Blackfish and the Selective Skeptic

Saw Blackfish documentary. Disturbing. It"s time to end exploitation of whales along with chimps. I"m boycotting SeaWorld. Who"s with me?  Michael Shermer, Facebook. 6 August 2013.

For those who follow the skeptic community Michael Shermer is a leading light.  However, in a recent posting on his Facebook page (copied above) it seems that sometimes his skeptical eye can be blinded.

As he states, he is referring to the film "Blackfish" a partisan documentary against the care of killer whales in aquariums and marine parks.

If the film had been about creationism or vaccination causing autism, it would be doubtful if Shermer would have been so glowing in his praise and would instead have looked into the issue and its science with a little more depth and skepticism.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case which is deeply disappointing for someone who should actually know better.

From a skeptical point of view, it should also be noted that there is an interesting connection between the film "Blackfish" and vaccination causing autism which Shermer seems to have missed.  This is the involvement of writer David Kirby.

Kirby is the author of a number of articles, blogs, and books with the latest being "A Death At Seaworld" one of the major sources of much of the information in "Blackfish".  He, along with a number of others, could say to be instrumental in convincing Gabriela Cowperthwaite to make her film.

Before "Death at Seaworld" Kirby published two other books most recently in 2010 a book on US factory farming entitled: "Animal Factory" and prior to that in 2005 the book: "Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic".

In "Evidence Of Harm" Kirby claimed that vaccines such as MMR can cause autism via a vaccine preservative ethylmercury thiosalicylate, commonly known as thimerosal, claims of which have been discredited for a number of years.

In the USA, as a precaution in 2001 thimerosal was removed or reduced in all vaccines routinely recommended for children and by January 2006 the last vaccines that use thimerosal as a preservative expired.

It should be noted that some countries such as Denmark thimerosal was never used.  Yet, no downward trend in autism has taken place and the evidence continues to support no cause and effect of the MMR vaccines and the development of autism.

Moreover, Andrew Wakefield (the UK doctor responsible for the original discredited 1998 research) was struck off the United Kingdom's medical register in May 2010.  The UK's General Medical Council (GMC) stated that Wakefield had "brought the medical profession into disrepute," and no sanction short of removing his right to practice medicine was appropriate for the "serious and wide-ranging findings" of misconduct. 

Unfortunately, rather than revise his position and despite overwhelming scientific research Kirby continues to hold his anti-vaccine position despite this cause being totally discredited.

One has to ask the simple question: if Kirby's book "Evidence of Harm" was to become a documentary movie would Michael Shermer and other skeptics be so quick to endorse such a film on face value without further research?


Science Based Medicine: Vaccines and Autism

The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods