Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lowell's Trusted Expert: Dr. Sherri Tenpenny

In one of his recent diatribes launched in my direction, Mr. Hubbs took issue with the fact that I've called him out on his experts in the past because they lack the credentials or education to speak on the issue of vaccines.  Thus, in true form, rather than attempt to cite any research or peer-reviewed studies done by these non-experts (which would be difficult since they don't exist), Mr. Hubbs decides to switch gears and offer yet another self-proclaimed expert on the subject of vaccines.
"Here is an actual doctor, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny. Here is her information. Can you refute all that? of course you can't. You wanted an actual doctor, with some credentials; there it is! Dr Sherri Tenpenny is one of the best speakers out there on the truth on vaccines, well referenced; check it out!"  -Lowell Hubbs
Ok, so let's examine what Lowell considers to be "one of the best speakers out there" and see if she has the research to back up her claims.  I'm an open-minded guy, so I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on the issue.  If this Dr. Tenpenny has any legitimate science to support her theories or if she has some peer-reviewed studies published which support her claims, I'm more than willing to concede that there may be merit in some of the claims made by the anti-vaccination movement.

So the starting point of this learning experience is the website Mr. Hubbs referenced which is Dr. Tenpenny's personal website.  I clicked on the link for the website and what do you think was the very first thing on this site?  You guessed it - an offer for me to buy one of her DVDs for the low-low introductory price of $29.95 (plus shipping and handling of course).

So let me get this straight.  A big Hollywood studio can spend hundreds of millions of dollars producing a film, yet when it is released on DVD I can typically find it for no higher than $19.95.  These are movies that took months upon months to produce, movies that likely included tens of millions of dollars in fees for actors, hundreds of people involved in the production, and backed by a studio which expects to be financially rewarded for their efforts.

Yet this Dr. Tenpenny gives a two-hour presentation which she records onto a DVD, and she expects to charge $29.95 plus S&H for it?  How can anyone believe people like Tenpenny are not in this to make money?  If she really wanted people to learn about vaccines and protect themselves, why wouldn't she offer her DVD for a nominal fee to cover the cost of production?  Better yet, why not offer the video as a download on iTunes for $1 or some other very small amount to get the message out?

I think the answer is clear.  As with the vast majority of anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists, this Dr. Tenpenny is less concerned about vaccine safety or health, and more concerned about making a few bucks off of the scientifically and medically illiterate types who buy into her shell game.  She perpetuates the fear of children becoming ill, and she preys upon the emotions and weaknesses of parents.  This also explains why if you visit her website, you will find half a dozen DVDs for sale on various vaccination topics, the most inexpensive of which costs $24.95.  In most cases, these videos are merely recordings of her presentations she gives, thus the cost for production was nothing other than paying a high school kid to hold a camcorder for an hour or two... yet she charges $25 or $30 for this?

Of course no anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist website would be complete without the requisite offering of supplements, and Tenpenny does not disappoint.  She offers over 45 different supplements for sale on her website some costing more than $68 for a single bottle (plus shipping).  Of course, don't ask Tenpenny to back up the science behind any of these supplements, because each and every one of them includes the following convenient disclaimer: "*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

If she isn't recommending the supplements to prevent or treat disease then what exactly are they intended to be for other than expanding her personal bank account?  Wouldn't you think if Tenpenny is so convinced any of these supplements work that she would actually have some clinical trials or peer-reviewed science proving the benefits?  Apparently not as it is much easier to just slap a disclaimer on the product so you don't have to accept any responsibility when it doesn't work, and then you can charge excessive amounts of money for a bottle of supplements that likely cost pennies to produce.

It gets even better on the Tenpenny site however.  Are you scared of contracting H1N1?  If so, Tenpenny has a "wellness" kit she can send to you for the low price of $199.99 (plus shipping and handling)!   According to the website the kit "contains 7 supplements and 2 sets of instructions, for boosting resistance and for addressing flu-like symptoms if they occur".  What a fabulous deal - if you act now maybe she will toss in a free Sham-Wow*!

* Note: Sham-Wow offer is not real, but should be as it makes just as much sense as spending $200 for some vitamins.

Of course no website is complete without the various unscientific books and CDs, the anti-vaccination t-shirts, and the popular "members only" section which offers even more products and even more ridiculous prices.  The only thing missing from her website is a donation section where you can just send in your money and get nothing in return... oh wait - that is there too!  You can even "donate" via PayPal - simply amazing.

