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    • Last week @SarahBethArnold asked about YouTube Kids and I responded that it's far less curated than NetFlix or PrimeVideo, so buyer beware. I did a quick search for examples and stumbled across a video by a scientist with 10 years in the pharmaceutical industry who chose not to vaccinate his children. Interesting! I watched it. How I Shut Up My Doctor About Vaccines.

      His point was vaccines stimulate the immune system, giving rise to autoimmune diseases like allergies. He had a startling graphic from a recent study showing the incidence of many diseases for vaccinated children, which were many times higher than in unvaccinated kids. He had a professor from University of British Columbia very articulately warning against scary things vaccines contain.

      Here's the thing: there are almost 2,000 comments on YouTube about the video and almost all seem to be from people with good intent, who want to keep children safe. They believe the video but not their doctors.

      Curious and willing to think he may have a valid concern about stimulating the immune system, I looked more deeply into him and his sources. He didn't cite sources so it was hard to track key things down, but I'm pretty sure he isn't a scientist who worked in pharma. He's an online minister and prepper with a Patreon page to support his ministry. The study was a discredited online survey from mothers who homeschool. The professor at UBC had retracted his paper and said he didn't know how his images got reversed.

      And yet in the face of a tsunami of evidence pointing to the effectiveness and safety of what seems to be one of science's greatest achievements, videos like this win for many well intentioned people. How do you feel about this? Is there something YouTube should do or just let free speech run its course?

    • I think that the truth should rule all. If that guy is fabricating everything, including his own background, then that should be exposed. And his fabrications should be removed.

      Vaccinations affect more than just the person receiving them. They have a major influence on the health of innocent people associated with non-vaccinated people.

      Unfortunately, for instance, the incidence of measles is rising rapidly after falling dramatically previously.

      As a public health issue it is sad that misguided folks don't vaccinate, leading to spread of disease. But it is especially disheartening to find out folks are faking information to scare parents into not vaccinating.

    • I don't believe we need to censor information but we do need to illuminate it for people to make better judgements on their own. I believe sources should be attached to posts through the assist of AI to let people make the final call. I just wrote about this in the article I just finished - Curious to see if they are going to talk about this at the Douglas Engelbart 50th annivesary Symposium on December 9th. I know Craig Newmark is trying to make strides on this as well. Just seems like this should be a major focus in the tech industry. Just a major problem.

    • Normally I'd just say Darwin = good. But in this example it's not the kid's fault their parents are stupid - and the kid is the one who suffers.

      I guess the the best solution is to better educate and inform the gullible.

    • I am no socio expert but to me it seems what changed with the advent of social media and Internet in general, is the continuous blurring of sources of information officialdom if we could call it that. There will always be uneducated audience, everyone is going to have educational and knowledge gaps, and that's OK because we aren't all supposed to become experts in everything, just to be able to vet all the "data garbage" out there. But they key issue is in the way each of these sources assume free authority under which they emit all kinds of critical information. If in the past more or less only official media, print, radio or TV was broadcasting specific news or articles that had potential of impacting seriously, now it's everywhere on the web, and all of a sudden Twitter et al even became the mainstream official communication channel, where with a large margin there really is no responsibility and everyone can say pretty much anything they like. Those are tools that weren't designed to do that, aren't meant to be used the way they are, yet they are exploited, just because it can be done.

    • More critical thinking needs to be taught in school. It starts at a young age. We can't simply just embed critical thinking in different subjects (although that is also necessary), we have to teach courses in critical thinking itself. Scientists and engineers can fall victim to charlatans and quacks so we can't just trust that people will pick it up without being taught critical thinking rules and how to evaluate a wide variety of claims.

    • The challenge here is not just an education gap. Research and data shows that in fact sometimes people who accept incorrect claims are more educated than those who don't. People need to be taught critical thinking and how to evaluate claims. People think that they need evidence to support their claim. Reasonably well educated people are good at finding evidence or rather searching the Internet to find support for the view they have - for example that vaccines cause autism. There's plenty of fraudulant 'evidence' out there for them to find. The problem is they aren't able to adequatedly evaluate the evidence presented to them. They don't know critical thinking rules and how to evaluate evidence.

    • I agree education is lacking, more specifically educating in ways of thinking rather than teaching someone all kinds of topics. But in the end if a skilled professional wants to con non experts they could always do it, and perhaps even fool other experts. But since the OP was about well intentioned people causing disinformation, that equates to "road to hell being paved with good intentions". In this matter for example, I do wonder how would an average person with critical thinking skills sort out between fake claims and real ones that vaccines are good or not, what kind of efforts it would take to reach such level of understanding, since MD's study all their lives to keep up and be authoritative. There has to be a line drawn somewhere.

