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"Thomas Edison has said 'The doctor of the future will give no medicines.' "
November 8, 2009 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Desiree Jennings is a 25-year old marketing manager (and Redskins "Ambassador cheerleader") who claims that in August she received a seasonal flu vaccine at a grocery store that caused a never-before-seen dystonia. While saturating media outlets and drawing the support of celebrity anti-vaccinationists, she shunned the doctors who treated her at Johns Hopkins University who (along with other neurologists who have seen footage of her) judged that she was suffering from a psychogenic disorder.

The premier anti-vaccination/vaccine-autism link-alleging parental advocacy group, Generation Rescue, came to the rescue to deliver Jennings to Dr. Rashid Buttar (twitter), a physician whose license has been threatened by repeated investigations of misconduct including treating cancer patients with IV hydrogen peroxide. But have no fear! Buttar has amazingly "cured" Jennings' permanent brain damage through chelation therapy.
posted by inoculatedcities (103 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a problem here? Psychogenic disease is still genuine disease, and it seems unsurprising to me that a placebo will cure it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want to see just how persistent and bizarre anti-vaxxers can be, watch the invasion of the comments to this post at Respectful Insolence.

And I want to pull out this gem from the "neurologists" link.

But, unknowingly, Dr. Buttar was about to administer what can be considered a significant test of the hypothesis that Jennings’ symptoms are psychogenic. One test we can use to help confirm this diagnosis is to see if the patient’s symptoms can respond to psychological treatments or to medical treatments that should not otherwise be capable of reversing the symptoms. A response that is too quick to be plausible, for example, is one type of response that supports a psychogenic diagnosis. One dramatic example from my own experience was a patient with apparently psychogenic symptoms who believed that he needed a specific IV medication as a treatment. After extensive negative workup, we agreed to give him the treatment, and his symptoms completely resolved even before the medicine had a chance to work its way through the IV tubing and into his arm. ...

However, now Jennings herself, and Dr. Buttar, report that Jennings began to improve while still sitting in the chair and receiving her chelation therapy, and within 36 hours her symptoms were completely gone. First, let me say that I am very happy Ms. Jennings’ symptoms have resolved. Hopefully now she can just go on with her life. But to me, this impossibly rapid recovery is a dramatic confirmation that her symptoms were psychogenic to begin with. It is simply implausible that brain injury from mercury toxicity could be reversed so quickly – especially when you consider that Dr. Buttar had Jennings at death’s door.

posted by maudlin at 4:06 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is there a problem here? Psychogenic disease is still genuine disease, and it seems unsurprising to me that a placebo will cure it.

The problem is using your psychogenic disease in the cause of anti-vaccination, since vaccines treat non-psychogenic disease. The whole make-believe-syndrome-cured-by-placebo is another bullet in the anti-vaxxer's indiscriminate gun.
posted by fatbird at 4:18 PM on November 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


flabdablet: "Is there a problem here? Psychogenic disease is still genuine disease, and it seems unsurprising to me that a placebo will cure it."

Yes. The problem is that this woman has rejected the psychogenic diagnosis of her world-class neurologists and aligned herself with a well-funded, politically-connected, powerful anti-vaccine lobby that promotes the spread of ignorance and conspiratorial fear-mongering at the expense of children and others dying from preventable disease.

Perhaps you do not view that as a problem.
posted by inoculatedcities at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2009 [31 favorites]


If she's 25, wouldn't she have likely developed the condition with one of the many other vaccines she would have gotten over her lifetime? I mean, she would have been younger and smaller, so the mg/kg toxicity of the mercury in Thymerisol would have been worse.

Since the autism rates didn't go down with the removal of mercury from the vaccines, I think the antivaxers are in their twilight phase. They can claim environmental mercury, but taking on this case burns a lot of their credibility. They're no longer concerned doctors. They're now pitching treatments with unscientific testing, and showing off rare cases instead of trends that matter to public health. The sad fact is that even if 1 in 100,000 vaccines did cause this condition, it would still be worth it for all the lives they save.

Also, I know it's an ad hominem, but I can't help but be skeptical whenever somebody with a media job (like the Heenes or this person being an "ambassador cheerleader") gets themselves in a situation that justifies media coverage. I'm not saying she's faking it, but she's probably prime to desire something unusual to happen to her to warrant attention, which could have lead to the psychogenic condition. Further, the fact that she has a media background means that she'd try extra hard to capitalize on it, and be more likely to embellish small details to make the story better (ie claiming her doctors at John Hopkins said it was almost certainly caused by the vaccine and that she was formally diagnosed with dystonia).
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:31 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


In dystonia, muscles contract involuntarily — causing an uncontrollable twisting of the affected body part.

Uncontrollable twisting of my body parts?

Can't say I like the sound of that. No, sir.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:33 PM on November 8, 2009


Desiree Jennings is a 25-year old marketing manager attention whore...

Fixed that for everybody.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:34 PM on November 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


What ever happened to the good old days, when we'd have just blamed witches for this?
posted by rusty at 4:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


and it seems unsurprising to me that a placebo will cure it.

Chelation therapy is a bit stiff for a placebo though, isn't it? I thought I've heard that the side effects can be quite nasty, and it's best reserved for things like real cases of heavy metal toxicity, not this anti-vax bullshit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh here it is in the Quackwatch link:

Proponents also claim that chelation has been demonstrated to be safe. In Bypassing Bypass, Cranton declares that six million chelation treatments have been given safely over the last forty years. In his textbook, however, he warns of the seriousness of the possible side effects and advises that prospective patients be given a complete physical examination and be tested to rule out hypocalcemia, kidney impairment, allergic conditions (sensitivity to components of the EDTA infusion fluids), hypoglycemia, blood-clotting problems, congestive heart failure, liver impairment, and tuberculosis.

Other observers have reported cases of hypocalcemia leading to cardiac arrhythmias and tetany; kidney damage; decreased blood clotting ability with abnormal bleeding; thrombophlebitis and embolism; hypoglycemia and insulin shock; severe vasculitis and autoimmune related hemolytic anemia, dermatitis with pruritus and generalized eczema; and extensive clumping of platelets in the blood of some patients with atherosclerosis and other chronic diseases.


That's small potatoes though, for the child murderers at Generation Rescue.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


What turgid dahlia said. I caught the Inside Edition piece on her while flipping channels with my roommates. She looks silly in that footage, not pitiable. We all burst out laughing immediately. My first reaction: "There is no way that's real." You didn't really need a degree from Johns Hopkins to tell it was BS.

You have to want to be on TV pretty bad to call up Inside Edition and ask them to film you making a fool of yourself. Then again, I guess this is the same impulse that most Reality TV thrives on.
posted by thebergfather at 4:43 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, an anti-vacc thread. Didn't we just do one of these?

It's too bad vaccination showed up so late in human history. If they'd started inoculating people with cowpox pus back in ancient Mesopotamia, it'd have ended up in Leviticus along with anti-parasite proscriptions on pig-eating and we wouldn't be having these problems today.
posted by killdevil at 4:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


[A few comments removed. Please don't immediately dertail threads with side-arguments or too-tired-by-far injokes.]
posted by cortex at 4:47 PM on November 8, 2009


mccarty.tim: "...claiming her doctors at John Hopkins said it was almost certainly caused by the vaccine and that she was formally diagnosed with dystonia)."

As far as we know, her doctors at Johns Hopkins diagnosed it as a psychogenic disorder. It was only after she rejected that diagnosis and decided to turn herself into a pawn of all of these anti-vaccination parental organizations that she was referred to one of their standby crank doctors, Dr. Buttar.

Lentrohamsanin
: "Chelation therapy is a bit stiff for a placebo though, isn't it? I thought I've heard that the side effects can be quite nasty, and it's best reserved for things like real cases of heavy metal toxicity, not this anti-vax bullshit."

Indeed. Like most quack therapies, not only is it ineffective (and the clue here is that they claim it is effective against so goddamn many different, disparate diseases), but it's extremely dangerous. In fact, in the hands of charlatans it kills people.
posted by inoculatedcities at 4:48 PM on November 8, 2009


Thymerisol

Look, I'm not trying to pick on anybody here, but I swear I see that word spelled wrong more often than right. It's THIMEROSAL, not thimerosol, -isol, or -asol, note the A comes second to last right before the L.

Thanks, just needed to get that off my chest.
posted by molybdenumblue at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


@molybdenumblue - funnily enough, as I understand it, thimerosal is a widely-used (mostly in the US) corruption of the original non-systematic chemical name thiomersal, thio- being a prefix used to indicate that a an oxygen atom has been replaced with a sulfur atom.
posted by kcds at 5:17 PM on November 8, 2009


Funny how she's jive-steppin all over the place in that video but subconsciously (and perfectly -- with no tremors) reaches up to brush aside her perfectly done bangs.
posted by Avenger at 5:31 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


When Jenny McCarthy is your resident health expert, you have a major problem.
posted by GilloD at 5:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Just to be clear, do you guys really think she flat out faked these symptoms? That would be really deranged.
posted by meadowlark lime at 5:45 PM on November 8, 2009


She's a marketer - don't put anything past her.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:47 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, I buy the psychogenic explanation.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:48 PM on November 8, 2009


I don't know if she "faked" them or not. It kind of reminds me of when Scott Adams brain decided he couldn't speak anymore. There is one point in this video where she says her tongue is paralyzed and you can obviously see her tongue moving around. Weird.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:53 PM on November 8, 2009


If you want to see just how persistent and bizarre anti-vaxxers can be, watch the invasion of the comments to this post at Respectful Insolence.

Well that sucks. I reposted the Respectful Insolence post on my blog, with video, I'll have you know, and the crazies didn't come after me. I feel a tad put out.

I don't know about you, but when I see a washed up celebrutante orchestrating anything, I change the channel.
posted by jsavimbi at 5:54 PM on November 8, 2009


"I think the antivaxers are in their twilight phase."

IMO the anitvaxers are going to be negatively impacting vaccination efforts for decades because of the simple fact that you can't reason a person out of a belief they didn't reason themselves into in the first place. Cripes somewhere between 5% and 25% of Americans have doubts humans have walked on the moon.
posted by Mitheral at 6:09 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Skip the vaccine if it scares you. It's a Darwin thing.
posted by caddis at 6:10 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


People wouldn't call the police and national media and telling them that their son ran off in their experimental weather balloon, only to reveal the whole thing was just a hoax to get attention, would they? That would be deranged.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hate to say it, but I totally bought it the first time I saw the video of her on whatever special news program it 'twas I peeped it on. I can't imagine for a moment that she could fake all... that.

I really don't know what to think now.
posted by Bageena at 6:15 PM on November 8, 2009


I know it's already been said, but just to be clear: a psychogenic disorder is still a real disorder. The symptoms are not faked. What is not real is that it's caused by the vaccine - it is a disorder originating in the brain with no outside cause.
posted by gaspode at 6:17 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel it is important to point out, however, regardless of the vanity and venality of the good doctor and the convalescing ingenue, that the attribution 'psychogenic' coming from anybody strongly associated with neuroscience, should not be assumed to have any scientific validity. Actually it is more a sneering by life science sciolists who think they have an inside track on physiology and the nature of alleged mind/body interaction. A more informed view would include them in benightedness. Only this time, rather than being reflexively dedicated to the avoidance of a therapy introduced by the originator of the germ theory of disease, the neuroscientists are ensnared in a world of dualism, in which there are such things as mind/body interactions, and new drugs must be tested against the power of suggestion. In this dualist world of 'emergent complexity' the neuroscientists have even conjured up what they call 'biophysics', on the premise that although biology obeys all of the laws of nature, these laws must be supplemented. This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as sodium pumps, ionic electricity, chemiosmosios, and proton motive forces. Electromagnetism is still not part of neuroscience that models the electricity of the nervous impulse in terms of thermodynamics. It's really a laugh to see these neuroscientific witchdoctors smirking about others whose beliefs are just as scientifically valid as their own.
posted by Veridicality at 6:28 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, psychogenic disorders are real. But there are also people who fake them.
posted by Maias at 6:28 PM on November 8, 2009


a psychogenic disorder is still a real disorder. The symptoms are not faked.

It's also a super vague shotgun blast diagnosis with lots of grey area. The sufferer isn't faking per se, but is highly suggestible (either internally or from external suggestion) and probably not very strong willed. I'm no mental health expert, but it really seems to me like this poor woman doesn't have a real driver inside and let this happen to her with no real medical reason.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:30 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


In this dualist world of 'emergent complexity' the neuroscientists have even conjured up what they call 'biophysics', on the premise that although biology obeys all of the laws of nature, these laws must be supplemented. This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as sodium pumps, ionic electricity, chemiosmosios, and proton motive forces. Electromagnetism is still not part of neuroscience that models the electricity of the nervous impulse in terms of thermodynamics.

I am torn between asking you to elaborate on this (mostly for lulz) and being concerned about your mental health.
posted by molybdenumblue at 6:37 PM on November 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Skip the vaccine if it scares you. It's a Darwin thing.

Unfortunately skipping vaccination endangers everyone, including those that have been vaccinated.

Vaccination doesn't give you full immunity, it merely primes your immune system to be ready to deal with the infection when it does come around. If your immune system is compromised or your vaccination reaction is insufficient to cause your immune system to 'remember' the antigens then you can still succumb to the infection. Even if a vaccine is 99% effective, 1 person out of 100 vaccinated people will still be at risk from that disease.

The fact that vaccines are not 100% effective leads to antivaxxers pointing at statistics that show, for example, 8 kids in a state getting measles, 6 of which had been vaccinated - THEREFORE THE VACCINE IS USELESS. They conveniently forget that the vaccinated kids far outnumber the unvaccinated kids (despite their best efforts) and they don't show the relative proportions of vaccinated kids who get the disease vs the proportions of unvaccinated kids who succumb.

The only way to effectively eradicate diseases, as we did with smallpox and are close to doing with polio is to make sure that EVERYBODY gets vaccinated, leaving no reservoir/vector for the pathogens to live and mutate in.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 6:44 PM on November 8, 2009 [25 favorites]


veridicality, I honestly have no idea what you just said.
posted by Think_Long at 6:44 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


He said that neuroscientists are poopyheads when they try to explain things that don't have a clear line of biological evidence, I think.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just listened to Steven Novella on the skeptics guide to the universe podcast talking about this exact case.

He's a doctor of Neuroscience and had this pegged as a psychogenic disorder from the off. I found it interesting that he mentions one of the classic tests for psychogenic paralysis is to hold the patients paralysed arm above their head and let it fall. If the disease is psychogenic their autonomic nervous system will cause the arm to deflect away from their face as it falls stopping them from hitting themselves in the face...

I couldn't get rid of the mental image of a doctor slapping his patients in the face with their own floppy limbs saying: 'Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself'
posted by JustAsItSounds at 6:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


Skip the vaccine if it scares you. It's a Darwin thing.
posted by caddis at 6:10 PM on November 8 [+] [!]


Skipping vaccines for infectious diseases can hurt both you and those around you that are less-resistant or for some reason unable to be vaccinated because it allows the disease to spread more easily.
posted by thedaniel at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as sodium pumps, ionic electricity, chemiosmosios, and proton motive forces.

Sodium pumps are a "naive premise"? Then what's this? Are all those biochemists just pulling a big prank on the rest of us?
posted by teraflop at 6:58 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as sodium pumps, ionic electricity, chemiosmosios, and proton motive forces. Electromagnetism is still not part of neuroscience that models the electricity of the nervous impulse in terms of thermodynamics

Veridicality, from reading your profile, I can understand your beef with neurologists, but their failures to help you doesn't mean that sodium pumps etc. don't exist. Action potentials, cross-membrane ion gradients and the way that electrochemical impulses propogate in nerve cells are pretty well understood and easy to demostrate.

