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Jeni Barnett’s mea culpa

February 9th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Critical thinking, Housecleaning

Shorter Jeni: Sure I misinformed the public about vaccines and added to the fear mongering and ignorance that is harming children, but it’s not my fault because I didn’t know what I was talking about. And talk radio is hard work, so please knock it off with the challenging questions.

I am not a scientist, I would not claim to be a scientist. When tested on the contents of the MMR vaccine I told the truth. I did not have the facts to hand. Was I ill informed? Yes.As a responsible broadcaster I should have been better prepared as a parent, however, I can fight my corner. I don’t know everything that goes into cigarettes but I do know they are harmful.

And I do not accept that my position, as a radio broadcaster, is irresponsible if I should choose to share my own personal dilemma. I would like some of my critics to try and run a three hour programme.

The “I am not a scientist” canard is a favorite among the vaccine illiterati. It frames the issue as “us against them.”  Instead of presenting science as a way of thinking that has served our species well over the last 400 years or so, the S-word becomes a stand-in for all the people Barnett disagrees with. So much easier to knock down straw men than actual facts.

Barnett could give her flagging confidence a boost if she took time to learn how science works. Fortunately, some of the comments on Barnett’s site address this very topic. Here are some of the very best.

#4 – Richard Thomsett:

Anecdotal evidence and “common sense” often lead us to wrong conclusions. That’s the whole point of the scientific method – we often spot patterns that aren’t really there, for example, and the scientific method helps us eliminate errors like these. This is why scientists can be so passionate about the results of their studies: they’ve performed incredibly in-depth, scrupulous research using the scientific method, and it can be very frustrating when people favour anecdotes or their uninformed gut feeling over this.

#6 – David:

I am sure you are not a liar, but, there is a difference between the truth and your opinion (one is based on unequivocal facts and the other is based on interpretation of facts and knowledge etc). In this case the scientific research shows that the jab is safe and the scientist who created the stir about autism has science been discredited and his work rubbished as inaccurate. Secondly, you mention cigarettes. I believe, like you, that they are not good for your health, but, why do you accept this research and not the MMR reasearch which shows that the jab is safe ?. Unfortunately, your minor celebrity status has given you extra weight behind scientific arguments that you have no grasp over with the public at large. How did you come to your conclusions, why do you believe one scientist against the many in one case and the reverse in another?

#8 – Simon

Unlike a scientist, it appears you have already made up your mind what you believe before looking at the evidence. You have also decided that ‘others’ (I assume you mean those that accept conventional scientific theories and evidence-based medicine) aren’t interested, or are somehow suppressing, alternative medicines. In fact, many alternative medicines (for example St John’s Wort) have been extensively investigated and are realised to be efficacious. One final point. I completely agree, you should be allowed to voice an opinion (as does everyone) but surely you understand that your opinion is not as valid as, for example, the professional opinion of a doctor? You crave a debate, yet when people (with perhaps a slightly greater understanding of the evidence than you) disagree with your opinion, you describe them as ‘vicious.’ If everyone agrees, then it isn’t a debate is it?

It’s encouraging to see the commune rising up against the old media overlords. Vive la resistance!

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Catana // Feb 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    It’s strange that thousands of parents of children with autism and asperger’s can inform themselves about the facts, without being scientists, but this woman can’t.

  • 2 autblog // Feb 9, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    That’s a good point. The difference, I suppose, is that when those thousands of parents run of out things to say, they stop talking. That’s the danger of being under contract to talk for three hours – Jeni overdrew her fund of information.

  • 3 Jeni Barnett and the LBC Radio MMR Vaccine Segment: Updated with links of blog coverage « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science // Feb 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    [...] News Beat offers a shorthand version of Jeni Barnett’s attempt at self-justification: Jeni Barnett’s mea culpa. Sure I misinformed the public about vaccines and added to the fear mongering and ignorance that is [...]

  • 4 _Arthur // Feb 9, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    “Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down.”

    Not much of an apology, IMHO.

  • 5 David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) // Feb 10, 2009 at 2:48 am

    “Sure I misinformed the public about vaccines and added to the fear mongering and ignorance that is harming children, but it’s not my fault because I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

    Bullshit, Jeni.

    It is your fault because you did not take the time (or make the effort) to become better acquainted with the issues involved in the debate before you started to spout off on them… that means it is your fault when you misinformed people!

    Stop lying to yourself and to others!!!!

  • 6 David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) // Feb 11, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Just listening to this programme via a wikileak, and I have never heard such irresponsible bollocks in my life. Anyone against what Jeni Barnett says is berated and talked over and then given a cursory ‘goodbye’!

    What an arse!

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