AmyTuteurMD

AmyTuteurMD
Bio
Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Tuteur is a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School.

NOVEMBER 1, 2009 2:16PM

Logical fallacies

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  fallacy

Vaccine rejectionism, like most of “alternative” health finds its adherents among those who know very little immunology, virology or statistics. There’s no solution for that besides education in those disciplines. But there is another aspect to vaccine rejectionism that is easier to address.

Vaccine rejectionism (and other forms of “alternative” health) rests in large part on logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are fairly easy to spot when you know what to look for. And once you know what they are, it is much less likely that you will fall for one.

I’ve taken these from a much larger list of the different types of fallacious arguments.

Ad Hominem: attacking the person instead of his argument

This is the oldest one in the book and comes in very handy when you don’t know much about the subject under discussion. The favorite insult of vaccine rejectionists is a “shill” for Big Pharma or for Medicine. So the first rule of thumb in evaluating any argument of vaccine rejectionists is to the look for the insult. If it’s there, you know that the person using it has already conceded that they have no idea what they are talking about.

Inflation of conflict: Arguing that if some doctors disagree, all doctors know nothing.

Vaccine rejectionists search the newspaper and the web for any doctor that disagrees about any aspect of vaccination and then announce that there is so much “conflict” in the field that no doctor can be trusted.

Burden of proof: Requesting a standard of proof that is impossible and then declaring if the impossible standard for proof is not met, the claim must be false.

Vaccine rejectionists insist that only a randomized, cross over, double blind study is “proof” of vaccine efficacy or safety, although such a study cannot be done because it is unethical. After pointing out the absence of such (unethical) studies, the vaccine rejectionists declares that vaccines must therefore be ineffective and dangerous.

Argument to the future: The claim that we might not have any evidence that vaccines are unsafe, but that evidence might be discovered in the future.

This is a favorite argument among vaccine rejectionists who are familiar with the fact that there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism and copious scientific evidence that they don’t.

Argument from false authority: This is why people believe Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers. If someone is a celebrity, the thinking goes, they must be right.

False cause: Assuming that because one thing followed after another, the first must have caused the second.

Vaccines are in widespread use and the diagnosis of autism has been rising. Therefore vaccines cause of autism. The central defect of this type of argument should be obvious. It’s like saying, “The use of the internet has risen and the diagnosis of autism is rising. Therefore, the internet causes autism.

Argument by generalization: This fallacy is enjoying renewed popularity during the H1N1 outbreak. The vaccine rejectionist declares: “The CDC says we are experiencing an epidemic of H1N1. I know lots of people and not a single acquaintance has H1N1. Therefore the CDC is lying.”

Appeal to complexity: The subject is so complicated that not all answers are know, therefore, my guess is just as good as any scientific theory.

We’ve all seen this one in action. The vaccine rejectionist says, “No one knows what causes autism, therefore my opinion that vaccines cause autism is just as valid as any scientific theory.”

Argument by uninformed opinion: Vaccine rejectionists make no effort to learn about immunology or virology. Nonetheless they are shocked, that their personal opinions about vaccines are not treated with respect.


These are just the highlights of the logical fallacies that are typically invoked to support vaccine rejectionism. It is important to understand that they are, by definition, false. It is also important to be able to identify them. When they are present, they usually indicate that the person asserting the fallacies is wrong.

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Well, by your very definition, we should ignore you.

Ad Hominem: attacking the person instead of his (or her) argument.

That is what your entire last post did. You attacked people - lay people, celebrities (some of which read as idiots, some of which seem somewhat knowledgeable, none of which I would take advice from), readers here on OS who are the ones able to comment on your blog. You claimed authority over us without asking our permission and assumed we are only able to read Google University. Whenever anyone proved different, you duck and run against the "information" and snip from their comments to serve your purpose.

I don't care about you, I care about the fraudulent information you are peddling which is black and white thinking - lack of critical thinking.

No, you have grouped everyone into this fraudulent group of "vaccine rejectionists" which is a joke, too. As I stated in several other posts...this simply isn't what most people are, they are concerned. They want more testing around Thimersol and it's dosage (given so much at one time).

I don't have a problem with you...I don't think your tactics are very integral but it is an opinion, not law.