This person has not suffered physical nerve damage, it's a problem in her brain rather than her nerves.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 7:09 PM on November 8, 2009


Well, her brain is nerves, but I know what you mean.
posted by Justinian at 7:31 PM on November 8, 2009


Well faking it or not, psychogenic or not, I am relieved she is better.
posted by bitteroldman at 7:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


An excellent post with an awesome title
posted by Blasdelb at 8:03 PM on November 8, 2009


This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as sodium pumps, ionic electricity, chemiosmosios, and proton motive forces


Hahahaha my (pathologist) husband got his PhD describing a certain type of sodium pump. Pump = ATPase, usually. Moving sodium and potassium in and out of cells. This is not controversial.
posted by gaspode at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh yay, another Veridicality inspired derail. This guy talks weird and has unconventional ideas, but hey, he is published.
posted by idiopath at 8:37 PM on November 8, 2009


In this dualist world of 'emergent complexity' the neuroscientists have even conjured up what they call 'biophysics', on the premise that although biology obeys all of the laws of nature, these laws must be supplemented.
After some careful consideration, I've decided that this is quite possibly the driest bit of humor I've ever encountered. I'm guessing you're a biophysics grad student?
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:46 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ooh, do me next! My PhD thesis is on corticosteroid receptors, are they "naive" and "starkly presented" too?
posted by dnesan at 9:02 PM on November 8, 2009


I'm very sorry, but:

Metafilter: Ooh, do me next!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


In this dualist world of 'emergent complexity' the mechanics have even conjured up what they call 'engineering', on the premise that although automobiles obey all of the laws of nature, these laws must be supplemented. This incredibly naive premise is no more starkly presented than in the idea there are such things as air filters, starter motors, gaskets, and turbochargers. Moore's Law is still not part of car maintenance that models the electrical systems of more recent cars in terms of dashboard UI. It's really a laugh to see these stealership witchdoctors smirking about others whose beliefs are just as scientifically valid as their own.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:12 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


(Veridicality is clearly using one of those Markov-chain-based gobbledygook generators.)
posted by Slothrup at 9:36 PM on November 8, 2009


Alright, folks, so here's more to the story. Burhanistan has it right. Yes, the idea of sodium pumps and chemiosmosis, the Hodgkin-Huxley model of the nerve impulse, the very mathematical foundations of what is euphemistically called 'biophysics' (the Nernst equation), is all an incredible bit of dualist sophistry whose obscure beginnings can be traced at least to BERNSTEIN'S HYPOTHESIS in 1902 about the physics behind a cell membrane voltage. The narrative is long and involves an understanding not just of the history and philosophy of science, but of the sociology of the life sciences. For the currently accepted ion channel model of the nerve impulse, with its confabulation of 'voltage gating', is based upon a transmogrification of the subject matter of the Nernst equation that, by its own author, was described as not about electromagnetism, but was instead about thermodynamics. The perpetuation of this arrogation by electrophysiologists, long after the quantum revolution explained the difference between AC and DC in terms of electron flow, and between ionic and covalent bonds in terms of chemical energy, was a matter of socioeconomic pressures, and could not possibly have been the result of any scientific principle. The standard model conflicts with physics. This is why neuroscience is such a clinical joke. These clowns believe they understand the electricity of nervous signaling, and revel in the metaphor of a battery, but examination of their proclamations about either suggests they do not understand either - neither electricity nor batteries.

A quick example. Measuring techniques. A neuron is thought of like a battery. When its voltage is measured, the ground is placed externally, as it would be for a primary battery. The recorded voltage is negative. IF THE NEURON IS A PRIMARY BATTERY, THE MEASURING ELECTRODES ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE. The voltage is NEVER negative. Furthermore, when the battery discharges or becomes 'excitable' (in the lingo of neuroscientists), the voltage changes sign. THE VOLTAGE OF A PRIMARY CELL NEVER CHANGES SIGN WHEN THE BATTERY DISCHARGES. What's going on here? Sounds to me like the neuron is a SECONDARY cell. What is that? No biologist can tell you. That is why neuroscience is hogwash and clinically penurious. It cannot simulate the nerve impulse, and so cannot restore muscle using electrical stimulation, an otherwise easy task using electrochemistry.

No ask yourself, how many people do you thing there are whose paralysis is due not to irreversible nerve damage, but to advanced atrophy during the acute phase that is reversible? And though this is only an hypothesis, do you think neuroscientists give one fucking scintilla of care about re-examining the foundations of their science? And why not? Becuase of social pressures, Nobel awards, tenure track - not for any scientific principle.
posted by Veridicality at 9:37 PM on November 8, 2009


as I understand it, thimerosal is a widely-used (mostly in the US) corruption of the original non-systematic chemical name thiomersal,

Thimerosal, as I understand it, is Eli Lilly's brand name for thiomersal (succeeding merthiolate). No need to be snooty.
posted by dhartung at 9:38 PM on November 8, 2009


Sciolists? Penurious? Transmogrification? If you're actually trying to communicate something to us try not writing like a pretentious clown.
posted by Khalad at 9:48 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Guh. Last week, one of my coworkers baited me into an argument with an oblique reference to this case (which I hadn't heard about because I don't watch Inside Edition or the Today Show, apparently...). It started off with "I can't believe people let their kids get the Swine Flu vaccine", veered towards this woman (who didn't get the swine flu vaccine, I now see), and came to a halt when I demanded she produce some credible sources backing up this vague "ohmigosh, vaccines are SO dangerous" panic she was in. She couldn't come up with anything other than vague, adirectional outrage. I only snapped at her when she brought up thimerosal (and pointed her to those Wired articles, for a good start).

