Here’s what to say to anti-vaxxers!
9-11 was an inside job. The moon landing was faked. Vaccines cause autism. These are just a few of the most well-known conspiracy theories perpetuated by otherwise intelligent, everyday people. But why do some people believe these things and others don’t? Scientists are one step closer to figuring that out, and it appears that the answer lies within the brains of the theorists’ themselves, which affects how they see they world.
Scientists had long hypothesized that conspiracy theory belief (which the researchers of a new paper define as “the assumption that a group of people colludes together in secret to attain evil goals”) was due to a phenomenon known as “illusory pattern perception” — seeing patterns where none really exist. But few studies had been done to support this. So, the British and Dutch scientists conducted a series of experiments to fill that void. Their paper was published recently in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
An interesting conspiracy theory that has grown in popularity over the last decade is the belief that the long-lasting white clouds left in the sky by aircraft are actually chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed on the population for nefarious reasons. The people who believe in this conspiracy theory call these lines in the sky ‘chemtrails’ and feel so strongly against them that back in May of this year, they organised protests around the world. In an attempt to better understand this conspiracy and the people who believe in it, I attended one of the protests in London.
As I was working my way through the crowd I saw a young gentleman holding a cardboard sign saying “stop geoengineering” made out of print-outs of contrails pictures. Within seconds of talking to him, I was reminded of my nerdy teenage self and, for some time, was seriously considering not publishing the interview but out of all the people I met there that day what he had to say was the most interesting. In the very short time I talked to him there was a whole load of crazy that I am going to address later, but for now, I am going to concentrate on the parts centered around depopulation and Space Preservation Act that some says proves chemtrails existence.
Just created this meme, please share far and wide 🙂
Jeff Bradstreet, who has been described as a “controversial autism researcher,” has now become the center of conspiracy rumors after reports of his apparent suicide. His death is said to have followed on the heels of a raid by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of his Bradstreet Wellness Center in Buford, Georgia (update 27JUN2015: the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency is reported to have aided in the raid). A fisherman found Bradstreet’s body in a North Carolina river on Friday, June 19. Authorities in Rutherford County, North Carolina, state that he had a gunshot wound to the chest, “which appears to be self-inflicted,” according to the local newspaper, the Gwinnett Daily Post. The Post also reports that
“By Wednesday night, some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”
That speculation has spread like a virus through the community of people who are mourning the loss of a man whom they viewed as a courageous crusader against mainstream medicine and who believe, as Bradstreet argued, that the mercury in vaccines causes autism (the evidence emphatically indicates otherwise). According to his website, Bradstreet, whose own son is autistic, embraced a number of unproven or untested interventions for autism, including using stem cells in an overseas study he chronicles, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which the FDA cracked down on in 2013. He was known for his use of chelation therapy.
I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks. Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.
This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists . . .
By Debra Kelly via Listverse
The main goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to, theoretically, keep us safe from all those nasty diseases that they have locked away in their labs, their clean rooms, and their biohazard vaults. But, people are people, and people are naturally suspicious of anyone with that many nasty tools at their disposal. This has led a some pretty wild theories about just what’s going on behind the closed doors of the CDC.
10 • The Coffin Stockpile
The CDC is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and that didn’t go unnoticed by people who had also seen what looked like a huge stockpile of coffins sitting in a field along Interstate 20, outside Madison, Georgia. Throw in proximity to the airport, and the rumor mill started turning.
According to the conspiracy theorists, the field was the site of coffins that the CDC was stockpiling in preparation for what they were calling a “high-casualty event.” Most recently, that was the massive Ebola outbreak, when conspiracy theorists realized that not only were the coffins still there, but there was also a page on the CDC website dedicated to the handling and disposal of the bodies of people who had died from Ebola. The site absolutely does specify that special caskets were required for burial. (Originally, they were called “hermetically sealed caskets,” a term that was replaced with “metal” caskets in a January 2015 update.)
