Monday, March 29, 2010

Why you can never be prepared to argue with an anti-vaxer unless you have a WiFi connection

And even then...

Orac reports on a truly stunning display of intellectual dishonesty from the anti-vax movement... yes, truly stunning, even in light of all the other bullshit that has come from that side.

Namely, some dick called Raymond Obomsawin started with this graph of measles incidence in Canada:

We see, of course, a really noisy graph, because as with many communicable diseases, incidence of measles varied widely from year to year prior to the development of the vaccine. Just think of how some years we have a really bad flu season, others not so much. That's just how diseases are.

In a truly shameless display of -- well, it's basically outright lying -- Obomsawin resamples the graph at specifically chosen intervals to construct whatever curve he wants:

Truly, truly shameless.

On a related note, using Dr. Obomsawin's "innovative" data analysis technique, I was able to prove that this whole "recession" business is a myth. The economy is perfectly healthy!

The Federal Reserve is lying to you! (Click on the image to see the rest of the data in that interval...)

Seriously, though, when the dishonesty rises to this level, how do you combat that? The data he presents is "accurate" as far as it goes, and in any case there's no way of verifying that without an internet connection or a trip to the library or whatever. You have to dig fairly deep to realize the lie, and since of course comments are moderated on the website presenting this shenanigans, thousands upon thousands of people will swallow it uncritically.

You cannot be prepared to debunk every single lie they tell, unless you are willing to lie yourself. The best you can do is say, "Well, I don't have any idea where you're getting that, but I know it's got to be either false or a misrepresentation." But then it sounds like you are arguing that you are right because, well, you know you are right.

When the other side is prepared to lie and deceive at every turn, there can never be a fair fight.

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