Mailbag: Countering Miscellaneous Pseudoscientific Nonsense

mailbag letter

It is time for another entry into the mailbag series where I answer feedback email from readers and others. If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page.

This round-up installment of the mailbag series will take on a three separate crank comments that were recently submitted to this website. I declined to publish anyone of them because they did not address any of the arguments or evidence that were presented in the articles, they repeated the same old pseudoscientific canards that been refuted thousands of times before and some of them promoted genocide denial.

First up is an anti-vaccine activist going by the name of Bomac. A little later, we will examine the falsehoods promoted by Holocaust denier Jeffrey Stafford and the belief that transgender people are delusional promoted by Obarryon King.

Vaccines are, in general, very safe and effective

Bomac starts off by claiming that:

Many of the claims of vaccine’s success are not true, but for the sake of discussion, presuming they are all true; that was then and this in now. Vaccines have changed today. Manufacturers include all kinds of toxins that are extremely harmful.

This is a common anti-vaccine tactic know as the toxin gambit. Either anti-vaccine cranks refuse to specify what these alleged toxins are, or they list essential vaccine ingredients that are not toxin at the concentrations used in vaccines. Polysorbate 80 is a nonionic emulsifier and is present in higher amounts in common ice cream. Formaldehyde is used to inactivate viruses to prevent them from causing disease and there is more of it occurring naturally in your body. Aluminum salts are adjuvants that increased the effectiveness of vaccines and have been safely used for 70 years. These are not the same as elemental aluminum and aluminum salts in the concentrations used in vaccines do not cause brain damage. Thimerosal, which is not the same as environmental mercury, has been removed from vaccines over a decade ago and only occurs in some multidose vials of seasonal influenza vaccine to protect against contamination. These are just a few examples of anti-vaccine misinformation about vaccine ingredients. Reliable information about vaccine ingredients can be found at the CDC and the FDA.

Just ask 47,000 paralyzed Indian girls that Bill Gates gifted.

The cases of paralysis occurring in India was caused not caused by the polio vaccine or even polio. According to The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, there was no reported cases of polio during the time these individuals became paralyzed. In reality, these cases were caused by non-polio enteroviruses, primarily Coxsackie-B and various echoviruses. This shows that anti-vaccine cranks seem to have little issue with exploiting human tragedy in their efforts to vilify vaccines.

Not only is there no evidence that today’s vaccines help families one iota, the evidence is to the contrary.

Before a vaccine is licensed, it goes through strict safety and efficacy testing. Post-licensing studies have generally shown vaccines to be highly effective and safe. Epidemiological evidence has shown great declines in disease incidence after the corresponding vaccine was licensed. This cannot be explained by improvements in hygiene because the declines happened at different times.

So what evidence does Bomac marshal in favor of his anti-vaccine stance?

All you have to do is read the inserts to the vaccines themselves.

Vaccine inserts are required to list reported side-effects. However, reported side-effects are not the same as side-effects that have been established by scientific evidence.

Ask yourself why the manufacturers are exempt from having to have liability insurance.

This insinuation is both ironic and without historical perspectives. The issue was discussed in great detail in a previous installment of the mailbag series. Here are the highlights:

The Vaccine Court was established because the irrational litigations of parents who falsely believed that their children had been damaged by the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine. Juries awarded parents extremely large financial compensations despite the fact that either there was no evidence for a causal association or the evidence favored the rejection of such an association.

These false litigation claims nearly eliminated vaccine production in the U. S. all-together. This is because, contrary to the assertion of anti-vaccine cranks, pediatric vaccines are not really that profitable in comparison with other medical products. This is because such vaccines are only given a couple of times per individual per lifetime. Compare this with medication against high cholesterol etc. that people need to take every day. So many companies stopped producing the DTP vaccine and this threatened vaccine manufacturing in the U.S.