There are a couple of huge problems with the whole theory. For one, the caskets are not actually caskets; they’re burial vault liners, which are placed inside the grave in areas that are prone to ground conditions like flooding. The heavy liners keep soil from shifting and collapsing into a wooden casket. Also, the burial vaults don’t belong to the CDC, FEMA, or any other government agency; they belong to the company that manufactures them, Vantage Products. The field in Georgia is just where they store them, and there’s nothing fishy about it, as their manufacturing facilities are located nearby.
9 • The Man-Made AIDS Virus
The idea that AIDS was a man-made virus unleashed on an unsuspecting population really got its start in an East German publication, allegedly sponsored by the KGB, called AIDS: USA Home-Made Evil. The 1986 work of two scientists, the pamphlet argued that the American government had used their Fort Detrick, Maryland, laboratory to combine a sheep virus with a human one to create AIDS.
The whole idea was taken a step further by Dr. William C. Douglass, who wrote AIDS: The End of Civilization and claimed that the German scientists were right, and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC were responsible for the introduction of the virus into the human population. He claimed it wasn’t hard because it was spread through pretty much any kind of casual contact that you could think of, including mosquitoes.
Strecker Group head Dr. Robert Strecker also jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon with some even more impressive theories. According to him, the CDC is actively spreading the AIDS virus, which is actually a hybrid between a cow virus and a human one, and there are six different types of AIDS viruses all engineered in what he vaguely suggested might be a partnership with the Communists. His theories, works, and poorly made amateur videos went on to inspire Dr. Alan Cantwell, who pointed the finger at the CDC for what he believed were clear political motivations for their active spread of AIDS.
According to Cantwell, the CDC is the instrument of a genocide targeting America’s gay population. One of his fellow theorists goes, amazingly, a step further and suggests that this incredible attempt at genocide calls for nothing less than martial law and a revocation of civil liberties while the whole problem is sorted out.
8 • The CDC, Mercury-Tainted Vaccines, And Autism
The battle over whether parents should or shouldn’t vaccinate their children is an ongoing one, and there’s a pretty fascinating story on the conspiracy theorists’ side. In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article in Rolling Stone linking the big pharmaceutical chains with the government’s tendency to hide potentially dangerous effects.
According to Kennedy, the CDC held a meeting at the Simpsonwood Conference Center, that he described using words and phrases like “isolated” and “complete secrecy.” It was invitation-only, and only top officials from various parts of the government were invited—from the FDA, the WHO, and everyone from a who’s-who list of drug companies. They were under strict orders not to discuss anything.
The whole meeting allegedly had to do with findings released by a CDC epidemiologist that linked mercury-based vaccines with a high rate of autism and other developmental problems like delays in speech and hyperactivity. According to the data, vaccines were responsible for raising the instances of autism to one in 166 cases—up from the normal one in 2,500.
The rest of the conference, Kennedy says, was spent discussing how to cover everything up. He says that the transcripts of the super-top-secret meeting (which he acquired through the Freedom of Information Act) detail the damage control mode that all the representatives went into. Data was reworked, and the CDC was more than happy to lend a helping hand in getting rid of the mercury-based vaccinations, not by destroying them but by selling them and exporting them to other countries.
The transcripts convinced Kennedy that the dangers of vaccinations were real, pointing out that other countries, including Russia, had banned the mercury-based additive from vaccinations decades ago. He goes on to say that the clear conflict of interest and the connections between the CDC and the financial interests of the drug companies make it clear that something needs to be done.
The story hasn’t had an easy run of it. Originally, it first appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone. Salon retracted the story, while it remained up on the Rolling Stone site in a pay-only section, until disappearing in what they called a “redesign error.” The article then reappeared, and Rolling Stone denied that they had purposely removed it, even though there were no links to the article anywhere, and search terms turned up nothing.