    • For one you should trust the years of education your doctor has against your weekend search on Google. That'd be a start. This is not to say that western doctors and medicine don't make mistakes or have problems. Fairly simple critical thinking rules help people to evaluate claims. I'll give you an example. When you hear someone say "what the government doesn't want you to know" or "what your doctors are trying to hide from you", you should run in the other direction. When someone says I was once a skeptic but....I'd stop there too. If someone says it's a conspiracy - back away.

      People could start by reading science based medicine blog by Stephen Novella or listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. There are numerous good books out there that teach people about skepticism and critical thinking.

    • My wonderful mother had a master’s degree in biochemistry from Cornell, but in her 30s she became mentally ill with schizophrenia. It made her very vulnerable to the scary things some politicians and televangelists would say.

      Eventually all of her savings had gone to televangelists and she could no longer pay her rent. I see my mother in some of the comments on YouTube — good people who are convinced that vaccinations are a way to control population growth.

    • Sorry to hear it.
      But even if social media was covered by a code of practice like licenced broadcast media the Televangelists (Eg) are still within the approved guidelines. Rupert Murdoch programmes 4 channels of them in between the Kids channels and the movie channels on my local Foxtel subscription's dial.

      Then there is your everyday-common cognitive Dufus' to consider.

    • The challenge here is not just an education gap. Research and data shows that in fact sometimes people who accept incorrect claims are more educated than those who don't. People need to be taught critical thinking and how to evaluate claims.

      Curious about this, I watched another of Mike's videos: From Fake News to Truth - My Story.

      He's college educated. The turning point for him was using the Internet to research 9/11 and realizing (in his words) if you had half a brain you could see that the towers fell by detonating synchronized charges. He believes he is the one using critical thinking skills based on evidence.

      Once he came to believe the government was lying and truth was found on the Internet where they couldn't cover it up, he used his critical thinking skills to uncover what he believes to be true about vaccines.

      To a mother who wants to know about vaccines, I can see where Mike could come off as a nicer, more well spoken, more sane version of Elon Musk — another guy who's known for bucking conventional wisdom.

    • Bill Nye (aka The Science Guy, even though he’s actually a mech eng) spoke to a group of us in Salt Lake City last week. There was some debate on Facebook afterwards because some in the audience objected to his “very liberal bias.” (He was asked about vaccinations and said he felt strongly enough about it that he thinks public schools should refuse to admit children who have not been vaccinated.) One of the objectors said she would rather believe Henry B Eyring’s version of the truth because he is a “world-renown scientist” (he is not) AND a leader in the Mormon church...

      Critical thinking doesn’t always bring people to the same conclusions.

    • since MD's study all their lives to keep up and be authoritative

      But can this not lead to manipulation, regardless of one's credentials. When we serve for jury duty in America we rely on teams of lawyers with years of accredidation behind them to provide evidence when the jury is not allowed to conduct their own research. But the tasks before the prosecutors and those who defend are clear. They use their authority backed by skills to influence the impartiality of the jury based on their own ignorance of the deliberations. How many doctors have mislead patients on prescriptions due to deals with drug wholesalers? Not all but I would imagine large enough to be concerning. We all use our primitive brains to protect our interests. The only way to beat these natural limits of the human condition I believe is to access information under our own control. When we see a doctor should we not know their relationships with drug companies, etc., etc.?

    • Of one thing I'm sure: religious leaders may be wonderful, but they have a very long and painful history of being wrong about science. Consider Joseph Fielding Smith, senior leader and future president of the Mormon church, reiterating in a church conference 1961 what he had published in his book:

      We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.

      The Apollo 15 astronauts took a Utah flag to the moon and presented it to him upon their return. To my knowledge he never apologized but he may have acknowledged he was wrong. You could argue that's just one incidence, but history is filled with too many incidences to count like that.

    • If you are deciding to withhold medical treatment from your children based on a YouTube video, I don’t know if a warning is going to help. Additionally, by the time an inaccurate video is flagged with warnings, several thousand people may have already seen it. If YouTube has a responsibility to add warnings for future viewers than there is also a responsibility to send out “recall notice emails” to everyone who already watched it.

      A vaccine is required to prevent noncritical thinking from reaching epidemic proportions.

      Education should be about teaching critical thinking skills. History, literature and maths classes should be about understanding how to navigate the information, how to find credible sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics when you’re unsure of whether vaccines are safe for your kids, how to use sites like Google Scholar to find original peer-reviewed research and to be able to read them, which isn’t easy.

