Ken Reibel: "And like a thunderbolt, he fell" - the genius of JB Handley

 Guest Post by Ken Reibel

Things always get interesting at Orac's place when puckish cyberbully JB Handley drops by, and this week was no exception. Orac was having some fun with Mark "not a doctor, not a scientist" Blaxill's spirited defense of Andrew "scope 'em high" Wakefield. Handley rushed to his editor's defense with a blistering list of eight reasons why the honest scientists who read Orac are less honest than the dishonest Wakefield. 

"So, let me get this straight," began the circuitous Handley:
  1. Ten licensed vaccines for kids given 36 times
  2. 55% of total shots come 0-12 months
  3. Most appointments, kids receive 5-7 shots per visit

Technically, most appointments do not include 5-7 shots, but Handley had a numbered list and he was prepared to use it!

   4.  The first 19 shots received do not include MMR, MMR is the 20th shot
   5.  Wakefield's paper said that a majority of the 12 kids studied had serious bowel disease, that the kids had regressed, and that parents blamed MMR
   6.  Now, people say Wakefield was lying, kids were no different than peers, so therefore all vaccines are safe
   7.  Huh?

Admittedly, inserting "huh?" into a devastating bill of attainder against the medical establishment might seem frivolous.  But the crafty Handley was merely using a "non-pathological speech disfluency", a common technique also used by tenured university professors and Fox News analysts, to signal that he is alert, and understands what he is saying, even if nobody else does. "Huh?" serves double duty by breaking up the lesson so his captive audience can better digest this generous portion of wisdom in one sitting. 

Wasting no time,  JB nails point number 8:

   8.  Meanwhile, only one vaccine has been studied for its relationship to autism (MMR), but its been proven vaccines don't cause autism?

And then, like the fabled golden jackal stalking a limping dik dik under the scorching Serengeti sun, JB moves in for the kill:

"And, you guys are the honest scientists? You should be embarrassed. It's pathetic. If you have actually read the papers and believe that science has proven vaccines don't cause autism, you are a liar or imbecile."

Stunned silence surely followed, as it took 25 minutes for the next response. That's like a week in Orac years.

Well played, sir! Well played!


The author said...

And of course what these professional ignorami miss every time is that the whole vaccine scare originally had nothing to do with mercury whatever, it was the specific pathogenic contents of the MMR precisely that Wakefield was on about.

These people they change there arguments to suit there moods, you knock one down and another spring up, demolish the lot and they'll be blaming something else they haven't even thought of yet.

Any stick to beat the dog they don't like.

AutismNewsBeat said...

Before there was MMR, there was the pertussis vaccine which supposedly caused brain damage.

Joseph said...

Handley uses a classic technique of "shifting the burden of proof." He basically contends that the scientific community must prove a negative: That no vaccines of any kind have ever caused autism.

Reality is that Handley is the one making the extraordinary claim, so the burden of proof is with him. Additionally, anti-vaxers have already put forth two hypotheses now falsified. Simply based on track record, it's very difficult to continue to take them seriously.