According to Kennedy, there are two doctors that have had access to the information he did: Mark and David Geiers. The Geiers themselves are controversial at best, promoting what they call a cure for autism that involves chemical castration. Mark Geier’s medical license was suspended for promoting this “cure,” and David Geier, who wasn’t even a doctor, was charged with practicing medicine without a license.
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
At what point do homeopaths and other purveyors of woo non-medicine cross the line into committing a prosecutable act of medical fraud?
I ask the question because of a recent exposé by Marketplace, a production of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, called Vaccines: Shot of Confusion. In this clever sting operation, mothers were fitted with videocameras on visits with their children to homeopaths. The videocameras recorded, predictably, the moms being given lots of advice about the (mostly fabricated) dangers of vaccination, and how little pills with no active ingredients were a better choice.
One mother was even told that “measles is virtually harmless for children over the age of one.” This would have come as a shock to my grandfather’s two sisters, Marie Emelie and Anne, who died of measles in 1902, five days apart, at the ages of 22 and 17, respectively.
Not to mention the one million children who die annually from the disease, and the 15,000 a year who are left permanently blind from its effects.
The homeopaths in the video call today’s children “the sickly generation.” And admittedly, there are some medical conditions that have increased in incidence in modern times (asthma, allergies, and autism come to mind). However, it has been thoroughly demonstrated that none of the diseases which have increased are caused by vaccines (nor, by the way, are they treatable using sugar pills). Further, given that there used to be epidemics of diphtheria, typhoid, measles, mumps, and other infectious diseases that killed thousands of children, you can only claim that this generation is “sickly” if you ignore historical fact.
Know of anyone in the last fifty years who has died of diphtheria? Nope, me neither.
It seems to me that we have crossed some kind of threshold, here.
By Marc V. via Listverse
Since there now seems to be a conspiracy theory for even the most mundane of topics, it’s not surprising that the medical profession is currently swimming in them. In a field rife with accusations of corporate profiteering, poorly understood diseases, and so-called deadly vaccines, conspiracy theorists have found themselves a fertile home.
10 • HIV Doesn’t Exist
Closely connected to the crazy theory that HIV is man-made is the belief that the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) does not exist at all. According to this theory, AIDS is really caused by a combination of sexual behavior, recreational drug use, poor sanitation, and a number of unrelated diseases. The denial movement was pioneered by molecular biologist Peter Duesberg, who became the one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of HIV’s non-existence. Even when comprehensive research proved otherwise, Duesberg merely modified his claims to posit that HIV was a “harmless passenger virus” and that other diseases caused AIDS.
While it would be easy to write off the theory as the ramblings of a lunatic fringe group, the damage they’ve done has been extensive. In South Africa, thousands of AIDS sufferers have lost their lives thanks to President Thabo Mbeki making AIDS denialism an official government policy. Incidentally, Peter Duesberg was one of Mbeki’s advisers.
9 • Fluoridation Is Suppressing Our Third Eye
Aside from the countless conspiracy theories linking water fluoridation to mind-control experiments, some conspiracy theorists have blamed the substance for damaging our pineal gland and leaving us unable to open our Third Eye. As a result, fluoridation has left us unable to reach the next stage of human evolution. The theory’s proponents believe that the pineal gland plays a much more important role than just producing melatonin (the hormone responsible for regulating sleep). According to them, having full control of our Third Eye would allow us to fully access our psychic and spiritual powers.
But who could be behind such a nefarious scheme to stop us from evolving? Apparently, it boils down to the list of the usual suspects including the New World Order, the Illuminati, world governments, and the religious establishment, all of whom supposedly want people to remain in the dark about their true potential.
8 • The Obesity Epidemic Is A Myth
Although we know that obesity is one of the fastest-growing health problems in the world, some have claimed that the whole epidemic is nothing more than a myth. Despite research revealing that obese people now officially outnumber the world’s malnourished and hungry, conspiracy theorists have derided talk of an epidemic as an obvious ruse to sell more weight-loss drugs.
