Age of Projectionism

The anti-vaccination quacks at Age of Autism (AoA) decided that instead of addressing individual refutations from the bloggers coming out of the incredibly successful Scienceblogs, that they’d just launch one big ad hominem attack on the entire site. As always, don’t expect them to include any actual science in their rants. They don’t understand it and I’m sure they wish people would stop calling them out on it. So let’s get right into it, shall we.

Jake Crosby pens this 2-part series of blogs, the first of which is titled, ” ‘Science’ Blogs: Seed Media’s Aggressive Weed Part I: Fertilizer From Pharma.” Yup, they waste no time at all before throwing scare quotes around the legitimate science discussed by the many, many actual, accredited scientists at Science Blogs, and applying the ever popular Big Pharma Shill Gambit, aka ad hominem attacks, on all their critics’ characters (also see Scientology). This is also the first of many examples in Crosby’s blog post of the pot calling the kettle black. As far as I can tell, AoA doesn’t have any regular writers who are actual scientists. And on the rare occasion that they re-post the writing of a real scientist, it’s one whose claims have been discredited ages ago. Suffice it to say, beginning with the title, Crosby is not off to a good start.

So he begins by making what I can only think to call a Reverse Ad Populum Fallacy. It’s typical for quacks to fallaciously cite the popularity of their own nonsense as evidence for the validity of their arguments. Crosby does the opposite, trying to point to the incredible popularity of Science Blogs as a reason for the material posted on the site to be dismissed out of hand. Of course, on planet Earth, the popularity or unpopularity of any source is equally irrelevant to the validity of that source’s claims. This is where some of that REAL science comes in. You see, science is a meritocracy, not a popularity contest, whether it be among the mainstream or among a minority subculture. In science, ideas must sink or swim on their own merits. Good ideas backed by evidence are embraced while ideas lacking in sufficient evidence are discarded like used condoms.

Next, Captain Unpopular pulls out the aforementioned Big Pharma Shill Gambit:

To Seed Media Group, “science” is its gimmick, defined by corporate sponsors.

Of course, the supreme irony of the statement is that to the immediate right of it, it is impossible to miss the BIG AD for Our Kids ASD, a major trafficker of herbal supplements. And just above it is an ad for Lee Silsby, another trafficker of alleged (but unsupported) “medications” for treating autism. Both have an obvious investment in promoting the idea that autism is the result of vaccine injury and can be treated chemically as opposed to just behaviorally. And these aren’t just random ads that individual bloggers have no control over, like when I write for Examiner.com and find out that, much to my disgust, Scientology ads have appeared next to my articles. These are the official sponsors of Age of Autism. And as PalMD explains in his response to Crosby, Science Blogs works the same way as Examiner.com. Not like Age of Autism, which has just a few official sponsors with a direct interest in helping AoA promote their propaganda:  SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, National Autism Association, Autism Research Institute, Talk About Curing Autism. Hell, AoA even sells t-shirts!!!!

Next, the he makes a less than subtle knock at the fact that Orac chooses to use the name Orac on his Respectful Insolence blog instead of his real name. This makes Crosby maybe the hundredth critic to harp on this non-issue. Why is it a non-issue? Because Orac’s identity is far from being a well-kept secret. The guy often reuses posts from Respectful Insolence on Science Based Medicine under his real name. This non-issue only comes up with the anti-vaccinationists.

Anyway, where was I?

SMG pretends to be a media outlet that reports science-related topics as pop culture, seeking to reach a wider, trendier audience. On its website, pretentiously obvious promotional statements are made, such as “Science affects every single person on the planet.” And “The pursuit and impact of science is borderless.” Used-car commercials have higher advertising standards. Perhaps the worst of the slogans is displayed right on the homepage of the website: “Science is culture.” Apparently, to Adam Bly, culture is business, especially since the views expressed by the 69 bloggers who post on SMG’s

“Science”Blogs are in the best interest of sponsors.

