Believing what you want to believe, not what reality dictates

Thank you, Reasonable Hank, for pointing out to me this incredibly creepy thread going on on Facebook. (No login is required to read it.) NVIC, as I’ve told you before here, here, and here, is an anti-vaccine organization that seems to have a weird obsession with Dr. Paul A. Offit. It appears to me that they see no bigger threat on the planet than vaccines, followed closely by Dr. Offit. Of course, we know why they hate vaccines. Dr. Offit’s “crime” was to co-develop a vaccine that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. And that’s not some weird estimate based on opinion. It’s a fact.

But just go read the comments about the doctor. I won’t repeat the vile ones here. Hank has a good sampling.

One thing that is interesting is the complete disconnect from reality that the anti-vaccine activists seem to display. For example, this woman had this comment when a fellow skeptical blogger pointed out that the rotavirus vaccine has, as a matter of fact, saved countless lives:


I almost commented myself, but a friend and colleague stepped in before I did and pointed out that, yes, rotavirus kills hundreds of thousands of children per year and the vaccine prevents this:


Presented with actual evidence, the hounds were unleashed:


Yeah, we’re the morons.

In addition to his random capitalization and insults, “LS” refuted our friend’s link about cancer rates with a WHO link about overall population health, and then he called someone notoriously wrong on vaccines an”higher eminence.” Then he challenged our friend with this:


I died laughing.

So, does the WHO say something different about cancer than CDC? Remember, in the minds of the anti-vaccine activists, vaccines cause cancer. Yet cancer rates continue to fall. According to CDC:

“Death rates from all cancers combined for men, women, and children continued to decrease in the United States between 2004 and 2008. The findings are from the latest “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer,” coauthored by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society.”


  • “The overall rate of new cancer diagnoses, also known as incidence, among men decreased by an average of 0.6% per year between 2004 and 2008.
  • Overall cancer incidence rates among women decreased 0.5% per year from 1998 to 2006; rates remained level from 2006 through 2008.
  • Lung cancer death rates among women decreased for the second year in a row. Lung cancer death rates in men have been decreasing since the early 1990s.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates decreased among men and women from 1999 through 2008.
  • Breast cancer incidence rates among women decreased from 1999 through 2004, and remained level from 2004 through 2008.
  • Incidence rates of melanoma and pancreas, kidney, thyroid, and liver cancers increased from 1999 through 2008.”

Someone made fun of that 0.6% drop between 2004 and 2008. I wish they could go and laugh in the face of those people who get cancer. Given what they’ve written about Dr. Offit, I wouldn’t put it past them. Now, remember that this is a CDC report on the United States. Here’s what WHO says is going on in the world (my emphasis):

“Infectious diseases will still dominate in developing countries. As the economies of these countries grow, non-communicable diseases will become more prevalent. This will be due largely to the adoption of “western” lifestyles and their accompanying risk factors – smoking, high-fat diet, obesity and lack of exercise. In developed countries, non-communicable diseases will remain dominant. Heart disease and stroke have declined as causes of death in recent decades, while death rates from some cancers have risen.”

But that’s opposed to what CDC said! No, it’s not. WHO is talking worldwide. CDC is talking US only. CDC is talking new diagnoses and death rates by cancer. WHO is talking only death rates, not new diagnoses. Also:

“Cancer will remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Only one-third of all cancers can be cured by earlier detection combined with effective treatment. By 2025 the risk of cancer will continue to increase in developing countries, with stable if not declining rates in industrialized countries.”

Well, I’ll be damned. They’re not saying opposite things.

Again, when discussing science with anti-vaccine and anti-science people, you’re not going to convince them to see reality for what it is. More likely than not, they’re going to lash out against you and vilify you like they’ve done with Dr. Offit. They’ll go cherry-pick some study or some article, and they will present it to you as evidence without really knowing what they’re doing. It reads/sounds good, so it’s “evidence.” There’s reality, and then there’s whatever these people want to believe.

One last thing, submitted with no comment:


6 thoughts on “Believing what you want to believe, not what reality dictates

  1. I’m linking to the 200th year commemorative issue of the NEJM…for differences in the reported causes of death between 1812 and 2012…

    When was the last time the cause of death was listed as a cannonball injury, apoplexy, cramp in the stomach, debility, decay, mortification, old age, teething or white swelling? (Click to enlarge “Causes of death in 1811 Abstract of the Bill of Mortality for the Town of Boston”).

    Cripes, these anti-vaxxers creep me out.

    • I am also tired of them telling us that measles is a “mild childhood disease.” I found a 90 year old paper that says otherwise:
      Am J Public Health (N Y). 1914 April; 4(4): 289–309.
      PMCID: PMC1286334

      It is cool, and fully downloadable.

      By the way, my kid ended up with a seizure from dehydration due to rotavirus. One reason was because I took the very bad advice from a “natural baby care” book. Since my kid refused to drink the pedialyte I used diluted apple juice like the book suggested. The doctor at the emergency room told me that was the worse thing to do since it can cause diarrhea itself, and to stick to applesauce since that still has the pectin. When we got home I burned that book in the fireplace.

      The neurologist did tell me a week or so later that he would not put the toddler back on anticonvulsants because there was an infectious diarrhea disease that can cause seizures. Especially since the EEG showed no more abnormal activity.

      (and unlike some that claim that vaccines gave their kid encephalopathy, I did call 911 and I did take the kid to a neurologist)

  2. Pingback: I’ll admit it: Wakefield’s research has been replicated over and over again | The Poxes Blog

  3. Now we know why the antivaxers celebrated the deaths of health care providers in Pakistan, because they work for BS and/or criminal organizations in their insane world view.
    And sorry, but I say insane because I do believe that they’re not merely ill informed and ignorant as to facts and science, but delusional. No sane human would cheer the death of medical professionals who are trying to save lives in some of the poorest regions on the planet. Indeed, delusional does fit their reactions, as when a mentally ill person’s delusions are attacked, they do frequently lash out.

    Of course, as I recall from the full CDC data, the overall rates declined in cancer detection, but some types of cancer increased, others decreased, which is rather typical when examining large, complex groups. Still, that seemingly miniscule percentage is a rather large number of people, considering our population size. Still, that leads some to erroneous conclusions if they are unaware of random deviations inherent in such large groups.
    The more noteworthy thing is actually the best news, the decline in deaths by cancer. That has plummeted during my half century of life. Cancers that claimed the greater majority of sufferers when I was a child are not fairly easily cured.
    Does that mean that cancer has changed? To an unscientific mind, perhaps, until the vacuum of ignorance is filled with knowledge. No, what it means is that we’ve gotten much, much, much better at detecting cancer early, treating cancer and have new technologies and treatments, some of which come from “big pharma”, saving lives that would have been lost when I was a child.
    But, “big pharma” (never did figure out what that is, as most large companies that compete won’t work together on many things, let alone some vast conspiracy that sounds akin to an alien invasion conspiracy) came along and saved the day for those people. How evil of them!
    I don’t see just simple ignorance in the behavior pattern of many antivaxers, I see untreated mental illness, with full blown paranoid delusions and a conspiracy behind every shadow on a sunny day. It only serves to display for one and all the abject failure we’ve turned our mental health care system into over the decades.

      • Something most frequently witnessed in those with true paranoid delusions.
        They’re literally as delusional as those who firmly believe that our government lost an underground war against space aliens, who now rule the world secretly. From underground, under Area 51.
        Where the SR-71, Stealth Bomber and Stealth Fighter were built. Which is their evidence of space aliens…

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