I like this post by Mel Hopper Koppelman from her blog “A Better Way to Health“.
A little cynical in her approach but a great deal of information is revealed. Why not be cynical anyway, in this world of deceit and spin. Science has lost its integrity. as clearly shown here.
The other day, the most disturbing thing happened to me. I found out that I was being lied to.
And not just about something trivial, but about an issue of the utmost importance to my family’s and community’s health, not to mention my own. I had been lied to about the un-safety-ness of vaccines.
You see, I had been under the ignorant misconception that the issue of vaccine safety was a complicated one. I had thought, based on quite a bit of research, that there were risks associated both with vaccinating and not vaccinating your child. I thought that high quality research was accumulating on both sides of the debate. And I thought that the relative risks of vaccinating your child might depend on different factors, such as where in the world you live and your genetics.
But then I read a blog post by Jennifer Raff called “Dear Parents, You are being lied to” And boy did I have egg on my face.
Because apparently, according to the post by this post-doctorate research fellow out of the University of Texas, the only reason that my head was full of such nonsense was because I had been lied to, lied to by people who have an interest in making me afraid of “science-based medicine.”
Phew! You can imagine my relief that a colleague of mine had brought this post to my attention. After all, I may have a family of my own one day, and I really didn’t want to be burdened by the irrelevant nuances of an issue that I had been deceived into believing was complicated, when in reality it was very simple, very black and white. I just needed to be unburdened of all the “unscience-y” lies and do the responsible thing.
On first pass, I read through the post without clicking on the links. It’s like she’s inside my head, I thought to myself, eagerly soaking up what was promising to be a thorough piece of research. The post listed a series of “lies” that I and millions of others had been told followed by links to references which promised to point to the actual scientific literature to handily refute them, once and for all. Hyperlinks danced across the page and the piece culminated with some recommendations on how to read “scientific papers,” such as the ones linked to in the piece, “intimidating” though they may be. To gather some courage, I took a quick look at her “guide for non-scientists on how to read and understand scientific literature.” Wow, this was going to be great. Armed with her guide and a hot cup of green tea, I rolled up my sleeves eager to jump into the scientific studies.
“In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post” she begins. I clicked on the first link and was taken to a self-published article on about.com. “Huh, that’s odd,” I thought, “this isn’t a scientific study.”
Not to be discouraged, I continued on. “Dear Parents,” she continues, “you are being lied to.” Wow, heavy stuff. I click on the second link and am greeted by an article published in Forbes Magazine.
“The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.” Goodness, well that’s a bold statement. With baited breath I clicked on the third link, and rather than being directed to a peer-reviewed controlled study, I found myself looking at a self-published article on weather.com. No, seriously, weather.com. Now, I was completely and utterly confused.
As I made my way through the rest of the links in the article, I experienced a range of emotions, most of which were highly unpleasant. It was slowly beginning to dawn on me that this was not an objective and well-researched article about an important health issue written by a well-trained and unbiased “scientist” trying to fairly represent the scientific literature. No, this was actually a textbook example of science abuse. Flagrant wanton bias. This lady had turned science into a red-headed stepchild.
Opportunity really does present itself in the funniest of places. After composing myself from the double indignity of being lied to about being lied to, I realised that what the author had actually presented us with is a valuable opportunity to study the black art of deception by “science.” What I had in front of me was a textbook example of how someone claiming the role of scientist might misuse science to support an opinion all while pretending to be scientific. A bit of misdirect here, a bit of razzle-matazzle there. It’s most ironic, given the title of her piece.
But the techniques employed are very common indeed, and learning them will be the best way to spot them in the future. So with your permission, I shall take you through some of the most flagrant misuses, so that the next time someone tells you that you are being lied to you’ll know if that’s true because you’re being lied to or because the person saying that you’re being lied to is lying.
Before we begin, I want to say that this is not primarily a post about vaccines. This is a post about the abuse of science, which I will loosely define as presenting a subjective opinion and intentionally misrepresenting the scientific literature-base to present this opinion as fact, all while pretending to teach people about the scientific literature. You may learn a bit about vaccine safety along the way, as I did, but this is just a positive side effect of learning a very important lesson. So when you’re ready, let’s dive into the first dirty trick she turned.
Read the complete article here.