[…]

In the Vaccine Court, the burden of evidence is much lower and does not require that the plaintiffs demonstrate fault. This means that it is a lot easier for parents to get financial compensation because they do not have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the pharmaceutical company did something wrong or demonstrate a massive amount of scientific evidence for a causal connection. It is also cheaper and faster for the plaintiffs as cases are handled much more rapidly and they do not risk having to pay the legal costs of the pharmaceutical companies if they lose.

In other words, Vaccine Court probably saved U. S. vaccine production and it is more beneficial for parents than the previous system were they could sue the pharmaceutical companies directly.

Ironically, the anti-vaccine activists of the 1980s contributed to the establishment of vaccine court. Now, they have twisted it into a conspiracy theory about shady government protection for pharmaceutical companies.

Wake up please. It’s not paranoia to open your eyes and smell the coffee.

I always find it hilarious when anti-vaccine activists tell me to “wake up”. In reality, they are the ones who have no clue about the details of vaccine research or the legal context.

Being transgender is still not a delusion

A while back, I wrote a detailed refutation of the false claim that being transgender is like having a psychotic Napoleon delusion. Obarryon King has taken issue with this:

A great deal of the “scientific reality” claimed by the OP consists of straw-man arguments. The assertion does not have to be made that the analogy means that the transgendered are schizophrenic or otherwise in full-blown psychosis. Rather, this analogy is saying that the transgendered are delusional, i.e. dominated by a false belief. So, the differences cited between the transgendered and the psychotic are specious, since the comparison actually is about the false belief, not the whole constellation of symptoms that determine psychosis.

So when transphobes compare providing e. g. hormone replacement therapy to transgender individuals with giving a saber and an army to people with the psychotic delusion that they are Napoleon, they are not actually claiming that transgender people suffer from psychotic delusions? They just want to argue that transgender people have a false belief? That claim is essentially self-refuting. Of course they are claiming that transgender people have a psychotic delusion, not merely that they are wrong.

It is also worth asking the following rhetorical question: “What false belief?”. No transgender person actually believes that their genotypic sex is different from what it actually is. Rather, it is about a conflict between biological sex and gender identity. So even here they argument falls apart.

Holocaust denial is based on falsehoods and sophistry

I am often simultaneously horrified and amused by the absurd length that some Holocaust deniers go to in order to make arguments against mainstream history. I never publish comments by Holocaust deniers because I refuse to let my website be a platform for Holocaust denial and antisemitism. However, I sometimes write rebuttals to Holocaust deniers so that their claims do not stand unopposed. It is also enables other people who are faced with a Holocaust denier to find high-quality refutations of their claims by using a search engine.

In this two comments, the Holocaust denier Jeffrey Stafford makes four separate claims. It is a classic case of “just asking questions”, where proponents of pseudoscience refuse to make any statements about their own believes and instead just claim to be asking “distributing questions”. They are not particularly difficult to refute. Let us destroy them.

If there were gas chambers in Poland, why cannot one official of any of the concentration camp museums produce one photograph or even draw a picture of a gas chamber?

Looks like Stafford has not been keeping up with historical research on the Holocaust. Historians have discovered hundreds of original Nazi plans and blueprints of gas chambers and crematoria. Some of them can easily be found online, such as here, here and here.

When British pathologist, Dr, Charles Larson, at the time one of the world’s leading forensic pathologist, performed autopsies at Dachau and some twenty other camps, examining over one hundred corpses, not one was found to have died of gas poisoning. Why?

