Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Warfare Thesis in Action: Why Jimmy Kimmel is Important

A Strengthening Tradition

On July 30 of last year Meredith Prohaska had the misfortunate of having a sore throat. At what would have been a routine visit to the doctor the 12-year-old’s mother was told that Meredith should have an HPV vaccine. By dinnertime Meredith was dead.

What exactly is the purpose of the HPV vaccine? Why are so many people so insistent that young girls be given a sequence of this vaccine? Because it offers protection against a virus that is sexually transmitted. And after all, aren’t all 12-year-old girls going to sleep around eventually?

Meredith Prohaska’s cause of death was not the HPV vaccine. At least that is what the official records say.* After all, as Hugh Hewitt assures us, correlation does not imply causation. And since the HPV vaccine did not cause Meredith’s death—or the many other devastating problems girls have experienced including terrible pain and uncontrolled seizures—it therefore is known to be safe.

That’s the message from Jimmy Kimmel, late-night comedian who turns serious when it comes to vaccines and those who aren’t sure about them. Kimmel castigates those “anti-vaxxers” with cutting sarcasm. Vaccines are perfectly safe and anyone who doubts that is fair game for public ridicule.

What is disturbing about Kimmel, and the many other voices of scorn, is not their pro-vaccine sentiment. Vaccines are a complex issue and certainly there are arguments in their favor. But vaccines are not perfectly safe. That is a simple fact that no responsible medical professional would deny. And of course the benefits and risks do not fit a simple formula. Each vaccine is different, and each person is different. Science can inform, but it cannot answer the difficult risk-reward tradeoff question.

The quandary is further complicated by the fact that the vaccine manufacturers have their own special federal law protecting them against the normal law suit process where adequate damages can be sought. Would you purchase an automobile from a company with no liability and immune from prosecution? Of course not.

What is disturbing about mockers such as Kimmel is that they represent a strengthening tradition of delegitimization and dismissal of a group of people. This is a powerful and dangerous division.

We’re not talking about spirited political disagreements. We’re talking about abhorrence and disgust.

This is a much stronger movement, and it is not limited to vaccinations. A host of other, equally complex issues also fuel this irrational odium, including global warming, evolution and abortion.

While these are complex issues, the common thread is that in all cases, the mockers hold to irrational positions. The passion is exceeded only by the ignorance.

The unmistakable underlying pattern, it seems to me, is the Warfare Thesis and its attendant scientism. The dressing up of thoughtful people as ignorant obstructionists at best, and as insidious characters at worst, is not a little concerning.

An excellent example of this is the play and movie, Inherit the Wind. It presents a ridiculous, insulting picture of people which, though contrived, is today taken as accurate and cogent. The irony is that the script was originally intended to combat McCarthyism. It has now become something far more dangerous.

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*Addendum: Further information from the Waukesha County medical via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Diphenhydramine intoxication — ingestion of a lethal level of an antihistamine — caused the death of Meredith Prohaska, though the manner of death is undetermined, Medical Examiner Lynda Biedrzycki said in a prepared statement. "There is no evidence that any vaccination caused or contributed to her death," Biedrzycki said.

19 comments:

  1. Yet another dumb post! Saved and tweeted for posterity, as with Hunter's other anti-vax post.

    Reasons it's dumb:

    1. The Warfare Thesis was supposed to be about science versus religion. The modern anti-vaccination movement is not primarily religious, it is primarily about liberal forms of quackery. Although, apparently Cornelius is seeking to link the two.

    2. Just where does Cornelius Hunter get off ignoring virtually all doctors, the strong fundamental logic and scientific understanding behind vaccination, and the massive weight of hundreds of studies of millions of vaccine patients? One anecdotal case could have many, many explanations, including mere coincidence.

    3. The fact that ID people, allegedly pro-science, aren't even challenging Hunter on this, either here or at UD, says volumes about either their shoddy scientific acumen or their crazy preference for perverse contrarianism against the alleged dogma of mainstream science, even in the case where the public health is at stake.

