Oh, Briffa

Dr Briffa has updated his blog again. He says:

there are common (but lacking in substance) tactics that are used to discredit and refute my assertion that we don’t know if MMR causes autism or not. Here, I think, are the main ones: 1. Claim that I should provide the evidence that MMR can cause autism (even when that it’s not my position that MMR causes autism).

His position is this (from the same post):

I maintain that with the state of the evidence as it is that we don’t know beyond reasonable doubt that MMR does not cause autism.

That’s wrong. If you replace the word “reasonable” with “all” then it’s true, but the phrase “reasonable doubt” was invented precisely to stop people claiming exactly this kind of nonsense. If he wants to suggest that there are reasonable grounds for doubt, then he should provide some, and given how many studies have failed to show any link between MMR and autism, I think those grounds will have to take the form of some studies that do. Essentially, evidence. Words aren’t going to cut it.

Meanwhile, he is arguing that ‘we’, as scientists who think that MMR is effectively vindicated with regard to autism, should provide further evidence to back up this claim, which was a near certainty even before the first study and is pretty-well unassailable now. He is using the very tactic he accuses us of.

2. Argue that because we don’t have evidence definitive evidence [sic] that MMR causes autism, then that MUST mean it doesn’t (this is illogical, but you’d be surprised how many times this card is played scientists who really ought to know better).

Well I think I’ve explained often enough already that nobody is doing this. (His response seems to be to find something I’ve said which, if cunningly misinterpreted and then fed through several steps of inference, appears to imply that I secretly think otherwise.) His basic accusation is that we say the evidence says something it doesn’t, but the fact of the matter is that he is saying we say something that we don’t. He is using the very tactic he accuses us of.

3. Misrepresent the strength of the science (this is actually the most common one, and my assertion is that the evidence used to vindicate MMR with respect to autism, from a scientific perspective, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans)

Dr Briffa says that

there’s a huge pile of anecdotal evidence and some experimental evidence too which supports the idea that MMR vaccination might cause autism.

There is “no credible evidence” to support this claim. He is using the very tactic he accuses us of.

4. Insult me (e.g. call me ’˜wilfully ignorant’)

Dr Briffa told me

you have a very flimsy grasp of even the most simple logic, as well as the application of scientific principles and evidence in the real world. ... you do not really know what you are talking about, and have no integrity either.

And he told a commenter on his blog

I suspect I won’t be the only person reading your assertion that the ball is red as an example of quite breathtaking stupidity.

‘I’m a complete tool!’

Yes, and this comment appears to have come from an uncharacteristic moment of mental clarity for you. See, you can do rational thinking, after all. ... If [you are] really not as bewilderingly stupid as I believe [you] to be, then [you] would have given the right answer - actually the ONLY answer one can honestly give. ... Reading your last post caused a vision to flash through my mind. This is it: A little boy told did a very stupid thing and needed to be corrected severely by his father. The boy, now upset, crying, snotty, red-faced with tears running down his cheeks then shouts at his father ’˜I hate you!’. Where that came from is anyone’s guess’¦ ...

‘As my mother used to say ’˜ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.’

Or, as I prefer to put it, ’˜ask someone stupid a question, get a stupid answer.’

All of the above was collected from his own comments underneath the post where he said we insult him. Against one person. He is using the very tactic he accuses us of.

5. Say nothing

Dr Briffa says nothing. He just hides that fact by talking a lot. He is using the very tactic he accuses us of.

The more astute of you will have spotted a pattern.