Posts Tagged ‘Avian flu’

The Internet, Conspiracies, Science & Assumptions

When you hear something on the Internet it seems easy to say it is a conspiracy theory.  After all, what are the person’s credentials, what are his sources, where is the evidence and what assumptions are being made? This thought process began when I tweeted about the possibility that H1N1 being a man made virus released and marketed as a pandemic. I had used sources that pushed an anti-vaccine agenda, not stating things as a possibility, but as a fact. This was too much for a medically trained researcher who tweeted me back that everything was not a conspiracy. So I found an interview of a medical doctor quoting the ingredients, precautions and contraindications of the  insert of the H1N1 vaccine and doubting it’s safety and efficacy. The trained researcher then asked where are the peer-reviewed studies by virologists in a scholarly journals?  With a bit more research, I found one that asked the same question. So he flat out said that vaccines were safe and cited credentials. Whereupon I found another study, yet to be replicated, that suggested that season flu vaccine might double the chance of getting H1N1. Silence. Later he assured me I would not find more.

Granted, I did start out with a poor source.  Granted, I did not start with a credible studies.  This was not careful science, but I would suggest that the summary dismissal of information from any source is also not science. The bearer of the information is not the information.  The arguments I saw being posed, even if the poser did not see them as just arguments, looked to me as valid questions because I come from a true place of skeptical science.  I don’t care about credentials, nor do true scholarly journals, the information speaks for itself, no matter how poorly stated.  Well designed studies speak for themselves.  So does true investigative journalism.  No conclusions need to be stated. The evidence should be before your eyes.

So often when something is shown on the Internet it may appear to be a Just So story.  However, that does not mean that is.  True science must question everything, including its own assumptions.  The first assumption I questioned in the H1N1 story is how did they know that it was going to be a pandemic?  It was stated that the type of virus suggested it would be.  How did they know that the type of virus was going to act in this way? It had components of other pandemic viruses. How did these components separated vastly in time and space get into one organism?  Good question.  Medical science had no good answers, but under the pandemic assumption they had to fast track the vaccine to market and in many places mandated its administration (to health care workers).  Does this not sound like a scarier prospect than the H1N1 virus itself?

Sources?  Credentials?  Let us consider the medical researcher first.  The training in medicine suggests a high concern for life.  The training in science suggests a high concern for truth. Be that as it may, when faced with what you are told is an impending world-wide crisis, the practice of medicine becomes more of an art, and the practice that it is, and the science has no time to carefully replicate or deeply question its findings.  This would not be the first time that errors have happened in such situations.  So, the question now comes to sources. Well, the validity of my credible sources we will hear more about soon enough, I will let you consider a more conspiratorial one here.  The the source of the rushed vaccine trails was Sanofi-Pasteur and CLS Biotherapies which may not at all be reason for concern. The FDA has approved the trials, again no apparent reason for concern. But then, I think to myself about the HPV Gardisil hype.  Are we going to again scare the people into immunizing millions and mandating some no less, perhaps with thousands of negative reactions, for an illness that lethally afflicts only hundreds of people.  This would be a scandal on its face in the public health world. None of this appears to have happened with this vaccine.  So was it all just another conspiracy theory? Maybe, but still aren’t we looking more at dollar signs here than lives?  Isn’t this the real problem with all aspects of healthcare in the USA?  Are my assumptions here that off base and paranoid? Then someone tweeted me about a Murdoch connection to this and another drug company in the UK. Is your skin crawling yet?

I began looking at the drug approval process used by the FDA.  In general, regulators don’t negotiate budgets with the companies they oversee. However, the FDA, is paid user’s fee in the millions of dollars to fast track drug approvals. This funds half of the critical drug approval process.  I now begin to wonder how much the FDA might have been paid for the fast track of  the vaccine that resulted in the almost 200 million dollars in contracts to provide vaccine to the United States population and how this process must ripple around the world to be effective.

So we have a suspect illness, a suspect regulator, and suspect research with millions of dollars invested by each organization in multiple products.  None of this should be questioned by me, even if some credible sources with real vested interests in science and health question it? Am I to accept the paranoid label from a trained medical researcher that have a vested interest in their education, training, and marketability even if they don’t directly work in the field? I don’t think this is clear thinking to do so, but then I am just another fuzzy headed thinker.  So you can dismiss me and feel no peril.

The issues of relying on the conspiracy sources are real nonetheless. I must fairly note that much of the originally tweeted information has been discredited apparently and is it still oft repeated.  This may have been the point of my original detractor, after all, don’t I keep on pointing out that a source with a history of misinformation is not to be relied upon?  Yet, even when I say it is not to be trusted, I mean it is not to be trusted on its face. There may be a real question in all the noise.  Where is the evidence, I often ask, was the original probe given to me by the detractor. I looked for the evidence based on my assumptions, ignoring the glaring inaccuracies and leaps in the original links.  So much for communication in 140 characters. So much for taking or dismissing  information on face value.

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