are in conflict and act on it, interesting things start to happen. If you are very honest with yourself, the chances are you will also get annoyed, and maybe even hurl your notebook across the room. You will certainly encounter layer upon layer of assumptions and conditioning, and possibly some interesting recurrent physical habits and postures.

    It can be very challenging to look at these things. But it is totally counterproductive to force yourself to look.

    The more skilled you become at noticing, and the more willing to look at all the ‘stuff’ that comes up, the more efficient you become at learning.

  138. Arnold said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    @Nameless

    “But alternative practitioners love using scientific terms themselves. Besides, when people claim they can cure things like cancer and Aids, it is most necessary to test their claims. Don’t you think human lives are more important than your personal beliefs?”

    I know. Frankly, it is a bit silly, but I think I understand why they do it. I think that many alternative practitioners are trying to find a way of communicating in a language people understand. Also they are looking for credibility as they feel insecure about the whether what they are doing is valid. It makes them easy targets. And I agree that if they choose to do that, shoot away and bring ‘em down. They may learn something about what they are really doing. And of course so will the snipers.

    It’s an interesting lesson, I guess most people learn it sooner or later. Hanging onto something for support is great until the support bites back. Part of the human need to feel part of something.

    It’s crazy really. I mean, science is essentially the common ground – in a universe of three people, I could say (using sets) that science describes A intersect B intersect C – what is collectively true. But then to take that and equate it to A union B union C is nonsense. It seems to me that alternative therapies do not derive themselves from the common ground of what is ‘real’ for everyone, but from the larger universal ground, which might be more to do with the nature of perception. They seem to relate to individual vagaries, not universal physical norms. So using a system of universally agreed stuff to justify it is bonkers.

    It seems to me however that science would be equally bonkers to pretend that it describes everything, and either to deny what people actually believe they experience, or dismiss it as mad. It seems poor science to brand as moronic something people do that I don’t understand.

    You mention the various effects of homeopathy and related practices, and I have no reason to doubt what you say. However I am sceptical about the mindset involved in homeopathy, and most ‘healing’ activities. I think it very unlikely that both therapist and client are 100% believers in what they do. If homeopaths are so convinced in their treatments, why do they resort to science to explain them? If the impact of the belief systems of therapist and client on the placebo effect have not been tested, this seems to me like a big hole in the argument against alternative therapies.

    Perhaps alternative therapies are a bit like medicine in its early stages – a bit hit and miss, owing to lack of understanding?

    Incidentally I am not rejecting conventional medicine and defending something different, which is an impression I get from your questions. It is obvious that many people experience substantial benefits from medicine – I have myself. It is equally obvious that many people experience benefits from alternative therapies, whether or not that can be explained in scientific terms.

    “Why– since you reject all research and accept only your own personal experience– did you yourself cite studies and ask for evidence?”

    I don’t recall rejecting research. What other people experience about the world is clearly of relevance to me. “Experience” includes anything I experience. Thinking is part of my experience. Examining research and reasoning around it is part of my experience. Possibly you have limited my use of the word ‘experience’ in some way?

    “Why did you play the role of a concerned parent who just wanted advice on vaccination?”

    I am a concerned parent, and it is not a ‘played’ role. I have three children, the youngest 7 months old, who sticks her tongue out when she smiles :P I did want advice and information on vaccination. I also usually find that my starting point for entering something is rarely my ending point – thank goodness.

  139. The Nameless said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    You know guys, we should feel lucky that Arnold’s sharing his wisdom with us for free. I bet in a year or two, after Arnold publishes “Defragmentation: A New Science of Mental Health” or “How to Defragment Yourself and Influence People” or whatever he’s going to call it, heaps of people will be paying good money to have their unconscious patterns re-educated.

    Or is already happening, Arnold? You’re not trying to get us to sign up for the introductory online course (re-alignment guaranteed or our money back), are you?

  140. The Nameless said,

    December 22, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    “I don’t recall rejecting research. What other people experience about the world is clearly of relevance to me. “Experience” includes anything I experience. Thinking is part of my experience. Examining research and reasoning around it is part of my experience. Possibly you have limited my use of the word ‘experience’ in some way?”

    Accepting what does not fit in with your preconceptions is clearly *not* part of your experience.

    “I am a concerned parent, and it is not a ‘played’ role.”

    Look, I’m not disputing that you are a parent; the role I say you were playing is that of an ordinary one who was honestly seeking advice… instead of someone with a homegrown philosophical system that states that your opinion is as valid as *anyone’s* on *any* subject.

    And I can’t even guess what you’re trying to say here:
    “It seems to me that alternative therapies do not derive themselves from the common ground of what is ‘real’ for everyone, but from the larger universal ground, which might be more to do with the nature of perception. They seem to relate to individual vagaries, not universal physical norms.”

  141. Dudley said,

    December 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Arnold -

    It’s straightforward circular reasoning. Your system is its own evidence. In other words, while for you what you’re saying may seem profound, it is, nonetheless, completely meaningless.

  142. Arnold said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    @Nameless

    Perhaps you’re right. I’d better shut up, or you’ll pinch my idea and make millions… Still not a bad idea. If I do write a book, perhaps I’ll dedicate it to you :) It would sound good, full of suggestive mystery:

    “I dedicate this book to the Nameless One”

    Although possibly slightly satanic.

    Anyhow, oh Nameless One, I sense you are desperate for some form of victory, a bit like the Angel of Death, who once summoned cannot (I understand) return empty handed. I would not like to leave you unsatisfied after all the help you’ve given me. How may your lust be assuaged? What damning admission do you require before removing my head to the Nameless Hall of Not OK People?

    @Dudley

    Well if you find it meaningless, it’s one less thing to worry about, isn’t it? Fab.

  143. warhelmet said,

    December 22, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Stop now! This thread is like picking at scabs. It will leave a nasty scar if you continue. Let the natural healing process occur and let the scab fall off in it’s own good time.

    If people do not desist now, I will don my helm of ontological power and do the *wibble* thing. It is a terrible thing to behold, the *wibble*.

    Seeking the “last word” is an admission of weakness. A cheesy fist raised to weak arguments.

    “Move along now, there’s nothing to see”.

    Enuff. End of. Fini.

  144. The Nameless said,

    December 23, 2008 at 3:32 am

    @Arnold.No, the dedication will be sufficient. I look forward to it.

    @.warhelmet. Awww, you’re such a spoilsport.

  145. Arnold said,

    December 23, 2008 at 5:00 am

    @Nameless

    Go on, be fair, perhaps warhelmet wants the last word?

  146. 111 trichloroethane said,

    January 4, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I know this thread is probably dead and if i had read every last word of it my question might be answered but…………..

    My child had no vaccinations on the advice of a doctor who also didn’t vaccinate his own kids. He reckoned that vaccines are given too early into immature immune systems. He argued that the development of the immune system is poorly understood.
    Now reading the article it suggests that the MMR jab offers some ‘protection’ against asthma. I understand that asthma is an auto immune disease. Is it known how exactly these vaccines interact with the immune system in such a way as to offer to protection against diseases other that they are specified for? If this is the case it might seem prudent to follow this doctors advice. I mean, if MMR ‘protects’ against asthma (not to mention measles, mumps and rubella) an unplanned and unintended result, what other unplanned and unintended results might be happening?

    Any ideas anyone ?

  147. The Biologista said,

    January 4, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Trichloro,

    There may be evidence of protection against asthma, I haven’t looked at that myself. There’s certainly evidence that MMR protects against measles, mumps and rubella. But there is no evidence that it causes the significant negative adverse effects suggested by some. We could ask “what if” until the cows come home, but that would be silly. What if Weetabix causes cancer? There’s no evidence, but it’s not impossible.

