Quackery…on Scienceblogs.de?

Look, I don’t need this. It’s been a rough weekend, with way too much travel for my mental and physical health, and I started off today with the Atheist Talk radio broadcast, which was good, but it was bracketed by those horrible woo-woo infomercials that always piss me off, and then I had to drive three hours to Minneapolis to send my son back to school, and then three hours back, and I haven’t had time to sit down and eat yet, and the email piled up something fierce while I was away, and I still have lots of grading to do for tomorrow, and when my brain is burned out I forget how to end sentences (with a period, I suspect), and they just run on endlessly…so. There, I stopped. OK, what’s this with an anti-vaccinationist on scienceblogs.de? We’re not going to run him out on a rail, but it is a disappointment that the vetting process on the German side seems to have been a bit lax.

Anyway, Orac is looking for some help from our readers who are more fluent in German — help him diagnose the krankheit so he can slam the bad posts with some schmerzen und weh und so weiter.


  1. clinteas says

    I dont generally like Orac,and I have to go to work,but will have a look at it when I get home.

  2. Sastra says

    Someone recently created a new term for folks like this — pseudoskeptics. They pretend to be mavericks challenging the scientific orthodoxy through better science. They’re “skeptics” asking reasonable questions.

    But, if you examine their claims and evidence, you see that they’re not following scientific procedures at all, nor are they thinking critically. They’re using sloppy research, deceptive arguments, logical fallacies, shaky rationalizations, cherry picking, and misinformation. And, unlike genuine skeptics, there is nothing which will make them change their minds.

    On his blog, Orac says that it looks like there’s reasonable stuff mixed in with the unreasonable. Again, that’s common. Of course, if the sciencebloggers object to having a pseudoskeptic on scienceblogs, expect cries of suppression and persecution.

    (and pshaw — who could not love Orac?)

  3. Chris says

    Um, I think he should be run out on a rail. He’s a quack. And belief in medical quackery is almost as common in Germany as belief in sky wizards is over here. It would be like giving a DI drone a blog on scienceblogs.com.

  4. says

    Can we get this guy and Nisbet together and let them form their own blog collective? Then we don’t have to deal with either, and they can go play by themselves in a corner of the internet where none of us live.

  5. catta says

    The good news is that the other German sciencebloggers are outraged, too. The bad news is that this guy also is an HIV/AIDS denialist and believes Homosexuality is curable.
    I’ll do my best to help and translate… and I’ll certainly write a polite but angry letter to scienceblogs.de — I want to continue recommending the site. :/

  6. Jadehawk says

    was working on a translation, got a headache…

    but basically the guy he interviews claims that inactivated vaccinations cause something called “Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis”, and that he thinks that caused the death of a handful of people who have recently died shortly after getting vaccinated with the HPV-vaccine, and that the german and austrian governments are doing the best to absolve the vaccine from this, that the placebo used in tests of the HPV-vaccine was designed to mask all side effects of the vaccine, and that there’s a massive cover-up

  7. Jadehawk says

    “Aluminum Must be Removed from Vaccines!”

    A Manifesto, in which 13 scientist publicly demand a revision of the recommendation for the HPV-vaccine, is causing a stir. But it’s not only the efficacy of the vaccine that’s in question; it’s its safety, too. I spoke about this at the beginning of the year with the vaccine expert from Wiesbaden, Klaus Hartmann:

    E.: During the pre-approval studies for the HPV-vaccine, only relatively few side effects were found. There were barely any differences to the placebo-group.

    H.: That was because of the choice of placebo. The typical, neutral water-solution was not used. Instead, the mix was one of all ingredients of the HPV-vaccine, except for the HPV-antigens. Therefore, the placebo contained among other things the Aluminum-salts which are proven to be problematic.