So it seems more than obvious Tenpenny is interested in making a buck off of fear, because after 20 minutes visiting her website even I felt like I needed a shower and some Vitamin D, but does she have any real science to back up her claims?  I was determined to find out, so I clicked on her "articles" section of the website.

Within the articles section Tenpenny has an impressive list of articles written by her, which I will admit surprised me as most of the anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists rely upon ramblings of others rather than taking the time to write anything new themselves.  So as I started reviewing her articles, but what I found wasn't science or fact, but rather opinion after opinion most of which don't even include any sources.

Of course, at the bottom of many of the articles there was either a link to her store, or a link to a specific product (such as a DVD or book) which goes into further detail.  Apparently she doesn't want to give away any secrets for free, so you have to pay.

There were some interesting quotes however, starting with the following:
"As contrary as it seems, germs are attracted to the diseased tissues; they are not the primary cause of it." - Sherri Tenpenny
This quote seems to call into question the germ theory first discovered by Louis Pasteur which has been accepted and proven as scientific fact.  However most anti-vaccination types don't like the idea that germs can cause disease as they feel the body should be able to heal itself naturally or via spinal adjustments, and since they don't have any way to treat germs or bacteria, they instead simply reject the idea.  Granted they don't have any science to support these views, but what else is new.

The other thing I continually witnessed in Tenpenny's articles is her noncommittal usage of the terms "maybe" and "perhaps".  Statements such as "It would be very interesting to test", "Maybe microbes are handy to have around", "perhaps the body was trying to expel a huge amount of chemical-containing mucousand "viruses may be part of the solution" are all such noncommittal statements taken from a single article.

It seems Tenpenny calls into question basic tenets of science and instead offers her own theories that viruses are healthy and simply a way to detoxify the body.  Of course in this case not only does she lack the science to support her theories, but she intermixes enough doubt in her articles with her wavering statements that she can't be held liable when these claims are proven to be inaccurate.  She even goes so far as to state it would be "interesting to test" but she never actually bothers to do the testing, so does this seem like someone who really wants to learn the truth if she isn't even willing to perform basic scientific testing?

Tenpenny may feel viruses aren't a big deal or that the flu is actually natures way of healing the body, but that doesn't really help the estimated 200,000 people a year who are hospitalized due to flu-related complications or the 3,000 to 49,000 people who die from the flu each year.  I'm sure it would be so comforting to these people if they knew their bodies were merely trying to heal themselves, and thus their death was actually a way for their bodies to get stronger.... wait - how does that help if they are dead exactly?

I'm not about to dissect every single article written by Tenpenny, but the simple fact is they are merely articles and not science.  Not only does Tenpenny not reference any of her own peer-reviewed studies, in many cases she doesn't even cite any studies by anyone else, thus I have no idea why Mr. Hubbs would consider this to be scientific in nature.

So back to the bigger issue here - who exactly is this Dr. Tenpenny?  Well according to the bio on her website Dr. Tenpenny is a graduate of the University of Toledo and she received her medical training at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.  Nothing so amazing here thus far and honestly I don't even have a problem with Osteopaths, so I'm not even trying to pick on her.  She goes on to say that she was board certified in Emergency Medicine through 2005 (which begs the question why she is no longer board certified) and has been board certified in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine since 1995.

This is where it starts to get a little shaky, because "Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine" or OMM is where a doctor not only examines the physical aspects of a patient, but the emotional, mental, and even spiritual as well.  That in itself is all fine, but it seems Tenpenny has shifted focus and is drifting away from traditional medicine (which may explain why she is no longer board certified in Emergency Medicine).  One thing of note is how Tenpenny actually uses space on her CV to openly state that she acts as a consultant to many law firms on vaccine injury cases.  Classy, but I guess when you no longer practice real medicine you need to find other ways of building up the bank account, and what better way than acting as a hired gun to a big law firm who is seeking class action status for a few vaccine injury cases?

So lets go back to Lowell's quote where he stated that Tenpenny is "one of the best speakers out there".  Tenpenny might be a riveting speaker, and she might even be popular among the anti-vaccination crowd, but how exactly does that give credence to what she says?  Does she have any science to back up her statements?  No.  Does she have any peer-reviewed studies published which can prove vaccines are harmful?  No.  Does she have case studies showing the differences between vaccinated and non-vaccinated children?  No.  Does she have double-blind clinical trials showing long-term effects of vaccinations upon the health of a child or adult?  No.