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    1. Did you read the post, NickM? It doesn't appear that you did.

      The OP agrees with vaccinations. It disagrees that they are all 100% safe.

      Delete
    2. Nick Matzke:

      Wow this is a dumb post. Saved and tweeted for posterity, as with the Hunter's other anti-vax post.

      Reasons it's dumb:

      1. The Warfare Thesis was supposed to be about science versus religion. The modern anti-vaccination movement is not primarily religious, it is primarily about liberal forms of quackery. Although, apparently Cornelius is seeking to link the two.


      The Warfare Thesis is, on the surface, about science versus religion. But those are broad categories. What the Warfare Thesis is really about is dismissal, delegitimization, demagoguery and scientism. You could say its motto is “Offense is the best defense.” Take non scientific, indefensible, positions and advance them with scathing criticism, ridicule and scorn of anyone who would dare so much as question them. That was amply demonstrated in the most important work advancing the Warfare Thesis, Andrew Dickson White’s late nineteenth century work which, yes, included a chapter on vaccines. As with his other myths, anyone who questioned vaccines, and they were known to be dangerous, must be a religious nut.

      Furthermore, religious convictions, as you Nick have so amply demonstrated so many times, are far more fundamental within the Warfare Thesis advocates, such as yourself, than without.


      2. Just where does Cornelius Hunter get off ignoring virtually all doctors, the strong fundamental logic and scientific understanding behind vaccination, and the massive weight of hundreds of studies of millions of vaccine patients?

      Ignoring doctors and ignoring evidence? How is it ignoring doctors and ignoring evidence to state indisputable facts? No doctor or researcher would tell you there is zero risk to vaccines. Such false claims are promoted by people like you, seeking to spread scorn and ridicule.

      The point is that vaccines, as with a great many medical procedures, do not fit well into scientific formulas and blanket statements. They are, however, wonderful devices for demagoguery and ridicule.


      One anecdotal case could have many, many explanations, including mere coincidence.

      That is sickening and dangerous. Even the conservative vaccine court agree that vaccine injuries and deaths occur. This absurdity comes right out of David Hume. You are doing precisely what you accuse me of, and using your logic there would be no basis for advocating for vaccines.


      3. The fact that ID people, allegedly pro-science, aren't even challenging Hunter on this, either here or at UD, says volumes about either their shoddy scientific acumen or their crazy preference for perverse contrarianism against the alleged dogma of mainstream science, even in the case where the public health is at stake.

      Unfortunately you have, once again, provided the perfect example, illustrating precisely the OP’s point.

      Delete
  2. Wow, this gets worse the more I research it. It's not just "official records" that say this wasn't due to the vaccine, it's the friggin' medical examiner's official report! That's the whole point of having medical examiners, to investigate these things! And they identified a positive rare-but-known cause, benadryl overdose! How dare you not even mention this stuff?

    Random news story: http://www.jsonline.com/news/health/medical-examiner-girls-death-not-caused-by-routine-vaccination-b99376029z1-280058462.html
    ====================
    A much-touted vaccine given to teens and preteens to prevent cancers caused by a sexually transmitted virus did not cause or contribute to the death of a 12-year-old Waukesha girl whose mother found her unresponsive in their home on July 30, the Waukesha County medical examiner said Wednesday.

    Diphenhydramine intoxication — ingestion of a lethal level of an antihistamine — caused the death of Meredith Prohaska, though the manner of death is undetermined, Medical Examiner Lynda Biedrzycki said in a prepared statement.

    "There is no evidence that any vaccination caused or contributed to her death," Biedrzycki said.

    Diphenhydramine is a type of antihistamine found in various allergy and sleep medicines, including Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Nytol and Sominex, according to the National Institutes of Health. Overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more than the normal or recommended amount of a drug or medication.