Right back at you, bud. AoA pretends to be a media outlet that reports science-related topics. On its website, obvious anti-intellectual and pseudo-scientific promotional statements are made to support their myopic worldview, such as calling parents who stand up to evil science as “Warrior Moms” or “Warrior Dads,” and giving out “Galileo Awards” to those who they feel best stuck it to the scientists by promoting AoA’s ideology. To use Crosby’s turn of phrase right back at him, “used-car commercials have higher advertising standards.” Perhaps the worst of the slogans is displayed right on the homepage of the website: “Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic.” Right there in the slogan comes the unsupported claim that autism is an epidemic. Actually, it’s not unsupported. As research shows, this is factually untrue. Apparently, to Jake Crosby, epidemic is business, especially since the views expressed by 100% of the bloggers who post on AoA’s

Unscientific blogs are in the best interest of sponsors.

Whereas there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of Science Blog’s slogans. Science DOES affect every single person on the planet, especially those who use the internet to blast science.

This Lee Silsby shill then goes onto make infantile jabs (no pun intended) at Science Blog’s founder:

Seed Media Group, established in 2005, was born out of SEED Magazine, founded in 2001 by Adam Bly, young Canadian entrepreneur and self-proclaimed prodigy.

I guess the emphasis here is meant to be the “self-proclaimed” part. Classy. I usually only reserve the “self-proclaimed” gambit when discussing self-proclaimed psychics. I think my usage is far more justified.

Bly wants the world to know he served at the age of sixteen as the youngest guest researcher at the National Research Council- a Canadian government body that overseas scientific progress, studying “cell adhesion and cancer.” That, apparently, was his springboard to success.

Why wouldn’t he want to advertise that? Sounds like an impressive resume. I’ve never heard of anyone who writes a bio about themselves that was intended to downplay their accomplishments. But maybe that’s how they roll at Age of Aut–NOPE. I’m also curious as to why Bly’s credentials are relevant, or at least more relevant than the rest of Crosby’s worthless diatribe. It’s not like Bly is supplying the content. As Crosby himself already acknowledged the content is produced by 69 separate science writers. And most, if not all of them are ACTUAL SCIENTISTS. Why should it matter if the site’s founder has proper science credentials or if he’s just a chimp? Who cares? It’s irrelevant and does nothing but beautifully illustrate how low these clowns at AoA will go to attack their critics.

Correction, the following does a far better job at displaying how low these bastards will go:

SEED Magazine before Seed Media Group did not have such a slant. In May 2004, for example, a contributor launched an impressive, critical investigation into the controversy surrounding mercury in vaccines. The article was a thoughtful piece of investigative journalism in which public health officials declined to comment while outside researchers willingly participated. That, however, was five years ago.

It’s called PROGRESS. In 2004, while the anti-vaccinationist claims were already pretty much toast, we didn’t yet have as expansive a library of studies that directly refute every single asinine claim those guys have made. Now we do. By this logic, we should all throw out our telephones because when the invention was first introduced, the NY Times slammed it as an invasion of privacy. Unlike the brainwashed cultists at Age of Autism, the rest of us gain more knowledge as time goes by and change our minds to fit the latest data.

Crosby continues his scare quotes around science, this time in relation to PZ Myers, who is both a working, professional biologist and a science educator at a major university. All the while, again, not addressing any science at all himself. I almost feel sorry for the guy. I think he actually thinks he’s a brilliant scientific mind and that this article is a serious piece of scientific criticism. Poor deluded fool.

I wonder if he thinks the late W.D. Hamilton, arguably the greatest evolutionary biologist since Charles Darwin, was an “anti-vaxer,” for saying he was 95% certain the polio vaccine in Africa caused AIDS.

THERE WE GO! Finally, a classic Argument From Authority. Crosby can’t back up his position so now he’s going to claim that because some other scientist strongly held the belief that vaccines caused AIDS (a claim that he obviously failed to empirically prove ), then that alone makes it a valid position. No Crosby. What’s true is true because it can be empirically shown to be true, not because “super smart” people happen to believe it. This is like when Kirk Cameron joyfully cites that Isaac Newton and all other great pre-Darwin scientists were creationists. Well yeah, because they were pre-Darwin. Isaac Newton also didn’t believe in computers or the internet. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. But I guess I’m not surprised that Crosby parrots HIV denier rhetoric. I’d recommend he read Abbie Smith’s ERV blog but, you know, it’s on that evil Science Blogs!!! Muhahaha!

