The Cost of Ad Hominem Attacks

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  • 01/28/2008
Attacking the "conflicts" and "coverups" of companies and affiliated researchers in an attempt to discredit the commercialization of medical research comes at a price: undermining confidence in the science and the use of products themselves. As with all Ad Hominem attacks, particularly circumstancial, the fact that a researcher may stand to benefit from the acceptance of their research does not affect the validity of the research itself, since scientifically established evidence can stand or fall on its own merits. The failure to challenge such research in this fashion is of course, intellectually dishonest and manipulative. The consequence and object of such manipulation is to "frame" the choice or perspective of research as a risk to be avoid and as not relying on the research and its results as a place of certainty..

Which lead us to the spike in whooping cough cases triggered by the decline in the number of kids being immunized:

"Before the development of a vaccine, whooping cough was a major public health threat, particularly from the 1920s to the '40s, when it infected as many as 265,000 Americans a year and killed as many as 9,000 a year, said Dr. Mary Healy, director of the Texas Children's cocoon-strategy program.

Since the vaccine, she said, its annual incidence dropped to around 30,000 in the 1950s and as low as about 1,000 in 1976. It began creeping up in the 1980s and 1990s."

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Parents are convinced vaccines are unsafe not because of any evidence they are dangerous but because critics claim that the people pushing vaccines like Paul Offit are "conflicted" and therefore should not be trusted. ....Ditto the decline in SSRI and rising suicide rates because of "conflicts" and "coverups". This is now the new standard for determining whether or not research or a scientist is acceptable. Truth is now function of political correctness and adherence to the view that the commercialization of medical research is inherently corrupting. Can someone say Lysenko?

Pseudoscience leads to pseudocertainty which leads to a decline in the public health.
Those who claim that it "seems that negative studies are suppressed" are substituting emotion and bias for the scientific method. So too are those who change the subject from the outcomes to the studies to the character of those who sponsored them. Or as Saul Bellow once said: "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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