    No, the best we can do is look at the evidence that we DO HAVE and judge on that basis. Your GP, it seems, did not do this and in doing so put the lives and health of your children (and his) at risk.

    As to immune system maturity- we cannot control when we are exposed to natural infection, and typically we are bombarded with new antigens in early childhood whether we vaccinate or not. Your GP’s “hypothesis” makes very little sense and seems to be little more than an argument from ignorance.

  148. 111 trichloroethane said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Biologista,

    Firstly I said, a doctor, not my GP.
    I think your analogy with weetabix is somewhat missing the point. I dont think any studies on weetabix have been done that showed it did anything other than that which one would expect.
    There is a study quoted on this web site as being credible which indicates that the MMR vaccine has side effects the nature of which are not understood, although beneficial. One might argue, and its hardly ignorance, that if this vaccine creates side effects others my also.
    Now maybe i am being thick but i think it should be cause for concern when a vaccine is shown to produce unexpected results whether desirable or not, as it indicates that we don’t understand fully what is happening. Nobody else seems to have made this point so i guess i must be ignorant.

  149. K9 said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    111 trichloroethane

    Don’t fight the truth, particularly if you have kids.

    When products, such as vaccines and drugs for human use are brought to market they will go through a stringent system of checks to look for adverse effects. The reason being that that is what folk worry about and so we screen for problems before widespread useage. However, the fact that there might be unforeseen beneficial effects from vaccines and drugs can take some time to unearth.

    In the history of science and medicine there have been many of these serendipitous results and these have frequently led to further advances in medicine and new treatments. There are well known side benefits of BCG vaccination, for example. Bladder cancer and type 1 diabetes all seem to improve upon BCG adminstration; leprosy can be prevented following BCG vaccination. With drugs, aspirin now is seen as much more than a pain killer.

    Your “doctor” is wrong, you dont do any harm by vaccinating kids, but you may need to repeat some vaccine components. There is no such thing as immunological overload or bombardment…at all!

    Why should you listen to me? I am a UK professor of immunology and hope I have some credibility, but you can chose to ignore or disbelieve this as I am not presenting any proof on this website.

  150. 111 trichloroethane said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you K9

    I am not fighting the truth, simply trying to understand. The Doctor in question is a proper medical doctor and doesn’t need ‘inverted commas’ unless of course you are a ‘professor of immunology’.
    To me you are perfectly credible and I understand the point you are making about serendipitous results and how all medicines undergo rigorous testing. (some time ago I used to administer phase one clinical trails and was once researcher at the Sir Willaim Dunn school of pathology in Oxford – I get the science)

    But my point remains unanswered,
    I quote
    “However, the fact that there might be unforeseen beneficial effects from vaccines and drugs can take some time to unearth.”

    Might the same not be true of undesired effects ?
    Surely getting any unexpected results should cause us to question whats happening ?

    Just a thought.

  151. incitatus said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I always love the “after” effect. You know, “Child dies after MMR”….

    Child dies before MMR would be much bigger news. Also as ten days elapsed in between surely “Child dies after nappy change” would be more chronologically accurate.

  152. incitatus said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    (reads some posts)

    111, your doctor friend is a pillock. (personal and unscientific term meaning a very poor game theorist).

    Lets look at the likelihoods here. What we do know is that vaccination prevents or ameliorates the diseases against which it is intended, thereby demonstrably reducing the death and disfigurement given by these diseases. ( I am thinking of MMR and smallpox here). Even a worst case analysis on the data for death-by-vaccine shows that vaccinating is a far better course of action than not vaccinating for any disease with a significant mortality and likelihood of disfigurement.

