Suppose someone is rolling a set of two dice. He rolls a double six – something with a one in 36 chance of happening. Which is more likely, that the person rolled a set of regular dice and just got lucky, or that he rolled a special set where both dice have just sixes on all faces? (Let’s assume you can’t see any but the sides that are on the top.) You might think that since a regular set would produce a double six in only one out of 36 attempts, he is more likely to have rolled the trick dice with just sixes. But after a moment’s thought you would probably realize that was wrong. With just one roll of the dice, you would have no way of knowing. The person might have been rolling the dice all day, and you just happened to come along at the exact time that he rolled the double six. Of course, you could stay and see if he rolled the dice again, and if he kept getting double sixes then you would suspect there was something fishy going on. But with just one roll, there is no way you could tell. You wouldn’t have enough information.
The same would be true if the guy rolled three dice and got three sixes, or four dice and got four sixes, or five dice… etc etc. If he only called you over to look when he’d got all sixes, you wouldn’t know if his roll had been especially lucky, or if he had spent hours rolling other combinations, and only called you to look when the result was all sixes. No matter how many dice he rolled at once, or how high the apparent odds against it happening by chance, you wouldn’t know he was cheating just by looking at the result of one roll. You also wouldn’t know how many other people are rolling dice at the same time, but who are keeping quiet about it because they rolled uninteresting combinations. At the very least, you would need to see a few consecutive rolls from this one guy before you could form any conclusions.
It seems to me that fine tuning arguments are similar to the dice rolling guy. The fine tuning argument is this: the odds of “rolling the dice” to get, by chance, a universe where life can exist, are so low that the universe must have been designed. But the objections to this are the same as with the dice rolling guy: unless we know how many universes there are, and how many big bangs there have been, we can’t know if our particular universe is very unlikely to have occurred by chance or not. There might be millions of universes. And if there are a very large number of universes, then the odds of getting one tuned for life, are very good. And in that case, there are good odds that in at least one of the universes tuned for life, there evolved intelligent people like us who remark that this universe looks fine tuned for life.
Now, you may say, we don’t have proof that additional universes exist, or that there have been several big bangs. And I say that’s not my problem, it’s the problem of those making the fine tuning argument. If fine tuners are claiming that the odds of getting a universe suitable for life are extremely low, then it’s up to them to show that this is the only universe that exists or has ever existed. Their calculations that show the incredibly low probabilities of a universe suitable for life, assume there is and has only ever been one universe. Why is this? Because to get the probability of getting any universe tuned for life, they have to multiply their probability of getting one universe tuned for life by the total number of universes. They never do this – which means they are implicitly multiplying by one universe. So, before we accept their claim, they first have to demonstrate that there really is only one universe. It’s their claim, remember? They have to justify all parts of it, not just the bits they like. So as part of their own calculation, they must demonstrate that there is only one universe. As far as I know, no one has ever done this.
I have heard some say that multiple universes violate Occam’s Razor – one universe is “simpler,” they say. But this argument misinterprets Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor doesn’t say choose the simplest – if it did then “Goddidit” would be the answer to anything, because Goddidit is simple. Occam’s Razor actually says don’t make up unnecessary assumptions. We know that universes exist because we live in one. Unless there is a solid reason to think that there are no other universes apart from the one we see, it would be an additional assumption to insist without evidence that this is the only one. To be most generous to fine tuners, the best they can claim is that the assumption of many universes is an equal assumption to the claim that there can only be one, and so Occam’s Razor is a wash – you can’t use it to choose one way or the other. The burden of proof is therefore still upon the ones making the fine tuning claim.
Of course, we don’t need multiple universes to reject fine tuning arguments. We don’t actually know enough to be able to calculate meaningful probabilities of getting, by chance, the so-called fine tuned constants of this universe. We can only examine one universe, and can’t really say for sure what would happen if the conditions were different. Fine tuning arguments are really just god of the gaps arguments – we don’t know why the constants look fine tuned, so we’re going to use god to explain the gap in our knowledge. Never a very productive way of trying to learn the truth about anything. Also, we don’t know what kind of life would have evolved if the universe was very different from this one. Life as we know it might not exist, but that wouldn’t mean that completely different life forms couldn’t evolve. Again fine tuning arguments say more about the lack of imagination in the people making the arguments than about the truth of the conclusions they are claiming.