    No further details from the 12-year-old's autopsy were provided. If her death had been caused by an interaction with another substance, it would have been noted in the statement about manner of death.

    The girl's mother, Rebecca Prohaska, told the news media in early August that she believed her daughter may have had an allergic reaction to the human papillomavirus vaccine, also known as HPV, about six hours after the vaccine was administered in a doctor's office.

    The mother's speculation was reported by several television stations and the Journal Sentinel, and was picked up by opponents of childhood vaccinations across the country as inaccurate evidence that the vaccine can kill.
    ====================

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    1. Umm the OP says the official report claims it wasn't due to the vaccination...

      Delete
    2. they identified a positive rare-but-known cause, benadryl overdose!

      Thanks for that additional information and I’ve amended the OP with your link.

      How dare you not even mention this stuff?

      “How dare you”? A rhetorical question to which you already know the answer. It is, of course, because we are such evil and deranged people who are out to stifle science wherever we can. Your demagoguery, unfortunately, is precisely what the OP is concerned with. Quote:

      What is disturbing about Kimmel, and the many other voices of scorn, is not their pro-vaccine sentiment. Vaccines are a complex issue and certainly there are arguments in their favor. … What is disturbing about mockers such as Kimmel is that they represent a strengthening tradition of delegitimization and dismissal of a group of people. This is a powerful and dangerous division. We’re not talking about spirited political disagreements. We’re talking about abhorrence and disgust.

      Delete
  3. NickM

    you seem to be an adamant, militant atheist who's doing exactly what post is warning about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You missed this time, C, don't worry about it. You have done a lot of good work, but I think you should be less hasty with jumping to conclusions.
    NickM: i don't think you should begin a comment by calling someone dumb, even if you think he's dumb. you only make your arguments look biased regardless of how correct they are.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. heponen:

      You missed this time, C, don't worry about it. You have done a lot of good work, but I think you should be less hasty with jumping to conclusions.

      Wise words always welcome.

      Delete
  5. My experience with anti-vaxers (and I've had a lot) is that they are completely immune to evidence and logic. They have decided the issue, based not on evidence, but on their own intuitions and prejudices. No amount of evidence can change their minds; absolutely none. Several have accused me of being insufficiently skeptical of the "governmental-medical-pharamceutical establishment" and argued that the very fact that virtually all studies of vaccination programs have shown unequivocally that such programs have saved millions of lives is ironclad evidence of a pervasive conspiracy to hide the devastating effects of vaccinations for monetary gain. A review of the scientific literature clearly shows that vaccinations have negatively affected a very small number of people, but that's how science works: it doesn't "prove" things, it only deals in "confidence levels," and medicine is based on the doctrine of "competing harms." Yes, it sucks to be someone who has experienced a negative outcome of a vaccination (which the evidence clearly shows that Meredith Prohaska's death was not). However, this is massively outweighed by the millions of positive outcomes: people (mostly children) who would have contracted debilitating, disfiguring, and often fatal diseases who did not do so because they were vaccinated against those diseases. The fact that the author of this post is a dedicated anti-evolutionist for whom no amount of evidence is enough to make him even question his convictions, and who has now apparently become an anti-vaxer is not surprising: if you don't accept the basic principles of science, then any application of science to human welfare is, by foregone conclusion, definitely negative.

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    1. Allen:

      The fact that the author of this post is a dedicated anti-evolutionist for whom no amount of evidence is enough to make him even question his convictions

      Well let’s be a little more precise Allen. Your position is that the biological world arose spontaneously. My position is that the biological world probably did not arise spontaneously, because of the evidence. I realize you disagree with my view of the evidence, but why the “for whom no amount of evidence is enough to make him even question his convictions”? This is a misrepresentation.


      and who has now apparently become an anti-vaxer is not surprising: if you don't accept the basic principles of science, then any application of science to human welfare is, by foregone conclusion, definitely negative.