You are the logical fallacy. You rarely respond to a counter argument or concede someone has a point. It is not as simple as you have made it out to be. Period.
Wow, you managed three fallacies in one comment: ad hominem, appeal to complexity, and argument by uninformed opinion.
Amy, do you have pointers to studies of the effects of ethyl mercury on the brain?
Quack quack quack...... All hail to the White Coat!!

http://thebirdflupandemic.com/archives/dr-leonard-horowitz-rips-apart-abcs-dr-oz-and-exposes-the-truth-behind-the-h1n1-swine-flu-vaccine-fraud
as previously posted:

Ok folks....anyone that wants to learn about immunology can. You can also do it from the very best institution here in the US and maybe the entire world, MIT. I have heard this saying; Harvard is for those would can’t make it at MIT.

http://search.mit.edu/search?__EVENTTARGET=&__EVENTARGUMENT=&site=ocw&client=mit&getfields=*&output=xml_no_dtd&proxystylesheet=http%3A%2F%2Focw.mit.edu%2FOcwWeb%2Fsearch%2Fgoogle-ocw.xsl&proxyreload=1&as_dt=i&oe=utf-8&departmentName=web&courseName=&q=immunology&btnG.x=11&btnG.y=7

This is a link to MIT's Open Course Ware....anyone that wants to can take the same class that students at MIT take. Now, you don't get a fancy piece of paper telling every one your an expert in immunology, but that’s ok, amy doesn't have one either. So now we can all be experts and have lively discussions! Yea!
No, I think it was you, who did: ad hominem, arguments by generalization, appeal to complexity, and argument by uniformed opinion.

However, I've already explained how you did this. You can't even bother to do that. I never attacked you, I attacked your tactics - which are illogical and borderline unethical at this point.

And, again, you do not respond when someone has the audacity to say you are out of your league. I have read many scientific books, talked with numerous professional immunologists of which I do service work with, and many think your blog is misleading.

Again, you are part of the problem, not the solution.
So pointing out that people are wrong is an attack on them? No, it's pointing out that they're wrong.

I don't understand people that enjoy going through life being wrong simply because they can't admit someone else may know or understand something better than them.

I think this is a good list of what can be run into when facts are discarded by some. "You are part of the problem" would be considered under Ad Hominem? or does it deserve it's own bullet point?

Douglas, if you search pubmed.com for "ethyl mercury brain" you'll find the studies done on ethyl mercury and thimerasol. To really understand its effects look for reviews or take a sampling of studies to ensure any results were duplicated and not artefacts from technique.
"This is a link to MIT's Open Course Ware"

So, Wes, don't keep us in suspense. What does it say?

What? You haven't bothered to read it? What are you afraid you might learn?
Oh stop reading her! She's not interested in helping people, only in blog hits. I was intrigued since I teach this so I came over to look but NO MORE. Come on, you know perfectly well she'll never admit she should have "I commit logical fallacies" tattooed on her forehead. Does she ever present well-rounded arguments or admit when she is wrong? Not that I have ever seen. Perhaps it happens where none of us can see it. Now, as you reply to her, she'll spout out And there's that!! and That ONE!! and That ONE!!

Just let it go. Get her off the front page by not coming here.

Just follow me out. I'll hold the door for you.
Don't read her posts. She will fade away as she did earlier this year. Amy, whatever that construct is, loves controversy as it breeds comments, which fuel her.
Live it up! Make youselves look like fools. I don't need to make any effort to discredit you when you do such a thorough job of discrediting yourselves.
Oh Ms Tueter. I liked your blog better when you wrote about a lot of things, not just vaccines and fake medicine. What you have here is half a page from an elementary logic text, not an informative or entertaining piece of writing.

Honestly and respectfully, I expected more from your return to Open Salon than this vaccine foolishness. Of course vaccines work! Small pox and measles used to to kill tons of people, now they don't. As you observe, people who use faith instead of rationality are not easily swayed, and I wish you'd get people riled up about something else.
Amy seeks to rile us up. Don't give in. Just ignore the post.
Thank you, Alicia.

Amy: do you have any additional pointers?
There are two things I'd like to see:

I'd like to see a vaccine rejectionist construct an argument that contains actual information about immunology.

Or, failing that, I'd like to see a vaccine rejectionists construct an argument that doesn't contain logical fallacies.
@odette and black bart
I fail to see how commenting on a blog is ignoring the author. And it's being put on the front page that attracts the reads, not vice versa. I think you have cause and effect reversed. There is a certain symmetry in that, isn't there? Considering the post.
"LaCaptiana:

"and that's the only place they get their ideas from... according to your belief system?"

It has nothing to do with my "belief system." It's a matter of empirical fact."

Hmmmmmm... now you aren't guilty of this at all... are you, Amy???
"Ad Hominem: attacking the person instead of his argument

This is the oldest one in the book and comes in very handy when you don’t know much about the subject under discussion. The favorite insult of vaccine rejectionists is a “shill” for Big Pharma or for Medicine. So the first rule of thumb in evaluating any argument of vaccine rejectionists is to the look for the insult. If it’s there, you know that the person using it has already conceded that they have no idea what they are talking about."

This actually is what I tried to paste in my last post.

So, Amy, are you not guilty of this very thing you accus others of being guilty of? How ironic.
"Burden of proof: Requesting a standard of proof that is impossible and then declaring if the impossible standard for proof is not met, the claim must be false.