“Autism’s False Prophets”, written by vaccine millionaire Paul Offit, was at the top of SEED’s list of “THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING BOOK RELEASES” for 2008, which provides a “Buy” link to the book’s profile on Amazon. On SEED’s list, a short review of Offit’s book stated that it is “More than a book about a disease, it is an ode to uncorrupted science and a cautionary tale that data alone is never enough.”

Yup, next it’s another Big Pharma Shill/Vaccines Are Just For Profit Gambits launched at Dr. Paul Offit even though Age of Autism has been corrected many, many times on this one. The information just seems to repeatedly go into one ear and out the other. Even more curious, however, is why Crosby seems to think Science Blogs needs to apologize for its science writers favorably reviewing a science book and for promoting a science book that makes their jobs easier? Again, if this is AoA’s standards of proof when launching serious libelous accusations of fraud and conspiracy, consider me horribly unimpressed.

An “ode to uncorrupted science?” Paul Offit wrote in a paper that a child should be able to handle 10,000 vaccines at once, and called it a “conservative estimate.” He later said to CBS reporter Sharyl Attkinson that the number is probably closer to 100,000.

It’s called a correction. I know you writers at Age of Autism don’t know what that is since you never correct any of your erroneous claims, nor even allow critical comments on your page. But some of us have the courage to actually admit our mistakes and correct them. Either way though, is it really that atrocious an error to have originally said 10,000 vaccinations and then later say it’s closer to 100,000? Either way, it doesn’t bode well for your ideology. And infectious disease doctor Mark Crislip supported that figure.

Then Crosby just launches into an elaborate conspiracy theory, which if he could prove, would result in the trial of the century. But of course he can’t prove any of it. Not one lick. He’s just got RFK Jr’s word for it, which has been shown to be worthless, such as here, here, here, here, here, and here. Again, Crosby doesn’t make any specific scientific claims because, of course, he doesn’t understand the science. He just dismisses all the studies that utterly destroy his faith-based beliefs as Big Pharma cover-ups. It only reveals his ignorance as to how the scientific process works.

I could go on to dissect the rest of Crosby’s douchebaggery but it looks like it’s just more of the Big Pharma Shill Gambit for another 80 paragraphs, so what’s the point. He makes conspiracy claims that he can’t prove so that he can avoid addressing the real science behind how we know what we know. He accuses ScienceBlogs of a conflict of interest, but it is obvious that AofA are the ones with a conflict of interest with their advertisers. All and all, these posts are merely a projection of Crosby’s own bias.

Now let’s looke at Part II Seed Media’s “Science” Blogs: A 180 Degree Shift in Reporting. I don’t plan to spend nearly as much time on this one, since it just builds on the false premises established in the first part,  I wasted way more time on the first part than it deserved, and since Orac, as well as as well as Steve Novella and PalMD, did a superb job of dismantling the first part and second part.

Once again, Crosby sinks himself with the title, and it just goes downhill from there. He’s still using the scare quotes around “science” in Science Blogs, which he’s overusing with the passion of a true fanatic. I think PalMD said it best:

I like scare quotes;  they are great for making subtle points about “experts” like Jake Crosby, the author of the piece.  But this idiot abuses scare quotes so often as to render them meaningless. Look, if your view of reality requires to place everyone else’s ideas in scare quotes, perhaps you are the problem.

Then the other atrocious part of Captain Scare Quotes’ title is the main premise of this whole section, his warped view that science changing its mind based on new evidence is somehow akin to political flip-flopping. No Crosby, as I said before, that’s just progress. And if I can add to my telephone analogy to specifically address Crosby’s 180 Degree Shift in Reporting, if we follow Crosby’s logic to its inevitable conclusion, then the NY Times has also shifted its reporting about telephones 180 degrees since the early days of the telephone, so therefore it must be a conspiracy. I really wish this example could be read as a straw man against Crosby’s argument but no, that’s his actual argument, the main argument of this whole section, that scientists or media can only change their positions on things if it’s a conspiracy.