So what does she have exactly?  Well aside from some DVDs and supplements, I guess I don't really know.  Anyone can claim they are an expert as Tenpenny does, but the facts simply don't support that viewpoint.  As to anyone having to refute Tenpenny's claims, once again I feel the need to point out how the simple concept of proof works.  It is not my duty to refute anything Tenpenny has said as the burden of proof is upon her.  That means Tenpenny needs to provide real science in order to support her claims, yet it appears she is either unwilling or unable to do so, thus her claims are without merit.

I have noticed that Mr. Hubbs often relies upon the fallacy of argument from ignorance, as he often places the burden of such proof upon the refutation rather than on the proof of assertion.  Obviously if Mr. Hubbs cannot understand how legitimate debate actually works, it is doubtful we will ever make any headway, but at the very least it remains extremely easy to show examples of his ignorance.

If I was to state "driving a blue car increases your risk of lung cancer by 1200%", you would expect me to support that claim with real scientific evidence.  It would not be sufficient for me to write an article or an op-ed piece making the claim, nor would it be sufficient to cite the articles or columns written by others who share the same viewpoint.  However if I followed the logic of Mr. Hubbs, I would simply state it is a fact and then require anyone who challenges this viewpoint to provide scientific evidence to prove that driving a blue car does not increase the risk of lung cancer.  Since no such science would obviously exist, I would then go on to proclaim I have 'won' the debate.

However that isn't how real arguments work, and if Mr. Hubbs had more than a high school education he might know that.  The duty to prove a claim in this case rests upon the person making the claim as if a person makes an ontologically positive claim, there is a heavily weighted burden of proof placed upon that claim.

Thus, in this case the only acceptable level of supporting evidence comes in the form of science - and that is the fact that Mr. Hubbs and so many of his fellow anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists continually ignore.  Therefore until Tenpenny or Mr. Hubbs can actually provide some level of scientific evidence to support any of their theories, those theories will remain just what they are... unsupported opinion.  Perhaps one day Mr. Hubbs will learn what a valid argument really is, and perhaps one day he will understand complex concepts such as philosophic burden of proof, but until then he will remain nothing other than a anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist.


  1. I agree it seems pretty clear this woman is simply trying to scare parents and profit from their fear. She does't even practice real medicine anymore and just makes her income from speaking fees, vitamin sales, and by being a paid witness in vaccine injury cases (I bet defense lawyers have a great time when they read her resume).

    She is a moron who lacks any proof, but that won't stop the antivaxers from trusting every word that comes out of her mouth.

  2. You might be interested to know that the 75,000 was paid by Kelby Krabbenhoft, Dave Link, and Paul Richard to not only hack me and shut down my pathways, but also those of your buddy Shaun Vuong! That because of all the rif he has created at the Medical School; refer to SD Medicine blogspot. Also due to the fact that he was violating the HIPAA laws.

    I have copy of the script. You seen the evidence of that on the Argus, with the removed posts; in fact every post and reply I made was removed. In fact I watched him go in and do it. These people have the ability at times to type messages right into any email you are making, search bar, or even the note pad; don't think its not real. That's what he didn't realize was that all I had to do was send the email he typed in to save it.

    So, essentially the same hacker/s that worked for those on the Argus referred to earlier, you and your connections, are also working for Krabbenhoft. Maybe you should tell your buddy Vuong about that?

  3. Sure thing Mr. Hubbs. Yet Shaun's blog is still up and running and he hasn't complained about being censored or silenced.

    I just love that fact that an idiot like this is out walking around thinking the CEO of Sanford Health is out to get him. Wow.

  4. I don't have any idea who this Lowell Hubbs character is, but if he thinks Tenpenny is a trusted expert than he is obviously a moron. Her testimoney has even been tossed out of vaccine injury cases!

  5. Wow. I've just had two children. One injected with five vaccines and the other limited to a BCG with sodium chloride as excipient. Dr Tenpenny's three hour briefing video convinced me there's enough evidence for caution. I hold her opinion in equal esteem to that of the medical community, and with the greatest respect, ask that you view her slide briefing with an open mind: Time will tell if mercury and aluminium compounds in the blood breed stronger or weaker newborns. I have two for comparison.

  6. I find it incredibly disturbing that someone would use their children as guinea pigs as they compare them against one another in some sort of barbaric scientific experiment.

    I'm saddened for the child who was prevented from receiving the vaccines that could very well prevent them from many life threatening diseases, and from a lot of pain and suffering. I just hope that child isn't left asking why his or her parents didn't care for them as much as their sibling.

    Then again, anyone who thinks they can use two children as any sort of "comparison" clearly doesn't have a strong grasp upon logic or any sense of a scientific understanding.

    Can you imagine a scientific study consisting of one test subject and one single control subject? Really??


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