This is a distorted claim. First of all, most Holocaust historians agree that thousands of weak and sick prisoners at Dachau was transported to the killing center Hartheim near Linz in Austria and that the Dachau gas chamber was probably not used to murder people. Despite this, Dr. Larson did find evidence of murdering people with cyanide at Dachau:

The majority died of natural diseases of one kind or the another. However, we did probe into such questions as, ‘What happened to those prisoners who became psychotic at Dachau? What did the Gestapo do with them?’ Well, they took those people to the crematorium. First, however, they were taken to a big windowless building next to the crematorium where the ceiling was covered with false shower heads. The victims were then ordered to strip and take a ‘shower.’ Outside the building, guards dropped in cyanide pellets. Then they’d blow the cyanide gas out and remove the bodies next door to the crematorium ovens. I think this is what happened to most of the truly psychotic prisoners and those they considered unruly and unmanageable and who, in the Gestapo’s opinion, were incorrigibles. But, in my opinion, only relatively few of the inmates I personally examined at Dachau were murdered in this manner. Still, medical facilities were totally inadequate. When people fell hopelessly ill and death was imminent, and when they grew so weak they could no longer work or function, they were taken to the cyanide room for disposal. The Nazi called them ‘mercy killings’ because there was no hope of them getting well. Actually, the Germans considered them a liability, and extermination was the answer.” (‘Crime Doctor,’ McCallum & Larson, p. 61. ISBN 0-916076-20-2; Library of Congress Catalog Number: 78-16403)

Next up is the usual animosity towards the 6 million figure.

Long before the six million figure was used by the Jews after 1945, the figure had been a feature of Jewish propagandaas early as 1919. The figure must be in someway symbolic to the Jews.

The original text that Stafford references is actually about the threat of starvation to around seven million people (six million adults and almost a million children). It was published by Martin H. Glynn in the The American Hebrew in 1919.

THE CRUCIFIXION OF JEWS MUST STOP!
By MARTIN H. GLYNN
(Former Governor of the State of N.Y.)

From across the sea SIX MILLION men and women call to us for help, and eight hundred thousand little children cry for bread. […] These children, these men and women are our FELLOW-MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN FAMILY, with the same claim on life as we, the same susceptibility to the winter’s cold, the same PROPENSITY TO DEATH before the fangs of hunger. Within them reside the illimitable possibilities for the advancement of the human race as naturally would reside in SIX MILLION human beings. WE MAY NOT BE THEIR KEEPERS BUT WE OUGHT TO BE THEIR HELPERS. […] IN THE FACE OF DEATH, IN THE THROES OF STARVATION there is no place for mental distinctions of creed, no place for physical differences of race. In this catastrophy, when SIX MILLION HUMAN BEINGS are being WHIRLED TOWARD THE GRAVE by a CRUEL AND RELENTLESS FATE, only the most idealistic promptings of human nature should sway the heart and move the hand.[…] SIX MILLION MEN AND WOMEN ARE DYING from lack of the necessaries of life; eight hundred thousand children cry for bread. And THIS FATE is upon them through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, through no transgression of the laws of God or man; but through the awful tyranny of war and a BIGOTED LUST FOR JEWISH BLOOD. […] In this THREATENED HOLOCAUST OF HUMAN LIFE, forgotten are the niceties of philosophical distinction, forgotten are the differences of historical interpretation; and the determination to help the helpless, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry becomes a religion at whose altar men of every race can worship and women of every creed can kneel…

This was about starvation, not mass murder by German soldiers. It was not part of some alleged Jewish plot or conspiracy.

The final argument, if it can even be called an argument, is about the actions of Alfred Hitchcock:

When Alfred Hitchcock was filmingin Europe after the allied victory, he requested that corpses should be brought from outside the camps to make his propaganda films more realistic. Why did he do no actual filming of the gas chamber to preserve a film of them for the next generation. If he took the trouble to have corpses brought in to ensure a more realistic documentary, why didn’t he at least have some placed in the suppose gas chambers for filming?

Remember that we have good evidence for the existence of gas chambers: original blueprints, remains, areal photographs, testimony by both Nazis and victims and so on. Whatever Alfred Hitchcock did or did not do has no relevance for the historical reality of gas chambers. In reality, most of the footage of the Bergen-Belsen concentration used in the movie was recorded by Allied and Soviet soldiers that liberated the camp. Thus, the question posed by Stafford does not make much sense. More about this issue can be found here and here.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

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