Oh, and then of course there’s Crosby’s HIV denialism, which he hinted at in part 1 but now fully exposes while ironically trying to argue that not all anti-vaccinationists should be lumped in with pseudo-scientific cranks:

So anyone who shares an opinion even remotely similar to Jenny McCarthy on “Science”Blogs is quickly lumped in with freaks and AIDS deniers (ironic, since AIDS was probably caused by vaccines), despite never mentioning autism and only implicating one adjuvant, not vaccines in general. He would also be on the receiving end of the “anti-vax” gambit.

Yes, and you just refuted your own argument with that silly parentheses. Good job.

Oh, and then he pulls the old Ben Stein Expelled Gambit:

But that is not all. If the person himself posts for “Science”Blogs and voices criticism of a deadly neurotoxin present in vaccines without even mentioning autism, he gets the boot. That is exactly what happened to Bert Ehgartner. According to German “Science”Blogger, Christian Reinboth, the day after Ehgartner’s last post, “Aluminum – Die Evidenz” – “Ehrgartner has been fired from ScienceBlogs already due to the outrage over his aluminum article.”

As I understand it and as Orac explains in his response to this second part, Ehgartner got “the boot,” as you call it, because he was using his status as a blogger for Science Blogs to actively promote misinformation, not because he voiced criticism that went against some party line. Anyone who spends any time on Science Blogs sees legitimate disagreement among fellow Science Bloggers on a semi-regular basis. Case in point, when Orac criticized Atheist Alliance International for honoring Bill Maher with their Richard Dawkins Award, several Science Bloggers such as PZ Myers and Jason Rosenhouse strongly disagreed. They then proceded to have a civil debate about the subject.  Nobody got fired and all parties are still highly respected members of the Science Blog team. Whereas there was considerable outrage over Ehgartner’s article and it threatened to hurt the credibility of the entire site (something you, my dear Crosby have no chance of doing). So you’re just cherry-picking your examples to create the illusion of censorship where none exists. Besides, Ehgartner was given a huge audience at Science Blogs, so it’s not hard to imagine he took a lot of that audience with him to some other blog. It’s hard to censor someone’s voice on the internet.

But let’s answer Crosby’s original question at the top of the second part of his hit piece:   “are there any posts that are actually critical of the drug industry?” And I’ll add AFTER 2004, since according to Captain LiesAlot, they haven’t.

The answer is YES and YES. Those seem pretty frakkin critical of the pharmaceutical companies to me. You’re done Crosby. You’re dishonesty has been exposed. Your anti-scientific agenda has been exposed. Your conflict of interest has been exposed. And you still haven’t once addressed a single scientific fact that disagrees with you because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

All the Science Bloggers linked to above utterly destroy Crosby’s whole secondary argument, the classic Big Pharma Shill Gambit. That’s about it. Crosby’s arguments are toast, his lies transparent and easily proven false. There’s no conflict of interest concerning the ad content on Science Blogs like there is over at Age of Autism. There’s no censoring of material that paints advertisers in a negative light. And the mere fact that at one time back in 2004 Science Blogs published a single article that Crosby feels supports his views, and since then hasn’t, is neither evidence of conspiracy nor a sudden 180 degree shift in viewpoint. It’s merely consistently keeping up with where the science is at the time. This is no less idiotic than insisting historians have taken a radical 180 degree shift because they once recognized East and West Germany as two separate counties and don’t anymore.

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3 comments to Age of Projectionism

  • I have to admit that I enjoy reading science blogs even if I don’t always agree or believe what they are writing there. The majority of these bloggers are only interested to make money and increase the visitor’s number. They don’t care too much if they misslead the persons reading their blogs. As long as the article is interesting, it doesn’t matter anymore if it is true or not.

  • instead of addressing individual refutations from the bloggers coming out of the incredibly successful Scienceblogs, that they’d just launch one big ad hominem attack on the entire site

    …and then along comes Trianz, to do exactly that. Hey, Trianz, thanks ever so for proving Michael’s point.

  • Trianz, as numerous science bloggers have pointed out, they don’t make much money at all off of their blogs. But even if they did, so what? We live in a capitalist society. So why is making money being used as evidence in and of itself of deception, corruption, or conspiracy?

    I also think Jake Crosby should look at Orac’s latest blog, which by Crosby’s logic must mean that Orac is a shill for Suzanne Somers:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/this_must_go_now.php

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