    [i]E.:What were the consequences?[/i]

    H.: The HPV-vaccine was tested against a substance that can cause the same side effects. This is a very questionable method, and I’m puzzled as to why the Ethics Commission permitted it. The Aluminum containing adjuvants have recently become a subject for discussion. Until now, their safety has been deduced retrospectively, since Millions of doses have been used for vaccination, and apparently nothing happened. That is not correct though. It is known that these additives cause autoimmune reactions in people who are susceptible. This has been confirmed in animal tests. Additionally, they can damage the nervous system, because Aluminum hydroxide has the potential to be a neurotoxin.

    [i]E.: In what timerange after the vaccination does this happen?[/i]

    H.: This can happen up to five weeks after the vaccination. We have two mechanisms here: For one, the aluminum-salts can trigger autoimmune reactions, and secondly there are the direct damaging effects on the nerve cells. You do not register those, if you only take cases of up to two weeks into account. This toxic effect was recently confirmed to take place in human cells as well, even in doses like those used in vaccines.

    [i]E.: Why haven’t those substances been replaced already?[/i]

    H.: The manufacturers know that the aluminum needs to be removed, and they’re all working on it eagerly. This will not take long, the same way ithat it happened to the mercury containing preservatives used in childhood vaccinations, which first became a issue for debate, and was then replaced.

    [i]E.: Is the choice of placebo meant to hide the side effects of the HPV-vaccine?[/i]

    H.: Certainly. When the test group shows the same autoimmune reactions, they are leveled out and no one notices them.

    [i]E.: The government agency responsible for collecting reports of side effects says that there are no known side effects to the HPV-vaccine.[/i]

    H.: That’s pure cover-up tactics. Once a vaccine is approved, these feedbacks are the only control. But here, only the immediate reactions -if any- are reported. The weaknesses of the report-gathering system are known, but aren’t even meant to be improved upon. This is a true cover-up tactic. The government and the manufacturers are in agreement, and no money is spent. True, long-term data about safety don’t even exist. As long as this isn’t questioned and checked, the problem will continue to exist. It will continue to be said, with full certainty, that there are no problems, even though we can’t know that with what’s currently possible.

    [i]E.: But now, the two deaths in Germany and Austria have caused furore.[/i]

    H.:Something like that can’t just be ignored. So now there is a great effort to absolve the vaccine of this. On the other side, no one is being tasked with seriously test a possible connection to the vaccination. There is an unbelievable distortion. Sensible research about this subject finds absolutely no support.

    [i]E.:You have informed yourself about the Austrian cases, as well. Is there a connection to the HPV-vaccine?[/i]

    H.: The deceased young woman already had problems before her sudden death. She had developed a noticeable photophobia, had headaches and persistent intestinal symptoms. Those are typical symptoms of (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis). If this isn’t looked for specifically during an autopsy, you can no longer find it. After all, an ADEM-focus is not a tumor or a change in tissue, which can be detected even days later. This is a fleeting inflammatory event. If this happens in the Nodus Vitalis, you could stop breathing (suffer an attack of apnea?) because of an ADEM-focus. And you don’t find the cause anymore, when this is investigated only after days or weeks.

    [i]E.: There was the argument that with ADEM, the student would have had massive problems earlier, and would in this case not have been able to go away.[/i]

    H.:No, that’s nonsense. It always depends on where the nerve damage happens. There are many different symptoms. The patients could suddenly develop a psychosis, act noticeable. There is no uniform picture. Any kind of neurological, cerebral distinctive feature could be theoretically caused by an ADEM. In most cases it won’t be recognized as ADEM, and luckily it’s also the case that in most cases it happens reversibly. It is only rarely life threatening, and then it can unfortunately end like with the young Austrian woman.

    [i]E.: Did you find ADEM in the cases you’ve examined?[/i]

    H.: In my assesment-clinic, that is the most common diagnosis with cases of vaccination-damage. It’s the biggest problem with inactivated vaccines.

    [i]E.: How many assessments do you do per year?[/i]

    H.: I do about 60-70 per year, which are commissioned by the civil courts.