We are both grad students, TA-ing freshman writing classes. We demand that our students use credible sources if they want to pass our classes. It makes me so. Fucking. Mad. when my colleagues can't even do that themselves!
posted by Tesseractive at 9:57 PM on November 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Are those breasts augmentations?
posted by fuq at 9:57 PM on November 8, 2009


To be clear, when I said the anti-vax movement was in the twilight phase, I meant that they lost their key piece of evidence, the autism epidemic. If this was a group of scientists, they would be dropping the idea of mercury poisoning (and thus chelation as well), and maybe proposing new hypothesis on the cause of autism. I had heard for a while they were considering the MMR vaccine itself to be a cause, but the fact that they're going after a seasonal flu shot says to me that they're no longer in touch with reality, and probably never were.

Granted, the public doesn't seem to get excited for rigor in science. Seems to me what gets the ratings is people claiming they have science or have reason to doubt the "scientific dogma" and then use it to go after a bully. Climate deniers use it against big government, and the anti-vaxers use it against pharmaceutical companies. It gets people excited, as they have trouble trusting those institutions even without accusations going around. It's yet another example of why science and politics don't mix, especially when lives are at stake.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:57 PM on November 8, 2009


Khalad, I like to call that the Shift+F7 disease. Too many synonyms, too little substance.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:58 PM on November 8, 2009


The only way to effectively eradicate diseases, as we did with smallpox and are close to doing with polio is to make sure that EVERYBODY gets vaccinated, leaving no reservoir/vector for the pathogens to live and mutate in.

That would certainly be sufficient, but it's not normally necessary. Once herd immunity is high enough (which only requires that the anti-vaccination liars remain a small minority, albeit a noisy and irritating one) then diseases can't really propagate effectively.

The exception is when you get a concentrated knot of the unclean vaccination-refusing folks in regular contact with each other. That's when you get pools of persistent disease. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done about this. Thinking about it always reminds me of the wonderful line from Kenny: "There's a smell in here that will outlast religion."

I can tell you from years of bitter personal experience that it really doesn't pay to try to convince a committed anti-vaxer that his ideas are wrong-headed. For some people, alt-med works exactly like a cult. All the anti-vaxer needs to do is decide that you have a "closed mind" and they can justify completely discounting anything you say; and all it takes to trigger such a decision is for you to disagree with one (just one) of their unsupportable conspiracy beliefs. It's a completely losing game.

What can and should be done is to speak clearly and forthrightly in favour of mass vaccination using a clear, reasoned and non-angry conversational style whenever you're dealing with a nervous new parent (and what new parent isn't nervous?) Talk about risk/benefit analysis using analogies that people can understand (would you go out and buy a car without airbags just because an airbag might break your child's nose in a crash?). Bagging the anti-vaxers is best avoided - after all, attention is what these idiots want.
posted by flabdablet at 10:08 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those who think of themselves as hip because they know about ATPase and the assortment of hypothesized entities responsible for its functioning, are obviously not up on the latest research, especially that dealing with the clockwise and counterclockwise rotation of the ATPsynthase rotor complex. Nor are they aware that the equivalence that Peter Mitchell said characterized pH gradients and electrical potentials was debunked during the 1980s by research that found the two were exponentially related, and not equvalent.

That this information remains a paradox (in the case of the direction of rotation of the F1 rotor in the ATAsynthase complex, and why it changes 180 with ATP synthesis and hydroysis), or is just totally ignored (as in the case of the non equivalence of pH gradients and electrochemical voltages), is a result of the cult-like organization of academic biology. This type of organization is especially reprehensible in the case of neuroscience where its practitioners, out of one side of their mouths, declare their concern with helping people with nervous disorders in general, and with debilitation following traumatic nervous injury in particular (think stroke and concussion); while out of the other side of their mouths they do nothing but disparage those who point out their model of the bioelectricity of nervous signaling is in conflict with physics.

Here on Metafilter we see those who want to defend the status quo, as if it had the moral and scientific high ground. In point of fact the status quo has neither. Yet I have not encountered any defender of the standard position who betrayed anything more than the standard textbook familiarity with the issues that are relevant. And that is why what I have been saying is so mysterioso. Remember, the neuroscientific world started in the 17th century with Descartes, and has a very long history, one whose deviation from the physical sciences was never bridged. The difference between the two was congealed at the start of the 20th century with Bernstein's arrogation of Nernst. It was exacerbated by Cole, Katz, Young, Hodgkin, Eccles and Huxley during the 40s and 50s; and given the seal of approval by the Nobel Prixe Committee in '63 and '78. These awards are part of the tradition of neuroscience despite that, in the '80s the foundations for the '78 award were overruled by the new data; and in the 90s Eccles said the model that got the award in '63, the Hodgkin-Huxley ionic channel model of the nerve impulse, WAS WRONG. But you won't hear that from anybody here. They just swallow the textbook, and make the grade as they vomit it onto the paper.
posted by Veridicality at 10:12 PM on November 8, 2009


UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS.
posted by Justinian at 10:37 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]



Just to be clear, do you guys really think she flat out faked these symptoms?


This woman's performance is an incredible, bald-faced insult to the intelligence. That said, I recognize that the line between conscious fakery and "psychogenic symptoms" can be blurred by a person's limitless capacity for self-delusion.
posted by anazgnos at 10:41 PM on November 8, 2009



Uncontrollable twisting of my body parts?

Can't say I like the sound of that. No, sir.