Collaborating with public health agencies and the media, pharmaceutical companies have supposedly tricked people into believing that diet pills are the only way for them to lose weight. Apparently, they’ve also managed to dupe governments into advocating anti-obesity and “fat shaming” so that people will be conditioned into buying their products. Interestingly, some of the most active voices fighting against anti-obesity measures include advocacy groups funded by the food industry.
7 • Chemtrails Are Behind Morgellons Disease
Some of the most popular conspiracy theories out there concern “chemtrails,” condensation trails left by planes which supposedly contain chemical or biological agents. Depending on the theory, contrails are either used to control the population or alter the weather. They’ve also been blamed for causing the controversial dermatological condition known as Morgellons disease.
The current scientific consensus is that Morgellons does not actually exist and that those who claim to have it are either delusional or suffering from some other known condition. However, conspiracy theorists have insisted that contrails are the true culprits behind the spread of the condition. Mysterious fibers found on supposed sufferers have subsequently been identified as harmless cotton from their clothing, but that hasn’t dampened the conspiracy theory. In fact, believers now claim that contrails contain nanotechnology which burrows into the human body, thereby causing the condition.
by David Lambert via Scholars and Rogues
Contrails are the wispy white clouds of frozen water vapor that streak across the sky in the wake of jet engines. But according to 17 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds—my generation—contrails are actually “chemtrails,” poisonous chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons. As the world becomes an increasingly scary and complex place with no simple answers, the temptation to create narratives explaining all of its evil will grow. And here lies the heart of the modern conspiracy theory. Yet when fantasy overtakes reality, progress suffers.
Whenever anything bad happens in the world today, from September 11th to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there is a growing gaggle quick to cry, “wake up sheeple!” Tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing and September 11th are of course “false flag” operations by a sinister cabal—the CIA, New World Order, Neocons, Illuminati, Jews, and Rothchilds are the usual suspects—but so are natural disasters. Twisters in the Midwest: Weather weapons being tested by the Pentagon. The Indian Ocean Tsunami: Caused by a nuclear weapon detonated in a deep ocean trench. Even the Earthquake in Haiti was the result of malicious meddling. As one blogger alerts us, “If you just assume it was a natural disaster, you are probably not current with what technology is capable of.” Omitted were any credentials explaining how the writer is more knowledgeable on technology than the rest of us.
But who cares? Isn’t questioning big government and corporate dominance over our lives a good thing? Sure it is. But losing the ability to distinguish between the reality and paranoia won’t do us any good.
Let’s look at three hot topics on conspiracy websites: vaccines, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and fluoride—or as one website put it, the three biggest human rights tragedies of our time.
Far from a tragedy, vaccines have saved millions of lives. We are currently living in what UNICEF calls the Child Survival Revolution. Children no longer perish from dreadful, agonizing diseases as they have throughout most of history. Vaccinations are a major reason why. But good news is usually no news, which is why headlines such as “Plane Lands Safely” or “Swimmer Not Attacked by Shark” don’t exist, yet their opposites certainly do. As a result, society tends to underappreciate progress. Perhaps this explains why the loud voices behind the anti-vaccine movement . . .
Oh no, here we go again. The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence, grabs onto the flimsiest of stories, disregarding the foul and corrupt individuals promoting the story–using it all to scream “GOTCHA” to anyone involved with vaccines. Last year, it was laughably jumping on some comments of Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the “lead researcher” for Gardasil, that appeared to say that Gardasil was useless.
Or promoting an “Italian court” that decided that MMR caused autism, relying upon the discredited and retracted study by one of the greatest scientific criminals of the past 100 years, Mr. Andy Wakefield, who fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Or furthering the story of a French businessman, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Merck’s data about Gardasil–all of it negative. Except he never worked in Merck’s R&D department, and was made redundant when his company was acquired by Merck.
