Celia Farber is using her facebook page to promote a platform that “anecdotal evidence” is just as worthy and valid as rigorous, peer reviewed scientific research. Unfortunately her attempt actually proves why anecdotal evidence is often unreliable. Ms. Farber accomplishes this by letting her emotions and bitter distrust of authority override the logic of her argument.
Something’s not quite right with people who are totally rejecting of “anecdotal” evidence.
It smacks of such inferiority, when you say it like that, “anecdotal evidence.” It really sounds like the lesser form of evidence. Tinged with shame.
But in my work as an investigative journalist I have never found real people to be lying about what happened to them. How exactly can truth and history progress, if not through the lives and voices of people, the afflicted, the witnesses?
Those who want to boil it off and go straight to the “scientific literature,” surely you understand this is your anxiety about the truth and not a problem with the truth itself?
Truth emerges from people and voices.
You start there.
By the time the story appears in the “scientific literature” the truth is no longer raw or moving. So you have to merge these two, always (anecdote and literature.) But in a world of bought “science” and Lysenkoist “media,” no study can be quoted without first examining the soil of the study, that is to say, who and what funded it, and what were the impediments to it being purely “scientific?”
Do people realize that pharmaceutical companies exert such financial power that they not only own the doctors writing the papers, they may literally have hired the writers, as ghost writers, then paid doctors just to put their names to it, and in many cases, own or are buying the very publishing company that publishes these journals, as well as the “media” reporting on them, and even (now) the schools producing the new generations of “science journalists,” who understand, unlike previous generations, what the heinous term “responsible journalism” means.
(Accurate and inaccurate are the only valid terms for journalism. You’re not in charge of social life or mass behavior.)
Here Ms. Farber is really making two distinct, separate arguments. The top half of her comment is saying that people and families actually affected by trauma/vaccine injury/disease, “the afflicted, the witnesses”, deserve to be heard. That is a noble and true sentiment on the surface. Unfortunately Ms. Farber conflates this sentiment with her obvious distrust of science and authority thereby stripping her argument of credibility and revealing the truth behind her frustration in the bottom half of the comment.
The bottom half of Ms. Farber’s comment is just hysterical conspiracy theory. For her conspiracy theory to be reality would require not only Big Pharma to be omniscient and all powerful but it would also require the vast majority of scientists and doctors to be abhorrent, repellant human beings with no soul. According to Ms. Farber, these disgusting attributes would also be part and parcel of every reporter, journalist and publisher. Casting such a wide net of heinous aspersions means that this part of her argument can be dismissed as the tantrum of a bitter ex-journalist who ruined her own career and never attempted to reclaim it.
However, the top part of her comment is intriguing and worthy of discussion: Are anecdotal evidence and scientific literature equal?
I believe anecdotal evidence is often unreliable for several reasons. Most importantly correlation does not equal causation. When something bad happens in life we have a basic need to make sense of it and assign blame. When we are feeling emotional from the trauma of losing a loved one we try to rationalize it and reach for whatever makes sense to us and makes us feel better about the situation. But the reason we chose, the one that seems the most obvious, is not necessarily correct.
A great way to really delve into anecdotes versus science we need only look to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). This is a passive surveillance reporting system which means anyone can make a report and there is no one to vet the claim. I’ll let Moms Who Vax explain it:
VAERS is the place where doctors, patients, and really anyone else can report what they suspect to be side effect of a vaccination. The CDC and the FDA co-sponsor this data base, and they use it to monitor possible vaccine side effects. When certain patterns or clusters of similar reports appear, public health officials investigate these events and make appropriate recommendations. For example, in 1999, VAERS caught a higher than expected incidence of intussusception—a bowel disorder—following adminstration of RotaShield, a rotovirus vaccine. Epidemiological studies confirmed the heightened risk of this side effect, and the vaccine was pulled from the market.
(Please make note of that, anti-vaxxers. The U.S. Government actually pulled a money making vaccine from the market because it caused harm.)