My only regret is that I have bone-itis.
posted by anazgnos at 10:55 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I just want to say that I was here on Metafilter tonight, when Veridicality is awarded his Nobel Prize in Bullshit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 PM on November 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


You forgot the batshitinsane tag. No, not the OP. You, over there.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 11:33 PM on November 8, 2009


But you won't hear that from anybody here. They just swallow the textbook, and make the grade as they vomit it onto the paper.

To criticize you must first understand. One cannot simply posit that gravity is only an invention of ivory tower eggheads in some zombified groupthink and then immediately jump from the roof of a tall building. At least if one wishes to live long enough to convince a few followers to continue to fight the good fight.
posted by Talez at 11:42 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am not a rabid anti-vaccer or whatever, my kids are getting their shots and all. But it was a hard choice. My nephew went into a seizure the day after he got his shots and is not talking at age 4. My dad got a week in bed after taking a military 'flu' shot, although who knows what was in that.

So I have a bit of compassion for parents making hard choices about dangers to their children.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:45 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is it that Anti-vaccers, 9/11 truthers, HIV/AIDS denialists, and Hormone-Replacement-Therapy gurus all seem to speak in the exact same voice?
posted by anazgnos at 11:48 PM on November 8, 2009


If I was a nefarious and shadowy government power, I would so completely choose to use vaccines to do something nefarious and shadowy to my population right about now... because the wall of crazy noise already out there guarantees that nobody would ever believe such a plot anyway.

It's like if I had somehow stolen $500 million in the weeks after 9/11... the best way to make sure I am scot-free forever would probably be to document everything I did in a truther blog.

(Hm. Excuse me, I have a screenplay to work on.)
posted by rokusan at 1:15 AM on November 9, 2009


One cannot simply posit that gravity is only an invention of ivory tower eggheads in some zombified groupthink and then immediately jump from the roof of a tall building

At least not until getting a book deal and a featured spot on Fox News.
posted by rokusan at 1:16 AM on November 9, 2009


Khalad, buy a dictionary, or stick with twitter.

Speaking as a professional editor, "however, regardless of the vanity and venality of the good doctor and the convalescing ingenue" would not make it past my desk. Vocabulary should be used for the sake of communication, not for the sake of pretense—especially if you want people to take you seriously. Might I recommend:

"Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly" [PDF]

And what was that about non-native speakers, exactly?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I found it interesting that he mentions one of the classic tests for psychogenic paralysis is to hold the patients paralysed arm above their head and let it fall. If the disease is psychogenic their autonomic nervous system will cause the arm to deflect away from their face as it falls stopping them from hitting themselves in the face...

This is also a great way to test if someone's faking unconciousness or paralysis. Paramedics use it a lot, and I tried it for the first time on a guy who was faking a coma to get out of prison - worked like a charm!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 2:46 AM on November 9, 2009


I feel it is important to point out, however, regardless of the vanity and venality of the good doctor and the convalescing ingenue, that the attribution 'psychogenic' coming from anybody strongly associated with neuroscience, should not be assumed to have any scientific validity. Actually it is more a sneering by life science sciolists who think they have an inside track on physiology and the nature of alleged mind/body interaction.

What's that comma between "neuroscience" and "should" for?
posted by rokusan at 3:16 AM on November 9, 2009


Thanks to ordinary childhood measles at age five, my grandfather is blind. While wearing his incredibly thick glasses, he can see just about well enough to read a large-print book in bright light if he holds it about a foot away from his face. He has never been able to drive. When he was a kid he wasn't able ride a bike or play sports (and he absolutely loves baseball). He's had a very bitter, unhappy life, and this has affected me and the rest of our family in countless ways. His sister, my aunt, contracted polio around the same time, and died at age nine. If either of them had been born just a few years later, well, things might be much different.

I fucking hate anti-vaxers. If they posess the intelligence to read and parse the scientific evidence in favor of vaccination, and they still choose to spew their garbage, they are choosing to selfishly and deliberately put others at risk, either by refusing to vaccinate their own children, or by trying to convince others not to vaccinate. I wish that just for one day they could maybe see what it feels like for their child to suffer needlessly from a preventable disease, knowing there was no one or nothing to blame but their own willfull, spiteful ignorance.
posted by Wroksie at 3:31 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Sciolists, eh? Sounds like a pot/kettle kinda situation, judging from your writing, my friend.
posted by miss tea at 3:36 AM on November 9, 2009


Metafilter: An invention of ivory tower eggheads in some zombified groupthink
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


And though this is only an hypothesis, do you think neuroscientists give one fucking scintilla of care about re-examining the foundations of their science? And why not? Becuase of social pressures, Nobel awards, tenure track - not for any scientific principle.

And this? If scientists' primary concerns were about winning Nobel awards etc. they would be all over that shit of proving their field wrong. That's how you win Nobel prizes. I think that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what drives the majority of scientists.
posted by gaspode at 6:14 AM on November 9, 2009


veridicality is now my favourite troll. Just walk over the bridge folks, don't engage.
posted by boubelium at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Up until this thread, I would have sworn to you that "transmogrification" was a made-up word.

Now I know that Watterson was just being funnier than even I gave him credit for, and I gave him a lot of credit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:49 AM on November 9, 2009


You are all being misled in the most horrible ways. Even a brain-damaged five year old could tell you that the core problem is that calcium does not exist, and that you're all too stupid to realize how you're being manipulated.

Calcium is just a code-word for the Time Zero version of hyperplexaloid, which even the most thoroughly dead rabbit knows is the secret drug from Planet X, brought to Earth by the Gnomes of Zurich in a complex scheme intended to strike at the reptiloids that live inside the hollow core of our planet.

