Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jock Doubleday's Insincere Challenge

Anti-Vax Lie III

So far this month I have presented analyses of how the anti-vax movement uses distortion of scientific terms, inflammatory imagery and out of context quotations to fuel their argument. When there is no scientific basis for their position, these tactics are their best refuge. You even have been treated to the unsolicited comments of anti-vax proponents, allowing a first-hand glimpse of implementation of pseudoscience and logical fallacy to argue their side.

Today we'll look at the standing offer by Jock Doubleday. You can read Jock's offer here-- stating right up front $210,000 and Still No Takers. In short, he says that he offers this cash prize to the M.D. or pharmaceutical CEO that will take him up on his challenge. The challenge- to drink a mixture of a body-weight adjusted dose of a vaccine, sans antigen.

So, he wants to pay someone $200,000 to essentially drink a glass of water. At least a 300ml glass would contain with a less than a few micrograms (thousanths of milligrams) of additives... Sounds like easy money! I wrote to Mr. Doubleday and inquired as if he'd bend the rules and allow a lowly skeptical Ph.D. level scientist to engage his challenge.

The answer was no, a condescending and cranky no. He does not want me to take his challenge, which is no challenge.

Why not? I'm a vocal proponent of science, hypothesis-based research and the astounding safety record of vaccines. I attack pseudoscientific and anti-science thinking and train students on how to approach a scientific question. In this way I'm better than an MD or CEO as a target for the challenge. I'm about as good as they get as an anti-vax challengee.

Turns out I'm not alone. The challenge is completely disingenuous. It is not a question of drinking his concoction. You can't just do it and collect the check, you have to apply and submit to a laundry list of conditions. Including reading a bunch of anti-vax propaganda, taking written exams and then pay $10,000 to take the challenge!

Now even an ardent anti-vaxer has to look at the entry barrier to this challenge and admit it is a little disingenuous. If his contention is that nobody will do it, then allow anyone to do it, and someone will do it! A real challenge has no entry barriers, like a payment to participate in the challenge. That should be a tip-off about his sincerity.

See, it is easy to say that nobody meets your challenge when they only a tiny portion of the population qualifies for it, and they don't give a give a rat's ass about what ol' Jock thinks.

You can read here and here some information from others (including physicians and an immunologist) that attempted to take his challenge, along with examples of Jock's sunny attitude in his correspondence.

He also has a standing offer to Bill Maher, that if Bill researches the 9-11 attacks and concludes that they were an inside government job, then Bill gets $250K. I mention this only because it illuminates his conspiratorial proclivities.

Step it up Jock. I'll take your lame challenge and even do it at ten times the concentration.

If you submit "Jock Doubleday" and "vaccine challenge" into a search engine you'll also see many anti-vaccination websites that trumpet how afraid people are to accept his challenge, leading the casual reader to think their cause has some gravity. Of course, they don't note that there is ample evidence of many that will take the challenge, IF it didn't have crazy entry barriers. "I'll give you a million dollars if you drink this glass of water.... BUT you have to be a lesbian Hawaiian midget with one eye, give me $10,000, climb Mount Everest, bring me a kilogram of moon rocks and then pass a written exam I give you (and grade)."

Most of all, it is important for anyone studying the anti-vaccination rhetoric to pay close attention to his tactics. It is insincerity, misdirection and inflammatory statements of success when none have been achieved. Here again you should recognize the genuine disingenuous nature of the statements and add them to the set presented over the past several days. When you don't have science on your side, you resort to the rhetoric that appears clean on the outside, yet holds no value when examined closely.


Wendy said...

I sent Jock your link..I'm pulling for you..I hope you get to take the challenge...

Kevin M. Folta said...

10x concentration. No kidding. Ten times a trace is still a trace. I'll bring the fetal tissue.

Anonymous said...

You aren't very bright: "In the event that Participant signs Part A ......but **fails** to sign the Agreement-in-Full within 120 days of the signing of Part A of the Agreement, Participant agrees to donate by check the amount of $5,000.00..."
"In the event that Participant signs the Agreement-in-Full but **fails** to participate in the Event by publicly drinking the Mixture, Participant agrees to donate..."

There is nothing about you paying to take the challenge, just paying if you waste their time and then don't follow through. If you can't even read a simple form you've already lost the argument.

Kevin M. Folta said...

Maybe YOU are not very bright. I'm bright, and I read carefully. It is even in your comment, so these are YOUR words. It says,

"In the event that Participant signs the Agreement-in-Full but fails to participate in the Event by publicly drinking the Mixture, Participant agrees to donate by check the amount of $10,000.00 (ten thousand U.S. dollars), or by PayPal the amount of $10,300.00 (ten thousand three hundred U.S. dollars), to the California 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc..."

It says in clear languange "but fails to participate in the Event by drinking the Mixture..."

So in my little brain it says that if I actually drink it, I have to pay. I took it that if I actually drank it then I'm not capitulating to your charade. Is that a typo on your end, Jock, or is that a hook to trick people willing to do it (and then doing it) to have to pay you? The language is pretty clear and it would stand up in court.

It says, if I drink it, I pay. Period.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kevin,

Your brain may be little indeed:
"It says in clear languange "but fails to participate in the Event by drinking the Mixture..."

So in my little brain it says that if I actually drink it, I have to pay."

A = to participate by drinking (NOT PAY)
not A = not to participate by drinking, that is fail (PAY)

Plain Logic.

Kevin M. Folta said...


Your challenge is stupid and insincere. Anyone can see through it. If it was a real challenge it would be open to anyone willing to take it, especially informed and educated skeptics thare are experts in this area.

I really don't care what you think. Your little pretend world of anti-science is as important to me as UFOs, bigfoot, the anti-AIDS movement, holocaust deniers, 9-11 conspirators, creationists, moon landing deniers and all of the other nutcases that trash science because they don't get it.

Keep posting- history records and science always wins.

Anonymous said...

If your so passionate why not do the challenge yourself for free?
It seems like a no brainer to me

Kevin M. Folta said...

Do it for free? It is an interesting question. In theory I should do it and would do it, but there has to be something in it for me and for science.

If I do it, and survive without complication, then it would be reasonable for the organizers to end the bogus challenge.

That's really all I'd need. They trumpet how nobody in science or medicine will accept the challenge. It is used as fodder for anti-vaxers that claim that it is soooo toxic that people in the know won't touch it.

Of course, the whole thing is a bogus ruse by the anti-vax movement. When you look at the list of vaccine ingredients in their vanishingly small amounts, there is no plausible biological consequence for their consumption. It is a classical strawman, I stood up to knock it down, and happily will any time.

Maybe I can add a shot of tequila and put it on ice with a salty rim.

Anonymous said...

The MD's and pharmaceutical CEOs don't need the money, but they need a good reputation.
What puzzles me: if the vaccine is so harmless and Jok's continued challenge goes on harming the medical profession, why doesn't someone, anyone, do this drinking publicly out of their own initiative, with the press and cameras and all the scientific requirements (preparation of the vaccine) met? Just to end this nonsense, if it be one.

meg said...

If you're commenting, please use 'you're" when you mean your are and use "your" where it belongs. Misuse very distracting.

Margaret said...

Whoever is using "your" when you mean "you are", please use it correctly. Misuse is distracting.