The Church of Antivaccines, whose god, Mr. Andy Wakefield, should be held criminally responsible for deaths of children who never got the MMR vaccine, are so bereft of any real evidence to support their beliefs, they will either invent, misrepresent, or manipulate any story that even tenuously supports their dogma that vaccines are dangerous.
So, what is the Antivaccine movement saying? They’re pushing a story that a CDC researcher, Dr. William Thompson, has “admitted” that the CDC itself has covered up or hidden damning evidence that MMR vaccine actually causes autism. It was presented in a heavily promoted video, narrated by the aforementioned conman, Wakefield. If you really want to watch the video, you can find it here, but you’ll have to check your skepticism at the door, or bring an emesis basin to collect the vomit from watching it. In other words, it’s a 0.00000001-star movie. Don’t ignore the Godwins comparing the CDC (and I suppose the researchers) to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others that I might have missed.
Via Skeptical Raptor
Like all medical procedures, devices and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective.
Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication. Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable.
But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx). But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living.
After arguing the scientific point of view with the antivaccination forces for nearly 15 years, I have observed that they tend to vastly overstate the safety risks, while vastly understating the financial and health benefits. It’s a form of the Nirvana Fallacy, which is a fallacy that if something is not perfect, then it’s junk. For some, if a vaccine is only 95% effective in stopping a disease, it’s worthless. And they want a “guarantee” that there are NO side effects of the vaccines, even when the “adverse effects” of a vaccine preventable disease could be hospitalization or death.
Of course, no pro-science proponent of vaccines would ever say “vaccines are perfect.” We never claim that vaccines never have an adverse effect, though there is no evidence that a vaccine has killed anyone in the last 30 years. On the other hand, I do have plenty of evidence that vaccine preventable diseases have killed children across the world, including the USA.
Vaccines are a medical invention that has been around for a very long time, the very first one being invented by Edward Jenner in 1796 for small pox.
There are alot of things that have been said about vaccines, and taking a look at these claims, as well as the facts about vaccines, I’ve come up with fives things about them.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about vaccines:
5. They cause extinctions.
Most people probably don’t know this, or do but rarely if ever think about it is that vaccines kill things and can very easily lead to the extinction of some species. Infact vaccines have already caused the extinction of one species, small pox.
Vaccines are also very well on their way to causing the extinction of polio, and could in due time and with enough people getting vaccinated, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and a variety of other well known diseases that can kill people, particularly young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Don’t these viruses deserve to exist? I mean true these viruses have caused the deaths of millions, plus have left countless others disfigured and disabled, and other than to do all of that have no real purpose to exist, and are still debated over whether or not they are lifeforms, but regardless of all that you have to ask yourself, don’t these useless and dangerous lifeforms/not lifeforms have a right to exist?
4. They prevent our children from having the childhood memories of our parents and grandparents.
My parents and grandparents didn’t have the vaccines like my generation and my generation’s children have, and I can’t help but think of what kind of childhood memories might have been taken away because of vaccines.
Some of those memories I imagine would include attending the funeral of a classmate or family member that died from an infectious disease, or having to help another fellow classmate get around because they have trouble walking or are in a wheelchair due to polio, and even having to be rushed to the hospital because I contracted measles and my temperature got really high.
Yes, because of vaccines I have none of these childhood memories, nor does most of the people in my generation as well, but thanks to people like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, as well as numerous anti-vaccination websites, those childhood memories of the past generations are making a comeback.
3. They make people paranoid.
Vaccines make people paranoid, this is a fact.
NEW YORK—A wave of concern reportedly spread through the pharmaceutical industry this week as several major drug companies reported a dip in quarterly earnings, with experts placing the blame largely on the growing trend of mothers choosing to make vaccines for their children at home.
According to medical industry observers, the homemade inoculations, which are often assembled from scratch in kitchens or atop home craft tables, have become increasingly popular due to their low cost, their do-it-yourself appeal, and rising parental unease over the quality and origins of the ingredients in mass-produced immunizations.