Just from that description you might be able to see how this system could be misused. And I do not mean intentionally misused (although that may happen occasionally.) I do not believe that most people intentionally give false information. I have to agree with Ms. Farber when she wrote:
But in my work as an investigative journalist I have never found real people to be lying about what happened to them.
And that is why science is so important. Science strives to be impartial. Science is not about emotion. The purpose of science is to get to the facts devoid of emotion or any preconceived ideas. That is where Ms. Farber’s comparison falls apart. Ms. Farber is again correct when she writes:
By the time the story appears in the “scientific literature” the truth is no longer raw or moving.
The scientific literature is not like biographies or fiction; it is not meant to be “raw or moving”.
Here are some examples from the VAERS showing the anecdotal evidence reported and the subsequent results of the scientific investigation. Here is one from Moms Who Vax taken word for word from VAERS:
“Information has been received from a nurse practitioner concerning a patient’s nephew, a 17-year-old male consumer who she “thought” was vaccinated with a dose of GARDASIL (lot number not provided) in November 2010. The nurse practitioner stated that two weeks after the patient received the dose of GARDASIL, approximately November 2010 (also reported as “two weeks ago” on approximately 01-APR-2011), the patient died of sudden cardiac death on the lacrosse field. Unspecified medical treatment was given. It was unspecified if any lab diagnostic test were performed. The cause of death was sudden cardiac death. Sudden cardiac death was considered to be immediately life-threatening and disabling by the reporting nurse practitioner. Additional information has been requested.”
This example shows that the person making the initial report said the patient had recieved the vaccine “two weeks ago” when it was actually 5 months before death. The person who initially reported this did not intentionally give false information.
Here is another example from The Poxes Blog taken directly from the VAERS:
“”Brother states patient developed “”Transverse myelitis”” from the MMR vaccine then the patient “”Fell down and died””. Developed paralysis in legs one week after shot. 8/11/08-records received for DOS 12/12/07-1/6/08- DX: Paraparesis secondary to transverse myelitis. Death secondary to pulmonary embolism. Admitted for evaluation of lower extremity weakness for 2-3 weeks, with shooting pain in feet on 12/14/07-balance difficulties noted, tingling in left upper extremity prior to hospitalization Upgoing plantar reflex noted on right side, lower extremity reflex loss at ankles and left patella. Autopsy refused by family.”” “Lung cancer 2 years with chemotherapy 8/11/08-records received- NCV abnormal evidence of primary muscle disorder. Glucose elevated, AST and ALT elevation of 144 and 177. MRI normal. CSF leukocytosis. Culture negative. on 1/6/08 began hypo” (Report cuts off.)
Here we have a possibly distraught and grieving brother who claims his brother got an MMR and then he just “fell down and died.” But the investigation shows the patient died months after the shot and had lung cancer and died of a lung embolism.
Those are just two examples and if you peruse those two blogs above or the VAERS you can find many more examples where the family made a claim that was drastically different from the investigation. But because Ms. Farber first got me thinking about this subject, let me close with a couple of examples that display Ms. Farber’s penchant for emotional hyperbole. Maybe this will shed light on why she is not the authority on why anecdotal evidence is on par with scientific research.
You know who would have really understood what is happening to us here? How we are becoming desensitized barbarians amidst CDC generated measles scare propaganda (that they utterly failed to produce on behalf of those afflicted by brain damage or “autism” following vaccinations, or the thousands of dead babies (“SIDS”) or the hundreds of dead teenage girls after Gardisil, etc etc? (emphasis mine)
The vaccination based, Pharma-based, chemical-laden, fearful, nature hating, death focused industries (emphasis mine) are still functioning but they are not the future.
Life is the future and they are a parasite that humanity is shedding. (emphasis mine)
Lest you think I am being too hard on Ms. Farber, I will leave you with a taste of how she feels about those who disagree with her. And I will let her own superior, judgemental, condescending words speak for themselves:
Something’s not quite right with people who are totally rejecting of “anecdotal” evidence. Those who want to boil it off and go straight to the “scientific literature,” surely you understand this is your anxiety about the truth and not a problem with the truth itself?
Because Ms. Farber knows you better than you know yourself. And she’ll tell you so.