Saturday, February 26, 2011
Quack of the Day: Alan Phillips
In reality, Phillips is a lawyer rather than a scientist or doctor. That was obvious as soon as I read the first paragraph of his editorial, because even the most anti-vaccination doctors out there seem to have a better grasp on the facts, but beyond being a lawyer, Mr. Phillips is actually an anti-vaccine lawyer or a vaccine exemption lawyer whichever you prefer. This means he gets paid to sue organizations, states, the federal government or whoever else in an attempt to claim vaccine exemptions for his clients for a number of different reasons with the most common falling under the guise of a religious objection. He even posts a FAQ on his website (http://www.vaccinerights.com/q&a.html) which counsels people on how to go about requesting a religious exemption even if they have no such religion in the first place. Does this wreak of a conflict of interest to anyone? I find it ironic that a lawyer writing about vaccines and making claims about vaccines being harmful has such an obvious ethical conflict here, but that isn't likely to sway any of the anti-vaxers even when they (hypocritically) try to suggest the vaccine manufacturers are just in it for the money.
Philips is also an advisory board Member of the American Chiropractic Autism Board (yes really... I didn't even have to make that up) and a board member of the World Association for Vaccine Education. If neither of these organizations means anything to you don't fret because you aren't alone. The anti-vaxers like to create groups and give them clever names even though the same handful of people are involved in all of them... it is just another way they try to give credibility to their cause because they can add things to their resumes and websites to make themselves sound important.
How do I know these groups are entirely worthless? Well in the case of the "World Association for Vaccine Education" (or WAVE as they like to be called), they have a introductory statement on their website that reads "... study vaccine data from a non-medical point of view". Are you serious? What other way is there to study vaccines that from a medical and/or scientific viewpoint? Frankly you cannot study vaccines any other way. The quackery doesn't stop there however - WAVE even invented their own journal (Medical Veritas - obviously not an accepted or reputable journal within the medical or scientific community) so they could pack it with their own data and claim it was "published in a journal". The mere fact their website is http://www.novaccine.com/ is enough to tell us they aren't interested in the scientific process but rather have formed opinions and seek to throw data at those opinions in the hopes something will stick. If you want to talk about bias - this is a prime example at work.
Besides Philips, who else is on the board of WAVE? Well it is a laundry list of anti-vaxers, but there are the usual suspects including Sherri Tenpenny, Mary Tocco, a guy who created the "Hyperbaric Medical Association" and who operates a "Hyperbaric Medical Center" and a "Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic" (I could write a whole separate post about this guy and his unscientific alternative medicine quackery) and several chiropractors, one of which feels it important to specifically list in his bio that he was Michigan All-State Cross Country in 1983. Yes really - these people really have no shame.
So what about the comically named "American Chiropractic Autism Board" or ACAB? Well if you visit their website you will find their "board of advisers" includes many of the same people as are found on WAVE such as Philips, Boyd Haley and Mary Tocco. You will also find Tocco's daughter and Tocco's husband (or former husband... I seem to remember something about them being divorced) both of which are Chiropractors, and you will find a few other Chiropractors, NDs, a woman who is a "Certified Nutrition Counselor" and a couple of women who have no official credentials at all other than the fact they are mothers of autistic kids (or in the case of one a mother of a kid who was autistic and has since recovered). I suppose one of them does claim to be a "writer, teacher and cartoonist" so that is probably worth something right?
I'm not sure being affiliated with either of these organizations makes Phillips qualified to speak on the subject of vaccines, but he sure seems to think so. In fact he claims on his website that he is "is one of the nation's leading vaccine rights attorneys" (although I'm not exactly sure how he is able to verify such a claim).
Rest assured however if you can't afford Mr. Philips services he can offer you his book for the low-low price of $24.95. Keep in mind that is a great value, because the book is "over 100 pages" and Philips claims it holds a retail price of $39.95. Of course it is only an e-book because for $25 you can't expect real paper, and you will need to download it yourself or pay an extra $5 to have them mail you a CD. Honestly - are there ANY of these anti-vaxer types who DON'T have a book, CD, DVD, or line of supplements to sell?
The most comical aspect of Philips' bio however is the following quote: "Alan is an accomplished professional singer-songwriter on piano and 12-string acoustic guitar, with achievements that include standing ovations at seven international conferences and sales of original music to citizens from countries on six continents."
Awesome - so apparently when you get a standing ovation for your music, or when you have sold some CDs in a few different countries... that means you are somehow qualified and at all relevant to speak about vaccines. Gothca.
As sad as it is, these are the types of people who are professed as experts on vaccine related subjects within the anti-vaxer camps. Actual credentials matter little when the snakeoil salesman is telling you exactly what you want to hear, but don't expect an anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist to admit it. In truth I really can't even blame Phillips because he is probably a very intelligent guy. He found a niche market (parents who are petrified that their kids will be harmed by vaccinations) and he ran with it. For all I know Phillips might have kids who are all up to speed on their vaccinations, but he understands he has a role to play, and it becomes rather easy to prey upon ignorant anti-vaccination types while laughing all the way to the bank.
So at the end of the day what do you really believe? Do you take the opinion of a lawyer who has an obvious ethical bias tied to his personal income, or do you trust proven time-tested scientific methods which produce research and results which are replicated and peer-reviewed? For someone with a level head and at least average intellect the answer is clear, but for someone like Lowell Hubbs apparently it isn't quite so easy... which is exactly what keeps so many anti-vaccine snakeoil salesman in business.