“With some simple mail-order biochemical compounds and a little bit of elbow grease, mothers can now make and administer their own vaccines in the comfort of their own homes, saving themselves the expense and hassle of visiting a pediatrician,” said Deloitte senior business analyst Deborah Eisenson, who noted that the trend is spreading rapidly as more mothers post recipes and images of their handcrafted vaccines to Facebook and Pinterest. “In certain parts of the country, it has already become commonplace to see a continuous-flow centrifuge right there next to the microwave and the coffeemaker on the countertop.”
She added, “More and more of today’s moms want to know exactly what’s going into their children’s bodies, so they’re learning how to generate antigens from a home-grown chicken embryo or bacterial culture and then inject the vaccine into their child’s arm or upper thigh tissue themselves.”
Sources confirmed that groups of mothers across the country confer daily in online forums to swap their favorite vaccine-production methods for pertussis, diphtheria, polio, and other viruses, often suggesting adding little touches to the suspending fluid—such as customized blends of chemical compounds and antibiotics—to make the vaccine their own. In blog posts, moms reportedly share tips on ingredient-sourcing, dosages, and how to keep inactive viruses from going bad in the fridge, as well as how to make vaccinations fun by getting their kids involved in the process of making them.
When interviewed, many mothers described quality time spent gathered around the kitchen table, with the whole family helping to grind recombinant proteins with mortars and pestles while a supervising adult helps purify the mixture through chromatography and ultrafiltration. Others reportedly do prep work ahead of time on Sundays so that during the week they can simply come home from work, stir in any necessary adjuvants or stabilizers, and have an inoculation ready to go.
In addition, YouTube has become a popular resource for mothers, who . . .
Gerson therapy is the name given to a regimen that claims to be able to cure even severe cases of cancer. The regimen consists of a special diet, coffee enemas, and various supplements. The regimen is named after Max Gerson (1881-1959), a German physician who emigrated to the United States in 1936 and practiced medicine in New York.
In 1977, Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte, co-founded the Gerson Institute, which oversees The Baja Nutri Care Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. The clinic’s website has a very strange message on its front page for such a cheery, optimistic site: BNC reserves the right to refuse service to anyone, at anytime without notice for any reason. It is still illegal for a clinic to offer the Gerson treatment as a cancer cure in the U.S. Charlotte is not a medical doctor but she was given on-the-job training in her father’s clinic. She trains physicians in the Gerson method, lectures widely on the benefits of the therapy and the evil forces trying to suppress it, and has written a number of pamphlets centering on testimonials from various people who claim to have been cured of their cancer. She’s co-authored a book on the Gerson way and is joined in her endeavor by her son Howard Strauss. Howard has a degree in physics and has written a biography of his grandfather called Dr. Max Gerson: Healing the Hopeless. Mother and son believe that Howard’s wife was cured of cancer by Gerson therapy.*
Gerson says he started on the road to his regimen when his migraines went away after going on a vegetarian and salt-free diet. The diet in the regimen eventually came to include lots of juice from organic fruits and vegetables, and to exclude coffee, berries, nuts, dairy products, tap water; bottled, canned or processed foods; and cooking in aluminum pots and pans. The supplements came to include linseed oil, acidophilus-pepsin capsules, potassium solution, laetrile, Lugol’s solution (iodine/potassium iodine), thyroid tablets, niacin, pancreatic enzymes, royal-jelly capsules, castor oil, ozone enemas, vaccines, and vitamin B12 mixed with liver.* The liver injections were removed from the regimen after it became clear that it was making some people sick.*
Who was Max Gerson and why would anyone with cancer follow his advice of massive quantities of vegetable juice and daily coffee enemas? The second question is easy to answer. The therapy appeals to those who believe a “natural” cure exists for cancer and most other diseases but special interests (known in some circles as “they”) have suppressed these cures. It appeals to cancer patients who are extremely fearful of or violently opposed to surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. It appeals to cancer patients who have been told that science-based medicine has no treatment for them and who are desperate to continue living. The first question requires a longer answer.