But even if we ignore these flaws, the burden of proof is still with the fine tuners to demonstrate that this is the only universe that exists or has even existed (or at least, that there is only a small number). Until they do this, fine tuners are like the person pointing to the guy who just told you he rolled several dice and got all sixes, while failing to investigate all the other people in the world and throughout history, who have rolled dice but didn’t tell you the results.
Physicist Victor Stenger has many other arguments against fine tuning, including simulated universes with very different values for the so-called “fine tuning” constants. He also states that multiverses are suggested by modern cosmological models.
The CDC and health authorities were pushing a double-barreled vaccine strategy that demanded people get both a seasonal flu shot as well as an H1N1 pandemic flu shot. Those who questioned the sensibility of vaccines for fighting the flu were attacked as "baby killers" for not kow-towing to the vaccine mythology that drives Big Pharma's profits to record profits nearly every flu season.
Care to guess what the study found? In short, it found that people who received the seasonal flu vaccine shot in 2008 were up to 274% more likely to be infected by H1N1 swine flu than those who skipped the season flu shots.
[Bold in original.]
Note that the CDC recommended getting both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines. Also note that 274% figure that Adams quotes.
What did this study do, and what does it say? The study is titled Does Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Increase the Risk of Illness with the 2009 A/H1N1 Pandemic Virus? First, you’ll note it starts “Does..” and ends with a question mark. Compare that with Adams’s “…vaccines increase risk…” and no question about it. Adams seems to be a lot more sure than the people who published the actual study. What did they do in this study? Well, they took patients who presented with influenza-like illness at a network of Canadian doctors, and tested them for H1N1 and seasonal influenza. They also determined if the patients had been vaccinated against the seasonal flu. They used this information to compare vaccination status among influenza-positive (both seasonal and H1N1) patients with influenza-negative controls. What did they find?
… receipt of [the seasonal flu vaccine] in the previous season (autumn 2008) appeared to increase the risk of pH1N1 illness by 1.03- to 2.74-fold, even after adjustment for comorbidities, age, and geography . The investigators were prudent and conducted multiple sensitivity analyses to attempt to explain their perplexing findings. Importantly, [the seasonal flu vaccine] remained protective against seasonal influenza viruses circulating in April through May 2009, with an effectiveness estimated at 56% (41%–67%) [My bold.]
Note, they reported that the increased risk was 1.03 to 2.74 fold. Now, I suppose Adams is technically correct in saying the increased risk was “up to 274%” as high, since the phrase “up to” includes the figure zero. Technically correct, but intellectually dishonest. (I guess "more than 1.03 times the risk" wouldn't have sounded so scary.) Also, note that the seasonal vaccine was 56% effective against the seasonal flu – a tidbit that Adams somehow managed to overlook. More importantly, note that the study did not show the merits of getting both a seasonal flu shot as well as an H1N1 pandemic flu shot (compared with no vaccine at all) as Adams himself admits was the CDC’s recommendation. (Presumably they didn’t do this because the H1N1 vaccine wasn’t widely available at the time.)
Still, this did seem (as far as I can tell) to be a decent study, and its results certainly warrant further investigation into this phenomenon. Does this study prove that the seasonal flu vaccine increases the risk of getting H1N1, as Adams thinks? Well, not really. From the report, again:
Given the uncertainty associated with observational studies, we believe it would be premature to conclude that TIV increased the risk of 2009 pandemic illness, especially in light of six other contemporaneous observational studies in civilian populations that have produced highly conflicting results (see Table 1 for details on study design, population sampled, and results) –. We note the large spread of vaccine effectiveness estimates in those studies; indeed, four of the studies set in the US and Australia did not show any association –, whereas two Mexican studies suggested a protective effect of 35%–73% ,. The most recent Canadian study in this issue of PLoS Medicine  is clearly at odds with these results, with an estimated average negative effectiveness of −68% based on their Sentinel system. Only one study, set in the US military population, potentially corroborated the findings of the Canadian study .