Every single scientist who's ever contemplated the existence of calcium has, by virtue of reality-distorting superweapons mounted beneath Lake Lucerne, become instantly mind-controlled by the Gnomes of Zurich. These zombie researchers now do the horrible bidding of their dark pseudo-Swiss masters, working to bring hyperplexaloid out of Time Zero and into Time One, whereupon we will all be forcibly injected and turned into amped up Soviet Rage-o-holics to be set loose upon the harmless pastoral reptiloids.

The entire vaccination scheme is just a test run to examine various ways to deliver the hyperplexaloid toxin into our precious bodily fluids.

You know those calcium pills sometimes taken by you ladies? Once the Large Hadron Collider successfully brings Time Zero into alignment with Time One, the so-called calcium you've ingested will instantly turn you into Soviet wrestlers with arms as big as freeway offramps, and hearts as black as coal.

I am aware of this nefarious plot because I am more intelligent than all of you put together, and I can resist the vile Gnome mind-weapons because of my superior intellect. The fact that I am wearing a reptiloid necklace has nothing to do with my opinions on this matter.

Free yourselves from the calcium plague! Resist Time Zero!
posted by aramaic at 7:04 AM on November 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


My education is in physics, and as such, I used to be bombarded with physics cranks. They would send e-mails, letters and books, they would host web pages and write in internet forums. I'd hear about how physicists were wrong and everything was ether, I heard from a guy who "discovered" a new number and wanted to use this discovery to publicize his poetry. Quantum mechanics was wrong, relativity was wrong, hell, calculus was wrong. Gravity was caused by the cosmic microwave background, magnetism was the only force, love was the only force, you name it. Only hubris, stupidity, a conspiracy, the ivory tower, and jealousy could explain physicists' stubborn persistence in their completely disproved and frankly illogical theories.

Since switching to neuroscience, I've often complained to my new colleagues about the lack of imaginative and effective cranking. Really, the best neuroscience cranks are physicists like Penrose. So I can say, the feeling I got from this thread was as nostalgic as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. Crank on my friend, and don't listen to those people complaining about your bombastic word choices: you'd just get boring. Instead allow me to suggest all caps, the blink tag, and if it ever becomes possible, colored fonts.
posted by Humanzee at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


For what its worth, in the Sunday writing class I teach, the 7th graders were talking about some cheerleader who was paralized from getting vaccinated. That was the first I heard about this story so I couldn't properly respond. Frankly this is worrysome, because if anti-vacc propaganda filters down to the level of teenagers, the consequences could last for decades.
posted by happyroach at 7:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard from a guy who "discovered" a new number and wanted to use this discovery to publicize his poetry.

I hope he was successful, because that's poetry right there.
posted by rokusan at 7:38 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I keep expecting Veridicality to break out "I know more about this than you could possibly imagine." Hasn't happened yet, but I'm waiting, with popcorn. Arrogated popcorn.

I'm enjoying his posts so much if only for the throwback words giving me flashbacks to SATs and GREs. Confabulation! Venality! Sophistry! Sciolist (I actually had to look that one up, I thought it was a typo at first!)!
posted by This Guy at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


dhartung: (molybdenumblue said) as I understand it, thimerosal is a widely-used (mostly in the US) corruption of the original non-systematic chemical name thiomersal,

Thimerosal, as I understand it, is Eli Lilly's brand name for thiomersal (succeeding merthiolate). No need to be snooty.


I was going to say what Moly said... Thanks for clarifying, dhartung, however...

I think the irony is that moly wasn't the one who snarked first... ;) (end derail!)

Now, that said, I think this is fucked up. When I saw this I was like "aww shit, more antivaxxers will be all over this, even though statistically it's highly unlikely..." I don't think calling her an attention whore is appropriate.
posted by symbioid at 9:03 AM on November 9, 2009


I thought the reason we were supposed to be careful around calcium was the potential for the Helvetica Scenario to occur? Granted, due to the intelligent nature of calcium, I could see it causing serious causality errors in the event the calcium nucleus is liberated from the electrons and allowed to oscillate through quantum states. As it would be observing itself and free of time, it could seriously conspire against humanity.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Umm on her web page, the tab labelled "the cause" fails to actually identify how the vaccine made her sick. Wouldn't that be the point?
posted by cbecker333 at 9:20 AM on November 9, 2009


I thought the reason we were supposed to be careful around calcium was the potential for the Helvetica Scenario to occur?

Yes, but remember, without calcium, man would be unable to process foods...and would starve.

[ominous shot of gravestone]
posted by anazgnos at 9:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish that just for one day they could maybe see what it feels like for their child to suffer needlessly from a preventable disease, knowing there was no one or nothing to blame but their own willfull, spiteful ignorance.

That's sorta harsh. Do you think the anti-vaxxers are hoping your baby gets Guillain-Barre after her first HIB shot?

I'm with psycho-alchemy. I have vaccinated my children as well (for everything except Hep, which seemed unnecessary to me), but to not be concerned at all about the ingredients of vaccines and their side effects seems just as crazy as being reflexively anti-vaccine.

To be clear, when I said the anti-vax movement was in the twilight phase, I meant that they lost their key piece of evidence, the autism epidemic. If this was a group of scientists, they would be dropping the idea of mercury poisoning (and thus chelation as well), and maybe proposing new hypothesis on the cause of autism.