Via Skeptical Raptor
One of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars. And while magically concocting the vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make a profit on hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.
It’s one of my favorite tropes of the antivaccination world.
The vaccine deniers pollute the internet with their screeds about the profits of vaccines. One of them said, “measles expert Offit has already made millions of dollars profit from his ties to vaccines and the measles MMR vaccine maker Merck.” Using a childish ad hominem, the article calls him, Dr. Paul “For Profit” Offit. Seriously, that’s how you’re going to “prove” that vaccines are a Big Pharma conspiracy? A 3rd grade playground tease? That’s the best you can do.
You can find whole threads of tedious commentary about vaccine profits on any typical anti-vaccine forum. One of the more illogical claims is that “maybe vax companies see vaccines as more of an investment? Break mostly even on what the vaxes cost to make and sell, but make a bank load of money on treating all the chronic problems they cause!” Of course, that would be a business strategy that would be laughed out of the secret Big Pharma boardroom, because they know that vaccines don’t cause chronic problems. The vaccines prevent it.
What is infuriating about these rants by the antivaccine cult is that not only that their scientific knowledge about vaccines is ridiculous, so is their business knowledge.
[ . . . ]
[A]re vaccines as profitable as other Big Pharma endeavors? And second, if Big Pharma execs were truly immoral and corrupt, would selling vaccines actually be the best business strategy?
When Kevin Trudeau was sentenced to ten years in prison recently, a lot of people scratched their heads. Sure, he had peddled and promoted a lot of nonsense in his day, from celebrating “natural cures” like homeopathy and “energetic rebalancing,” to recommending that his readers stop taking their prescription medicines. He had even tacitly encouraged parents not to vaccinate their children: “Vaccines are some of the most toxic things you can put in your body,” he said.  But this is America, where we don’t just send people to jail for saying things in books and on infomercials … do we?
But it wasn’t selling snake oil that put Kevin in the slammer. In fact, it wasn’t even the “natural cures” books for which he became so famous. It was his relatively forgotten book, The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About.
In his infomercials, Trudeau had called his weight loss plan “easy” and said that those who followed the plan could “eat whatever they want.” A judge found that he had “…misrepresented the contents of his book [and] … misled thousands of consumers.” The courts were especially sick of him because they had dealt with him a number of times and had previously barred him from making outrageous claims about products in infomercials (at the time, he was selling a calcium product and saying it cured cancer). Trudeau had carved out an exemption for his books, only to exploit it. He was charged $37 million in refunds to his readers, which he refused to pay, saying he was flat broke. The court knew he wasn’t because he kept buying things like $180 haircuts. This time, when he went back to court, the judge threw the book at him.
When I stopped by Trudeau’s Ojai, California, home to visit his estate sale for Skeptical Inquirer, I found about thirty copies of that very book in his den. I went home with one copy for $3. I wanted to see what fantastic weight loss secret was so good that Trudeau was willing to risk his livelihood. And here’s what I found out.
It’s Not “Easy” Unless You’re a Masochist
“The most common myth is that to lose weight, and keep it off, you must eat less and exercise more.” —Kevin Trudeau
Trudeau’s weight loss plan is long, grueling, and so confusing it might as well be a Dante poem. You, the dieter, will be doing the treatment for approximately ninety-six days, then following a maintenance routine. The plan itself is divided into four stages. But even these stages are not clear: part four contains elements of the diet plan itself as well as the maintenance program; at times he contradicts himself by saying you should have only one massage a week, then later saying that you should get three; at one point, he says you must always eat six meals a day, then later he recommends six meals a day “plus breakfast.” Not only is the diet not simple but the reading isn’t either. A graphing calculator may be recommended.