      Again, let’s add a little more precision. The OP is not “anti-vaxer.” In fact it makes the point that the pro vaccine position is founded on good arguments. The point of the OP is that there is a disturbing trend in the public discourse. I realize you do not see it as disturbing, but rather as appropriate because those “anti-vaxer” need to be stomped on. Fine, that’s your view. But that doesn’t mean you need to start in with the misrepresentations.


      A review of the scientific literature clearly shows that vaccinations have negatively affected a very small number of people, but that's how science works: it doesn't "prove" things, it only deals in "confidence levels," and medicine is based on the doctrine of "competing harms."

      All good arguments. But you take it a step further. You are not content to make your argument. For you, it just isn’t acceptable that someone doesn’t agree with you, and take your position. I realize you are reacting to some crazies. OK, fine, that’s a reasonable argument. But I also know that can be dangerous, as one can always find those guys (such as in both sides of the origins debate).

      I realize there are strong feelings on both sides. But what concerns me is the tone of the discourse, and how familiar that tone is with so many other issues.

      Delete
    2. Allen MacNeill, "My experience with anti-vaxers is that they are completely immune to evidence and logic."

      My experience is otherwise. A young lady, a nurse, lives in my basement. She is a radical antivaxer (believes that no vaccines are of real value.) I have examined her case, and found a whole lot more evidence than all that.

      She says, for instance, that "polio" has not been eradicated at all. She says that the disease name has been changed to meningitis. I spent some time researching her claim, and found little serious challenge to it. Please convince me that polio is not just "meningitis" and that the reason we don't see new cases of crippling polio is that our disease management is better -- not that the vaccine has stopped anything.

      Delete
  6. @ heponen: if you actually read Nick's reply, you would have noticed that he didn't say Cornelius was dumb, he said the post was dumb (read it again). That's not an ad hominem at all: it's criticism based on logic and evidence, to which many anti-evolutionists are apparently allergic.

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    1. I stand corrected.
      Still, the point stays the same.

      Delete
  7. "But seat belts are not perfectly safe. That is a simple fact that no responsible transportation safety professional would deny. And of course the benefits and risks do not fit a simple formula. Each traffic accident is different, and each person is different."

    I'm sure we've all heard a version of the anecdote: "I was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car and that saved my life." There we go. That's enough to doubt the effectiveness and safety of seat belts using anti-vaxxer logic.

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    1. Lewis:

      This is the fallacy of the false analogy. Yes, seat belts can cause injuries, but that occurs when there is an accident.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. The one piece of evidence in the Meredith Prohaska story that has me seeing truth in the medical examiner's claim is, "had the misfortunate of having a sore throat." Treating a sore throat over the counter is a reasonable cause of the overdose scenario.

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  10. Does anyone even know how much benadryl it takes to kill someone? Like, a little girl dying isn't worth taking the effort to look up a couple case reports of suicide attempts? It takes a lot of benadryl to kill.

    A couple years ago, I calculated the amount of diphenydramine required to successfully kill someone to be around 13 grams, based on case reports of suicide attempts. I think the highest survivor was 9g or something. Or 12. Anyway, that number 13 sticks in my head.

    Let's assume the LD100 for this girl was 5G. That would be 200 25mg pills. So there's no way to cram 200 pills down a little girl's throwt so someone had to have given her the drugs with an IV.

    So the girl had a reaction to the vaccine, was given benadryl - a little too much - and her heart stopped beating properly and died (I believe that's how benadryl kills). So where's the malpractice lawsuit? Where's the manslaughter? Where's the... oh, I get it. That must have cost a lot.

    Yeah, so there's no vaccination in the cause of death. Am I starting to think like an evolutionist now?

    Anyway, it's not the virus particles that killed her, it's the albumin or animal products it's grown in. Viruses don't give people allergic reactions, but eggs and nuts do. I mean, the legumes.

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