Sunday, March 29, 2015

#1330: Jeffry John Aufderheide

There is a substantial number of blogs and websites out there devoted to anti-vaccine promotion; many of them claim otherwise, but it is often easy to gauge from the very name that we are talking some hardcore science denialism. Sane Vax is one such. Their official mission is “to promote Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines and vaccination practices through education and information,” and the underlying premise is accordingly that vaccines of today are largely unsafe (or not sane, which does indeed emphasize the lunacy of the group).

Jeffry John Aufderheide blogs for Sane Vax, and does so by combining utter scientific ignorance with paranoia in a manner that rivals the worst. He also writes for – indeed, was the founder of –, the name of which is equally revealing. His article “WWII Military Handbook Reveals Pesticide Chemicals Used In Infant Vaccines” made its rounds in the expected parts of the Internet, and described Aufderheide’s shock reaction to discovering that some vaccines contain Triton X-100, Tween 20, or Tween 80, which, he discovered in said handbook, were also “used as major components of spraying operations of DDT.” And now, readers, you probably already see what conclusions Aufderheide is going to draw, and also why they reveal such abysmal ignorance of anything remotely resembling anything having to do with science. A sample: “To minimize the above information, you may hear arguments about the chemicals being safe because they are in hand soaps, ice cream, and in our lungs (natural surfactant). For the record, I’ve never seen a mother feeding or injecting a newborn with soap or ice cream. My word of advice to mothers is follow your intuition and ask a lot of questions.” That is some hardcore ignorance going on.

A similar level of crazy can for instance be found in his “History shows polio caused by pesticide exposure, then was eradicated by decline in DDT use.” Yes, it claims that polio was really caused by pesticides, and that doctors have been wrong all along. Do you need to know what his argument is? Oh yes, there’s correlation; that’s enough for Aufderheide, who has apparently never heard of the distinction between correlation and causation. Of course, the correlation doesn’t exist either, which even he might probably have discovered if he’d bothered to look more closely (probably not) – the decline in polio preceded the decline in the use of DDT. But I guess that “close enough” sufficed for Aufderheide.

Diagnosis: Yet another one. I don’t really know how influential Aufderheide actually is, but his articles sometimes get picked up by others, and whatever the amount of influence is, it sure isn’t beneficial.

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