Anyone publicly writing about issues of science and medicine from a pro-science perspective likely gets many e-mails similar to the ones I see every week. Here’s just one recent example:
Im sorry the medical community has become decadent and lazy as most that follow your stance could care less to study the real truth. I have also seen it much more deviant as many professionals know the risks and harm vaccination cause but continue to push it through there practices because of pure greed. Many are also scared of loosing there practices for not following the corrupt industry. Im sorry but the medical industry has become drug pushing decadent slobs that only care about there bottom line.
The e-mailer clearly has a particular narrative that he is following (in addition to the amusingly common poor grammar and spelling). He even writes at one point in our exchange, “the details really don’t matter at this point what matters is what the bigger picture…” He is certain of his big picture conspiracy narrative. The details are unimportant.
Being on the receiving end of an almost constant barrage of such medical conspiracy theories it might seem that such beliefs are extremely common. Of course, such e-mails are self-selective and therefore not representative of the general population. I was therefore interested to see a published survey polling the general population about such beliefs. The survey is published in JAMA Internal Medicine, authored by Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood.
Here are the six survey questions and the percentage who agree or disagree (the rest indicating that they do not know).
The Food and Drug Administration is deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies. (37% agree, 32% disagree)
Health officials know that cell phones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them. (20% agree, 40% disagree)
The CIA deliberately infected large numbers of African Americans with HIV under the guise of a hepatitis inoculation program. (12% agree, 51% disagree)
The global dissemination of genetically modified foods by Monsanto Inc is part of a secret program, called Agenda 21, launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to shrink the world’s population. (12% agree, 42% disagree)
Doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders. (20% agree, 44% disagree)
Public water fluoridation is really just a secret way for chemical companies to dump the dangerous byproducts of phosphate mines into the environment. (12% agree, 46% disagree)
The numbers are not surprising, in fact I would have guessed they were a bit higher, but again that perception is likely distorted by my e-mail inbox. They found that 49% of Americans agreed with at least one conspiracy, and 18% agreed with three or more. This is in line with the level of belief in non-medical conspiracies. They did not publish, but I would be interested, in the percentage of people who said they disagreed with all of the conspiracies. Many of the respondents indicated that they did not know if a particular conspiracy were true, likely because they had not heard of it before, but were unwilling to disagree on plausibility grounds alone.
One of the enduring zombified tropes of the junk science world is that the rate of cancer in people is higher today than it was in the past. Depending on the one screaming this myth, this rate of cancer increase is a result of A) vaccines, B) GMO crops, C) pasteurized milk, D) non-organic foods, or E) everything.
To be certain, there are a few things that do cause cancer, like smoking, asbestos, and obesity (and there are a lot of causes of obesity, it might be impossible to link the cause of obesity directly with cancer). Here and there, you might run across a study that mentions one thing or another may or may not increase or reduce the risk of cancer. But most of those studies are one-off primary research, usually using small groups, providing little clinical evidence that you may or may not be able to increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Wait until we can find these studies in large systematic reviews, before deciding that this or that may or may not increase or decrease the risk of cancer.
Let’s go find out what the evidence tells us about the cancer rate. Let’s see if there are any real peer-reviewed articles that do a careful analysis of cancer rates over 100 years in the USA. Without much effort, I found one with the obscure and complex title of, “The decline in US cancer mortality in people born since 1925.” The paper by Kort et al., and published in Cancer Research in late 2009, reviewed data reported by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, was obtained from WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS). They examined the incidence (rate) and mortality from various cancers from individuals born in 1925 and after.
What the authors found was that rate of Cancer in each age group is holding roughly constant. However, since society as a whole is aging, overall cancer incidence is increasing slightly.
Well, the results are pretty clear. The rates of cancer for each age cohort appears to be flat, slightly increasing, or slightly decreasing. Overall, across all age groups, the cancer incidence is nearly flat (although the numbers are higher because the US population is larger and older than it was 60 years ago).
Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?
Have you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.
Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.
Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.
The second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.
Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.