So there are numerous other studies, many of which show no difference, and two that actually show the seasonal vaccine reduces the risk of getting H1N1. Nothing wrong with that – real world studies are not always as clear cut as we would like, which is why science requires replication, especially where the results are hard to explain or surprising, based on current knowledge. Strange that Adams didn’t notice that bit, though. Well, it did come nearer the end of the paper - perhaps Adams got so excited by the first part that he didn’t finish reading.
To summarize Adam’s technique, he:
Cherry picks a study that has results he likes, and ignores at least six other studies (that were even reported in the actual paper he cited) that report different results
Exaggerates the risk - “1.03 to to 2.74” increased risk becomes “up to 274%”
Ignores the fact that the seasonal vaccine is 56% effective against seasonal flu anyway
Ignores the fact that the CDC recommendation is to get both the seasonal and the H1N1 vaccine – something that was not covered by this study. (And presumably the H1N1 will be included in next season’s seasonal fu vaccine.)
Jumps from all of this to state that therefore “vaccines are a medical scam, folks! A Big Pharma hoax,” and that the real solution to protect you against the flu is vitamin D. Seriously.
Adams will quote a scientific study if it supports his point of view (even if it doesn’t, really), but then he rails against the rest of science that doesn’t. That’s what makes him a crank. The truth is, this is an interesting but inconclusive study that should probably be investigated further. Possibly there is some reason that the seasonal vaccine could make people more susceptible to the H1N1 virus. If so, real scientists would like to find out what it is - although it is almost certainly not that the flu vaccine "weakens the immune system" as Adams claims, but some other reason. More likely (given the numerous confounding studies), there is no real effect here. Either way, it will be real scientists doing real science, not cranks like Mike Adams, who will come up with the actual answer. And you are almost certainly going to be better off getting both seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, than getting neither.
I wasn’t planning to write any more about the vile Bill Donohue and his defense of priests raping small children while the Catholic church covered it up. I really wasn’t. I thought I had covered Donohue’s disgusting views in enough detail two weeks ago. But Donohue has surprised me – really surprised me this time – with an even lower even more morally bankrupt defense of pedophile priests. Donohue actually said on Larry King Tuesday night that when priests rape children, this is not pedophilia because (wait for it) most of the children were over about 13 years of age. Oh and the problem is really homosexuality, because “that’s what homosexuals do.”
I found it hard to believe that even Donohue would say such a thing, that these words had been taken out of context or something. Check out the transcript from CNN (with my added bold):
DONOHUE: It's not pedophelia. Most of the victims are post- pubescent. You have to get your facts straight. I'm sorry. If I'm the only one who is dealing with facts tonight, that's it. The vast majority of the victims are post-pubescent. That's not pedophelia, buddy. That's homosexuality.
ROBERTS: Bill, I don't think, as a person of faith, that you really know what you're talking about when it comes to --
DONOHUE: If the study of criminal justice -- it's not my opinion. Take a look at the social science data. I never said they're homosexuals in that way.
ROBERTS: They said they cut down on -- (CROSSTALK)
KING: Sinead, quickly.
O'CONNOR: Can I just ask very quickly with that gentleman -- sorry, I don't know your name, sir. I'm not quite sure what post- pubescent means. Would you mind explaining that to me
DONOHUE: Explain what?
DONOHUE: Post-pubescent means beyond puberty. In other words, you're adolescent. That's what homosexuals do, and of the molesters have been homosexuals in the Catholic church.
ROBERTS: So the boys deserved it because they're post-pubescent.
DONOHUE: If you want to take that conclusion, I think that's scurrilous. I never said that. Why would you say that about homosexuals?
O'CONNOR: Larry, what age does somebody become, you know, become post-pubescent in America, as a matter of interest?
KING: What is the age?
ROBERTS: I don't know. Let's ask Bill. He seems to know.
KING: Well, folks --
DONOHUE: Twelve, thirteen years of age.
Yeah, try that defense in court – “but, your honor, she was over 13” – see how far it gets you.
It’s hard to know what to say after that. Mind-blowing. Even the Catholic church has not to my knowledge used such a defense. All I can really think of to say is, isn’t it time to stop asking Bill Donohue his opinions, to stop having him on network TV as though his opinions were in any way valid or relevant? He should really be finished as a pundit after this. Why would any serious news media ever quote this disgusting moron’s views on anything, ever again?