    [i]E.: How high is the estimated number of unknown cases of undesired effects of vaccines in passive reporting systems like that of Germany or Austria?[/i]

    H.: A German study tested this for side-effects of drugs and came to a rate of reported cases of 5%-10%. With vaccines it would likely be looking worse, because doctors are hardly informed about the side effects of vaccinations, and also because the inhibition treshold to report it is higher. With antilipidemics or antibiotics this is taken for granted more, because there is already a certain sketpicism. With vaccinations, the doctors turn to their pharma-consultant, where they are pre-emptively appeased.

    [i]E.: Shouldn’t the reports go directly to the agencies?[/i]

    H.: Since 2001, there is a legal obligation to report. This has been barely noted by the doctors. There is also no education about it.

    [i]E.: In Austria, the word from the vaccine experts was that after three weeks, a side effect from a vaccination was pretty much impossible.[/i]

    H.: Such statements came even from the longstanding SITKO (Permanent Vaccine Commission at the Robert Koch Institute) chairman Heinz-Joseph Schmitt. That is scientifically complete nonsense. Just like the Austrian positions that side effects only happen immediately or not at all. Complete rubbish.

    [i]E.: Where then do those vaccine experts take their knowledge of the subject from?[/i]

    H.: The term “vaccine-expert” is not protected. Everybody can call themselves that. In addition, these vaccine-experts are with 100% likelihood on some industry-payroll. Either directly or over research-funds at university institutions. Those are all people who are paid to say that. Our SITKO-chairman Schmitt has after all recently switched officially into the industry to the vaccine-manufacturer Novaris-Behring. And over there, he probably still tells the same stories.

    [i]The physician from Wiesbaden, Klaus Hartman, 48, was for 10 years with the German Paul Ehrlich Institute, responsible for the scientific assessment of undesirable effects of vaccinations. Today, he is one of the most employed cours assessor for possible vaccination-damages.[/i]

  8. JohnS says

    I hope you’ll forgive this mostly-off-topic question: Why does scienceblogs have that ‘Top Five Most German” teaser over at the right column on English-language blogs? I often enjoy using the links that appear in that space to travel to Orac or Laden or Her Magnificence, Dr. Isis. But when the German menu appears there, I have to reload the browser – sometimes several times – in order to get to something I can use. I know – in a world of huge problems, this is tiny. But still, wouldn’t a separate link be more appropriate?

    Thanks, JohnS

  9. says

    Zis is a conspirasi, Herr John @16! Seriously, this guy may well be worse than Nisbet. At least Nisbet is not actively peddling anti science – it looks like the German guy relies a lot on “experts” and less on actual medical knowledge.

    Have already provided Orac with a translation of one of his posts.

  10. Kaela Mensha Khaine says

    Comments on the conspirationists articel look very well … they tear him apart. Funny, how a little insult looks so much more aggressive and arrogant in german – perhaps this is why your language is that liked all over the world.

    The (rather religious) ad hominem argument is far more disrespected here. So there is more pseudoscience, pseudoscepticism and “deep-probing investigations into the matter, to protect the people and reveal the truth about [set in conspiration.”

  11. Valhar2000 says

    Well, yeah, freedom of speech and plurality of voices and all that… but having crankery on Scienceblogs drastically reduces the quality of the whole shebang.

  12. clinteas says

    Ok,I have had a look at this guy.
    The crowd at Oracs place is in full in witch-burning mode unfortunately,while using babelfish etc to make their judgments.

    I really cant be bothered to write too much about this,there is no sensation,no scandal,no issue here,I might just copy and paste what I put onto Orac’s blog:

    //Guys,he’s harmless.Get a life already.

    He seems to be just as critical towards big pharma as he is critical of vaccine additives,for which he cites studies and reasonable journal articles.
    Nothing about vaccines=autism here,he’s not Jenny McCarthy,move on.