Vaccine rejectionists insist that only a randomized, cross over, double blind study is “proof” of vaccine efficacy or safety, although such a study cannot be done because it is unethical. After pointing out the absence of such (unethical) studies, the vaccine rejectionists declares that vaccines must therefore be ineffective and dangerous."

Um... and you and other "alternative" health opponents aren't guilty of this very thing???

What hypocrisy.
I KNOW that meds and vaccines AREN'T the only roads to immunity. Physical bodies DO have the innate ability to build immunity on their own, if given the proper tools to do so (by proper tools, I'm not talking about meds and vaccines, either).
interesting points about logic for scientists and non-scientists alike.
rated.
LaCaptiana:

"I KNOW that meds and vaccines AREN'T the only roads to immunity."

There are no "roads to immunity." Immunity can be acquired in only one way, by being exposed to the virus or bacteria that causes it. That can happen by being exposed to the deadly form of the disease or a weakened form of the virus or bacteria in the vaccine. There is no other way.
Amy said...

"LaCaptiana:

"I KNOW that meds and vaccines AREN'T the only roads to immunity."

There are no "roads to immunity." Immunity can be acquired in only one way, by being exposed to the virus or bacteria that causes it. That can happen by being exposed to the deadly form of the disease or a weakened form of the virus or bacteria in the vaccine. There is no other way."

There are plenty of EXPERTS who would disagree with you.
being exposed to a virus or bacteria NATURALLY and then building immunity to it (if the body is in balance to do so... via nutrition and other elements)... rather than being exposed to a virus or bacteris via constant vaccination and constantly using meds
Pardon me, Amy, but why are you ignoring my request? How can I improve my knowledge base without looking at the data?
I went 4 years without being sick, and I didn't take ANY meds, and the last time I got any kind of vaccination was when I was 11 years old and got a tetanus shot when I cut my leg on a rusty nail. Why didn't I get sick in that 4 years, when I haven't been vaccinated in any way in 10 years, and I don't take meds for anything? Furthermore, my mom may get haves sniffles here and there, but she never gets sick... and she never gets vaccinated and doesn't take meds.

So, if it's so pertinent for everyone to get vaccinated, like you claim it to be, how do you explain THAT? Regular detoxification of the body can do wonders... but I'm sure you think that is quackery.
"(if the body is in balance to do so... via nutrition and other elements"

That's baloney. However, if you feel otherwise, feel free to supply scientific evidence to support your claim.
"Pardon me, Amy, but why are you ignoring my request?"

I'm happy to help when I can, but I think people can start by making an effort to research the question first.
"how do you explain THAT?"

Why do you think that proves anything? You already received protection for the most deadly diseases. Most of the other vaccines are designed to protect the elderly and aren't recommended for you. You are exactly like most adults. Your experience is typical and expected, not unusual.
Um... yeah, so the ONLY way someone can remain healthy is by taking meds and by getting vaccinated?

Aren't you the one who's saying EVERYONE must get vaccinated, because of the risks involved with not getting vaccinated, and anyone who doesn't should be forced to... and it proves nothing that I didn't get sick in 4 years and didn't get vaccinated (even though you claimed I've already been vaccinated... did you NOT read AND comprehend the part where I said I HAVEN'T been vaccinated since I was 11... and the last time before that was when I was itty bitty... also, I have NEVER had any type of flu vaccination? So, if I'm in the norm of not really needing the vaccination, then WHY are you trhashing people who refuse to get it?

You're the one who's tromping around forcing the issue of people NEEDING to be vaccinated and NOT being healthy unless they take meds (your refusal to believe that good nutrition, regular exercise, adequate, sleep, etc, have anything to do with good health).

You're the one who's full of baloney and who is a true quack.
"Most of the other vaccines are designed to protect the elderly and aren't recommended for you. You are exactly like most adults. Your experience is typical and expected, not unusual."

I never said it WAS unusual. You're the one who claims that EVERONE needs to get the flu and swine flu vaccination, but it's completely untrue. Now, you're saying the it's highly recommended only for the elderly... yet you're trying to tell people that they shouldn't be covered by health insurance if they refuse to get vaccinated and end up with the flu/swine flu. If we're not high-risk, and it's only recommended for the elderly, why should insurance ignore those of us who refuse to get the vaccine and end up getting sick at some point?

Your articles and comments always are full of contradictions.
Amy, you state in a comment to another one of your articles...

"amyalternate:

"Let us look back, everyone thought the polio vaccine was perfect,"

No, no immunologist, virologist or pediatrician EVER thought ANY vaccine was perfect. That's yet another lie made up by vaccine rejectionists. All vaccines carry the risk of DEATH and the medical profession has been quite honest about that. That's what make accusations of a cover up particularly ludicrous."

