2015-12-07

Anti-Anti-Vaxxer Wisdom

Sorry I haven't been around.   Unlike last year's announced end-of-year hiatus, this year's required extra real-world time snuck up on me.

But I couldn't help but post when I chanced upon some things which, while technically unrelated, smacked me as all-too familiar.



See, I passed by some anti-vaxxer nonsense online.  For those still unaware after the Disneyland measles debacle, these are people who claim that vaccines cause death, autism, and all sorts of other issues and that, presumably like Area 51, Lizard-People, cancer cures, and the 30 MPG V-8 designed in the 70s, the government and Big Industry are in cahoots to suppress the truth.

While organized resistance to anti-vaxxers seems to be surprisingly minimal, there are some folks out there in the trenches.  True, the public image of anti-vaxxers as laughingstocks after Disneyland makes trench warfare seem unnecessary, but just as we saw when the Saxtonites embarrassed themselves with harassment of Traviss et al. and made themselves pariahs in the fan community, it doesn't mean they silenced themselves forevermore with a proper sense of shame . . . they just kept plugging away, and even reinvented themselves as kinder and gentler wrong-headed folks.

In any case, one anti-anti-vaxxer still fighting the good fight is a fellow who calls himself Orac (so you know I was gonna like him right away).

And he's written some bits that I simply find delightfully familiar:

"I sense a disturbance in the antivaccine Force, which is, of course, by definition the Dark Side.

Whenever I sense such a disturbance, there are a number of possible reactions that it provokes in me. One such reaction is alarm, as when antivaccine activists say something that is just clever enough to sound plausible enough that it might cause trouble. It never is, of course, but it often takes a close reading and some research to figure out what the game is and deconstruct the nonsense. Sometimes, my reaction is amusement, as when an antivaccine activist says something that is so hilariously dumb, so over-the-top in its scientific ignorance that it provokes chuckles or even guffaws as I read it […].  Sometimes, my reaction is boredom, pure ennui. Such reactions are generally reserved for antivaccine nonsense that is so unimaginative, so derivative of lies and misinformation that antivaccinationists have been flogging before, that I’d really prefer to let the cup pass. However, I can’t, because I feel duty-bound […]."

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/01/15/david-kirbys-back-and-this-time-his-anti-vaccine-fear-mongering-induces-ennui/

That pretty well covers my general take on things.   For example, SciFights.Net was getting coverage here when it graduated from "amusement" and "ennui" to "just clever enough to sound plausible" levels of wrong-headedness, which might've gone unnoticed had he not sought to tangle with me directly with goofy attacks.   Now that he's focusing on the new Disney universe he's largely left the field, to my mind, but I'm sure there will be more to come from him later.

Speaking of, Orac quotes someone else making a familiar point against foes:

"This is, by the way, the same mistake that astrologers make (remember that crusty pseudoscience?). They look at many variables then cherry pick the outliers."

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/08/05/the-cdc-whistleblower-william-thompson-appears-to-have-gone-full-antivaccine/

This is the crux of the Versus Debate.   Folks like me seek to gather all the evidence and find the logical best-fit, discarding outliers like "The Die is Cast" yields or Star Trek V warp speeds.  Opponents, however, will plant their standards on the most ridiculous calculations of the most preposterous throwaway lines and call you all manner of names for refusing to agree with their cherry-picking.  And if you dare play their game in reverse, such as with the Leia arm shot, ooh boy that really gets their goat.

This is all why I have said before that this topic, irrelevant as it is in a world of rising terrorism, statist collectivism, loony environmentalism, and so on, is still a good practice area for how to think and how to analyze arguments.  You can see, in what should be a fun debate, the sorts of foolishness that can have real repercussions elsewhere.   Even the death threats this debate has spawned are educational in that regard, as nutty folks will be nutty over any enterprise.

My goal, as ever, is not to tell you what to think, but to help show you how.  Thanks for visiting.


4 comments:

  1. I was going to ignore it as off topic, but your last two paragraph request the reader to analyze what arguments an author or speaker puts forth, and given the the name of the blog it seems fitting. It also illustrates that it is often far more work to show and explain that the crank is wrong then it takes the crank to make a claim that sounds reasonable at first glance.

    1) How is DS9: The Die is Cast an outlier?
    TOS:Whom Gods Destroy
    GARTH: And so have I been. I have charted more new worlds than any man in history. 
KIRK: And tried to destroy Antos Four. 
SPOCK: Why? 
GARTH: Well, I could say because they were actively hostile to the Federation. 
KIRK: Yes, you could say, but that would be untrue.
    =====
    GARTH: Well done. Well, Captain, you continue to resist. How stupid of you. Put him in that chair right here. I've arranged a small entertainment. I wouldn't want him to miss any of it. Well, Captain, even you must admit that I'm a genius. What you see here is my latest invention. This is an explosive, the most powerful one in history. If I were to drop this flask, the resulting explosion would vaporise this planet. Now do you see why it is ridiculous to resist me? Well, perhaps you require the demonstration I've arranged. Watch closely.

    TNG: Booby Trap
    (Wesley and Data are playing 3D chess. Outside is a field of planetary fragments) 
WESLEY: This was the final battle, wasn't it? 
DATA: Neither side intended Orelious Nine to be the decisive conflict. 
WESLEY: There's not much left, is there. 
DATA: The destruction is remarkable considering the primitive weapons of the period.

    DS9: Trials and Tribble-ations
    WORF: Hundreds of warriors were sent to track them down throughout the galaxy. An armada obliterated the Tribbles' homeworld. By the end of the twenty third century they had been eradicated. 
ODO: Another glorious chapter of Klingon history. Tell me, do they still sing songs of the great tribble hunt?

    Enterprise: The Forgotten
    TUCKER: The pounding your ships gave us didn't help much. Try it now. I'm going to reset the optical subprocessors. That might clear it up. When we slipped through your detection grid, we got a look at the weapon you're building. An impressive piece of engineering. Hell, it'd take at least a thousand starships like Enterprise to blow up an entire planet. You know, I'd like to see the telemetry from the probe you launched against Earth.

    Don't get me wrong, I disregard all Deep Space Nine visuals no matter what because of the poor quality(the visual effects artists were so bad at following simple directions that the writers had to rewrite scripts at times.), but the stated objective in "The Die is Cast" is consistent with Star Trek as a whole, and you really should know better.

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  2. As a strategic matter, you really don't want to embark on a quest to prove that X is a reasonable with "Whom Gods Destroy" as your opening example. Indeed, most of your examples lack useful time constraints.

    As for TDiC, it is extremely high-end, quantitatively. As you know, I prefer to place photon torpedoes in the 100 megaton range. While higher calcs exist, TDiC, which would seem to necessitate a jump of several orders of magnitude, is an outlier.

    As for DS9, I am the one who often points out the issue of Stipes scaling problems and the season opener rewrite you mention. None of those are sufficient to declare poor quality or failure to follow directions.

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  3. I have to confess to not being entirely sure what the main thrust of this post was, but if it concerns anti-vaxxers and their frankly, dangerous ideas, then we are in rare agreement. My daughter has been vaccinated and I cannot imagine not doing so. It's better for her, better for her classmates, and just generally better all round.

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  4. Sorry you missed the point, but on behalf of offspring everywhere I thank you for vaccinating.

    ReplyDelete