What about aluminum?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2009


Make Your Own Academic Sentence
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:42 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


In this dualist world of 'emergent complexity' the neuroscientists have even conjured up what they call 'biophysics', on the premise that although biology obeys all of the laws of nature, these laws must be supplemented.

That's a bit of a physics-centric view, however, and is hardly unique. To many physicists, all science is physics at its essence (correct or not).
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2009


Wired recently had a good article about Paul Offit and and the anti-vaccine movement: An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All
posted by homunculus at 1:24 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Sciolist describes Verdicality quite well. And really having a thesaurus nearby is of great importance to sound intelligent (at least that's what I thought when I was cranking out papers in college and wanted to sound more intelligent). I loved it, I looked up five or six words today thanks to V. I can say I am now a bit smarter today than I was before I opened this thread. YAY.
posted by WilliamMD at 3:17 PM on November 9, 2009


Hi everybody! I'm back. And I won't use any big words. Some here are challenged. And words not in ordinary use, although they may convey information, must be avoided. Otherwise there will be a din from the rabble. Keep it simple, stupids.

One thing not taught to new neuroscientists is the conflict in their field after the '63 award of the Nobel to the authors of the Hodgkin-Huxley Model of the Nerve Impulse (Hodgkin, Huxley, and Eccles). Are you with me so far? The conflict was about the relevance of the Nernst Equation to the model of electrical functioning awarded. The conflict mostly was about the alleged equivalence of pH gradients and measurable electrical potentials. It was about how this equivalence had not yet been tested. A key methodological error cast into doubt the conclusiveness of the proof of the awarded model. There was some disagreement in the neurophysiology field as to whether the model was valid. There was grumbling that the fairy's wand from Stockholm was premature.

The thing said proved was that ATP synthesis could be driven by a pH gradient without any help from an electrical potential. The methodological error was that an electrical potential was used to establish the gradient, on the basis of there being equivalence. Those doing the proof believed if the electrical potential came from another source than nutrients in a culture substrate, this eliminated the possibility of oxidative phosphorylation. Phophorylation would be, could be triggered, it was claimed, entirely by a pH gradient carefully adjusted by using a battery. This is proof of Mitchell's chemiosmosis. The battery provided the same thing the nutrients in a substrate would have provided. This meant the efficacy of pH gradients in place of oxidative phosphorylation was not demonstrated. Mitchell received a Nobe for this in '78. That is why Mitchell's model is now so widely accepted that few can imagine how it could be otherwise. It is taught today as dogma by neuroscientists who sneer and impute 'psychogenic' to the symptoms some claim are related to vaccines.

The said thing was that during the 1980s, and even in this century, papers have been published reporting that the data show there is no equivalence. In 1993 Eccles even said the model given the Nobel in '63 was wrong. It is still taught today, and is part of the foundation upon which the sneering neuroscientists chant, thumb their noses and wield their reflex hammers. They and their defenders here on this thread have no idea of any of this. They are comfortable with their stations. They are incapable of conceiving that the ground upon which they walk, and from which they impugn others, has no basis in science.
posted by Veridicality at 6:10 PM on November 9, 2009


I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by Avenger at 8:02 PM on November 9, 2009


Skip the vaccine if it scares you. It's a Darwin thing.

Unfortunately skipping vaccination endangers everyone . . .

See also: Herd immunity
posted by IvoShandor at 9:56 PM on November 9, 2009


Veridicality-

It sounds like you're upset about an aspect of scientific theory that's wholly unrelated to the vaccine debate—and as such, have stepped in to say that scientists who criticize Rashid Buttar shouldn't be trusted. ATP synthesis and pH gradients aside (since they are, in fact, not even tangential to the issue at hand), you're basically supporting the enemy of your enemy, here.

Just because the people you disagree with dislike Buttar, it doesn't mean that Buttar gets carte blanche to run around injecting patients with chelating agents and urine, without anyone complaining about it.

Or are the vaccine debate and Buttar's practice totally beside your point of "boo, neuroscience!"?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:51 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll leave it at that. No more troll feeding. Promise.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:06 PM on November 9, 2009


TLDR version of Veridicality posts:

CREATION IS CUBIC, but
you are educated singularity
stupid by academic bastards.
Greenwich 1 day time is evil.
Can you explain the 4 days
rather than the 1 day taught?
If not, you are truely stupid.
To ignore the 4 days, is evil.

posted by mek at 11:25 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll leave it at that. No more troll feeding. Promise.

evidenceofabsence,

No, that was a nifty response you made, not just "feeding"...

(Still confused about what makes a troll, though. I have Veridicality pegged as singular in his views, not just an agitator.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:07 AM on November 10, 2009


V, I love you like a newlywed, but your implication that others who have commented on your rather flowery style are stupider than you are comes across as fairly arrogant. If that's the impression you want to make, fine; but if your primary interest is to encourage others to inquire further into those topics that interest you, you might want to dial the assumed superiority down a notch or two.
posted by flabdablet at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I say that, by the way, as one whose own habit of assumed superiority has taken many years to get under any semblance of control.
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2009


It's pretty clear that Veridicality wasn't being a troll, more just being obtuse. Others here were actually trolling instead of responding.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:19 AM on November 12, 2009


I think the better term for the behavior is flame-bait. He has some kind of point and seems to sincerely believe it. On the other hand it is at best tangentially related to the topic at hand, and deliberately stated in such a way as to provoke loud disagreement. He wants an argument about his pet topic, and we are foolish enough to give it to him.
posted by idiopath at 7:49 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those that are interested, a bizarre update from Jennings here.
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:59 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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