    • On another hand, the internet can also provide access to sources of truth that in years past may have been very difficult or impossible to uncover.

      For those who earnestly seek the truth, the internet has been a life-changing tool...

    • True. Is it earnestness? Intelligence? Background? Training? Judgement? Courage to face the facts? What if some of us just have bad judgement? Don’t we all know people who try but keep making bad choices?

    • A few years ago, I attended a professional lunch and one of the staff remarked that they believed in ghosts and had one living in their home. I almost spit out my drink because I was dumb floored that she was serious. Before I had a chance to stick my foot in my mouth, several people chimed in that they also believe in ghosts, had or knew someone who had ghosts in their home, and that there are good ghosts and bad ghosts that can take up residence. One of the staff later wanted to pay five hundred dollars for a homeopathic remedy that would cure the cancer of their family member on hospice. There is an element of tribal knowledge to these beliefs that get reinforced by the community. And I don’t view this as a “their too stupid/poor/culturally inferior” to make good decisions. Instead, IMHO, it’s about who you trust.

    • @Chris @apm

      Sometimes I wonder if it actually has more to do with one's ability to handle ambiguity rather than one's earnestness, intelligence, background, training, judgement, or courage. Paradoxically, if one is able to live with ambiguity, one can abide a great amount of uncertainty while digging for the truth.

      Being comfortable with ambiguity creates a window of time in which experience, observation, intuition, research, and theorizing can happen while one gradually comes to a solid conclusion.

      The way our society is now, though, opinionated certainty and yelling as loud as one can seems to be the way most people operate...

    • Paradoxically, if one is able to live with ambiguity, one can abide a great amount of uncertainty while digging for the truth.

      Can you expand on that lidja? I’m not trying to be ironic but I’m trying to wrap my head around your ideas and I don’t have a concrete understanding. Are you saying that we can’t exist in a vacuum of uncertainty and therefore go for whatever is positive news or reinforces our beliefs? Not trying to give you a hard time here. I feel like I’m missing something fascinating and that you may be on to something and are sharing a significant insight.

    • I have an impression about handling ambiguity. In a lifetime of interacting with people across the spectrum, from the mentally ill on the streets where I once lived, to Steve Jobs whom I used to work for, to Nobel Laureates at Stanford who were my professors, there seems to be an inverse relationship between those who know most about a subject and those who answer most emphatically about it.

      On the streets, the mentally ill rant emphatically about something they know little about. "They PROVED vaccines cause autism. 9/11 was an inside job."

      You go to class and ask a science professor whether it's possible vaccines have negative health effects and they give a measured response. "It's a good question and we're always looking for data to indicate that they might, but we haven't seemed to turn up anything significant. Perhaps as more studies are published it will become clearer. On the other hand, we do have convincing data to suggest they have a big positive effect on reducing the incidence of certain diseases."

      I can tell you, and the biographies confirm, that Steve was a nervous Nellie. He was never sure of his decisions but had to make bets amidst ambiguity, always watchful to see if we had made a good bet or needed to change it.

    • I think we all have various capacities to tolerate ambiguity. Some people simply cannot handle ambiguity - they are emotionally upset by it. Those people can easily make the mistake of believing a sense of certainty is the same thing as truth. Their emotional need is more for certainty than for the actual truth. So when an acquaintance (or five) expresses with certainty that there are ghosts, it is the certainty that makes these people feel more settled than the actual truth or falsehood of whether there are ghosts.

      There are undoubtedly other influences at work, too, but the emotional need to resolve ambiguity can be a very strong influence on how people respond to the complexities of our time.

    • Sad when stuff like that happens. There is simply not enough legislation or enforced legislation to protect people from snake oil salesmen.

    • As I said and you clearly gave an example - it's easy for someone to find evidence to support darned near anything. Smarter or more educated people find 'evidence' even more readily. They need critical thinking rules to follow.

      Once someone thinks that a corporation or government is trying to cover something up they are extremely hard to get back to reality. From that point on they create all kinds of adhoc explanations to account for any and every possible counter argument. It's sometimes known as the multiple out. Another thing they do is change the goalposts. In other words if one of your arguments starts to sound good, they'll focus on something else. All you can do is ask them "is there any evidence that would or could ever convince you otherwise?". If they can't think of anything the conversation is over and you have to move on.

      I still think that one of the best things that can be taught in critical thinking is to ask yourself that question: what would it take to change my mind? A person should start with the consensus view of the experts in that field and work from there while keeping in mind that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.