You aren't denying that some people will die from vaccines, and the U.S. government pays people who lose their children from the vaccines. Yet, you claim that vaccines are safe. Your statements are very contradictory.
Another one of your articles, Amy, is titled "Should doctors fire families who refuse to vaccinate?"

So, if you think this and that insurance companies shouldn't cover those who refuse to vaccinate and who do get a form of the flu, then why do you tell me that my situation is in the norm and is not a big deal and proves nothing and say that I'm not in the high-risk group, since I'm not elderly... when you thrash those of us, who may not be in the high-risk group, who refuse to vaccinate and take meds and choose to take care of ourselves by eating as healthily as possibly, by exercising regularly, and doing other things (outside of taking meds and vaccinated) to improve our well-being?

I see... you like to make excuses and twist your words, so that you can make things fit your point of view.
Amy: "I'm happy to help when I can, but I think people can start by making an effort to research the question first."

Um, that's why I'm asking you for pointers; so that I can research the question? The information on wikipedia--aside from being suspect, as it comes from wikipedia--is fairly sparse on this particular topic. You are very outspoken about it, so I was hoping you could point me in the right direction and safe me from some pointless flailing about.
LaCaptiana,

Everything you think you "know" about the immune system and vaccines is flat out false. You need to learn about immunology or you will never understand it.
Amy, why are you skirting around my point of bringing up how contradictory your comments are? Why do you thrash people who oppose vaccination (everyone who opposes it), but then you tell me that it's not a big deal that I went 4 years without getting sick, despite the fact that I DON'T take meds, and I DON'T get vaccinated (as I explained, the least time I was vaccinated was when I was 11... tetanus shot... and before that, the last time had been when I was an itty bitty kid getting ready to start school... nad I've NEVER been vaccinated with any flu vaccination of any kind) and that it doesn't prove anything? Furthermore, you tell my I'm not considered at risk of getting it, because I'm not elderly... yet, you hound people who DON'T and REFUSE to get vaccinated?

I'm asking you why you're making contradictions in your statements. I don't need to understand immunology to get an answer to THAT.

Obviously, something kept me healthy for those 4 years (and I was exposed to people who had the flu... a lot of people)... and it was any vaccine OR any meds.

Why should people like me get vaccinated, if I'm NOT at that much of a risk of getting any type of flu?
I meant to write "and it wasn't any vaccine OR any meds."
yes, balckbart, odetteroulette, you are correct. i should not come here, amy is trolling for web hits, nothing more.

stop reading this column, she doesn't add anything to any topic. she rarely sites her sources, she yells, she is rude, she belongs on fox news. i suppose i started reading this site the same way my husband ends up watching "my super sweet 16", he just can't believe it.

goodbye
Amy, have you abandoned this discussion topic now that you have a new post up? I really would like some pointers.
What a real expert looks like. Dr Russel Blaylock.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq2YVnwEnBw
Any relation to Malcolm?
Sorry; I meant Alfred.
Sorry; I meant Alfred.
Why are we talking about 'vaccines' as if they were an all-or-nothing deal?

There's a fairly educated-appearing ongoing debate on vaccines on mothering.com. Most posters seem to evaluate each vaccine on its own merits.

I am all for mass vaccinations and herd immunity for common, easily communicable, and potentially devastating diseases like DTaP and MMR.

But things like Hep B shots for newborns don't seem to take into account the scientific realities that babies are born without fully functioning immune systems, and that immunities acquired during early childhood vaccination are often weakened or lost by adulthood.
Amy, Sadly this type of post doesn't do much to further your cause. I find that most anti-vaccine types love to use just such logical fallacy terms against people who support science. Suddenly you are arguing over whether or not a comment is "ad hominem" or whatever, and not about the evidence for vaccine efficacy. I think that the best way to defend the scientific method is to admit to some very basic things. All human knowledge is limited, even the scientific view. All human knowledge is provisional, especially the scientific view. All human knowledge is based on consensus, even the scientific view. Science is not perfect. Even very sound theories will have apparent (and sometimes real) exceptions. Most matters of science are decided in decades, not years. Similarly, individual scientists can be corrupt. Big Pharma doesn't always make a good product, or may even be negligent, or in rare cases may engage in a cover up. The anti-vaccine crowd will point to examples of these types of failings as proof that vaccines are bad. Yes, vaccines will harm some people, but they will save so many, many more people. I think the alt medicine industry is fueled on a lot of unreasonable expectations: the expectation of perfect health, the expectation of complete control, the denial of risk, etc. These type of people need to be taught about the real world and the real human condition, and we need to be up front about these things as a step to get them there. Similarly, we can't lean too heavily on logic. It's a tool that they will try to wrest from your hands and turn against you. As we see above. The best way to deal with them is show them the studies, show them the data