    The fact that other effects are unknown suggests that they either have a weak correlation or a low prevalence. In any case even if the measles vaccine made your foot fall off in one out of every 5000 vaccinations it would still be a better outcome than getting measles which kills roughly one in one thousand sufferers (or seems to have done in the seventies, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7425188, though possibly this was flared trousers weakening the immune system)

  153. incitatus said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    also , just to be completely anal, it’s 1,1,1-trichloroethane

  154. 111 trichloroethane said,

    January 6, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    incitatus…

    I knew it needed commas but thought it it prettier without.(but do you know why chose it as my name ?)

    Your argument is convincing except the childish name calling.

    But here’s ones for you ..

    why are we routinely vaccinated against tetanus ? even after a potential infection ?

    There is no good reason but ‘we’ do.

    Incidentally, a routine tetanus jab killed my girlfriends grandfather as a young man, leaving a young family fatherless.
    And the ‘pillock’ doctor was a case worker (if that is the correct terminology ) of a patient who developed polio after vaccintion.

    food for thought…

    as for an after effect, is this for an example.

    Burning oil … global warming

    did anyone see that coming ?

    :)

  155. incitatus said,

    January 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Your doctor friend is rather unlucky then. Vaccine acquired polio happens roughly once in 750000 innocculations with the oral vaccine and less often with the salk.(^ Racaniello V (2006). “One hundred years of poliovirus pathogenesis”. Virology 344 (1): 9–16. doi:10.1016/j.virol.2005.09.015)

    Odd that to a population used to the effects of polio even the risky vaccines (the effects of which rapidly became apparent) seemed a muchbetter idea than life in an iron lung. One of the problems with our modern attitude to vaccines comes because of their success. We no longer routinely lose relatives to these diseases and so the smaller but visible risks the vaccines pose seem disproportionate to the gains.

    My commiserations for your girlfriend. I am assuming an allergic reaction. I know the phrase bad luck doesnt offer much comfort but there we are. Tetanus vaccinations are far from worthless however and save lives on a routine basis because they are routine. The main risk is anaphylaxis which is rather rare.
    Tetanus isnt one of your friendly childhood ailments, it is at best a horrible gruelling illness and frequently fatal (10-20% mortality with advanced medical care according to NHS advice). Tetanus is contracted from puncture wounds in most cases which is why i got injected with a buttockfull of it after i stood on a glass bottle last year. Vaccination after exposure is common treatment for diseases with longish incubation periods that target the nervous system. Rabies vaccines are also administered after exposure. In both tetanus and rabies the vaccine is effective when administered in this way. The immune response to the agent can develope whilst the agent is still incubating in the nerve sheaths.

    I know this sounds like one-upmanship but my great great uncle died from tetanus after treading on a nail in a smithy. At least according to anecdotal evidence (my granny, whose description of the throes of a tetanus victim belonged in a Stephen King book)

  156. incitatus said,

    January 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    1,1,1-trichloroethane was a common solvent in correction fluid. It’s use is being discouraged under the montreal protocol.

  157. 111 trichloroethane said,

    January 7, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    1,1,1-trichloroethane was a common solvent in correction fluid. It’s use is being discouraged under the montreal protocol.

    cos schools boys get high on it in german lessons :)

    No doubt your numbers are right and i really didn’t think there was much point in vaccinating after infection, so thanks for explaining why it might be useful. Although last time i needed a jab they told me that it was immunoglobulin that had already been raised, not vaccine.
    On tetanus i trawled through the internet once and the information i came away with that it really is pretty useless. The main argument being that there have only been cases of tetanus reported in people who are already immunosuppressed, if they have been vaccinated, partially vaccinated or recieved no vaccine what so ever. I guess the research could be flawed so i will try to find the links so you can decide for yourself…..
    a quick look didn’t bring up the study i was looking for
    but i did come across this ,
    www.whale.to/v/mend.html

    but then i guess this dr Mendelsohn is not the kind of doctor you like on here.

    Anyway

    thanks for your input.. food for thought indeed

  158. incitatus said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Tetanus is a common infection particularly associated with horse pooh. you dont have to be immunocompromised to get it, you just have to have a puncture wound….

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