    Objectivity,you should try it sometime.//

  13. David Marjanović, OM says

    clinteas, Ehgartner was looking for a measles party for his daughter (fortunately didn’t find any), has signed an HIV-AIDS denialist manifesto, constantly mentions his book (same title as his blog: “Praise to illness”) which, as he explains himself, is about “why it’s healthy to be ill once in a while”, says measles are “harmless in good care”, and so on. Knowingly or not, he is spreading disinformation. I’m with ERV.

    And let’s not forget the guy who runs Medlog, another de.SciBling, who had a post saying that insanely high doses of elementary mercury and lead are harmless — healthy in fact — if they’re part of a magic Ayurveda powder.

  14. clinteas says

    David M,

    being german I fondly remember measles parties,my parents used to tell me about them,the thought back then was to get everyone infected,and get it over and done with.The MMR vaccine didnt come out until the early 70s I think.

    Measles are mostly harmless,you tend to run into the complications more with older age,therefore good to get them earlier.Nowadays a non-issue because of the vaccine.

    I cant find any reference to the anti-HIV thing,but if you say he signed it,Im sure he did.
    Im not saying the guy is the pride of german science journalism here,but the hystery is unfounded.

  15. David Marjanović, OM says

    Measles are mostly harmless

    Tens to hundreds of people used to die of it every year, and lifelong damage was also common. Are you sure you’re old enough to remember…?

    I cant find any reference to the anti-HIV thing

    In the comments to the very blog post this post links to.

    In case you’re interested, I’m Austrian.

  16. says

    Hi, folks,
    actually Bert Ehgartner is an Austrian. We know him for some years, at least since 2001.

    During this time he spread wrong and false news about viruses and other medical topics.

    During this time he attacked people AD HOMINEM.

    He is responsible for the outrageous attacks against (in chronological order)
    – Renate Ratlos (netizen for children’s rights)
    – ama (net ghost)
    – Ralf Behrmann, a pediatrician (Frankfurt, Germany
    – Wolfgang Maurer, a vaccination expert (Vienna, Austria)
    and many others I forgot the names of.

    Mark it: It is not a personal affair! The key is defamation of science in general and of scientific medicine in special. There is no excuse for knowingly indoctrinating with false information which can lead to the death of children. And THIS is exactly what Ehgartner does.

    Ehgartner has no place in journalism.


  17. Chris Davis says

    I’m amazed at the ‘ignore him’ response. Just because the guy’s laughable and biased doesn’t mean that this won’t lead to deaths when the papers get hold of it, surely?

    Look what happened to the MMR issue. I’m sure that the UK papers would LOVE a story about like this – there are hordes out there looking for an excuse to boycott the HPV vaccination campaign.

  18. catta says

    I’ve looked into this a bit, and I got Ehgarten confused. He’s still an HIV/AIDS denier, but at least the accusation I meade earlier about him believing homosexuality is curable was wrong, sorry. I got him confused with one of the people he’s pallin’ around with.

    That said, he’s not harmless and there’s every reason to be pissed off. First of all, what he says is, very often, bad medical advice which for the most part he is not qualified to give. That is harmful, period. The same goes for the “ayurvedic medicine” article on medlog, also hosted by scienceblogs.de.

    Second, there’s the harm done to scienceblogs. I’ve recommended the site as a whole to a few people, scientists and nonscientists, as a good read for those tired of the very idiocy Ehgartner produces. It’s bad enough that I now have to add “but watch your step when you go there… you might step in something.”
    Also, how do you think the other (often excellent!) German sciencebloggers feel about having the reputation of their blogs damaged? It is damaging for a scientist blogging about science at scienceblogs to have a complete nut with little qualification or reason put right next to them. Unless scienceblogs.de is aiming to set up some sort of cranks’ corner where completely unscientific bloggers are kept away from the rest of the blogosphere, this is a bad move all around.

    Lastly, JohnS: Because of people like me, who came to the German scienceblogs via the English scienceblogs. “Hey, wow, German edition? Cool. *click*”. One or two of the blogs I’ve found that way are now on my favourites list.

    There’s a lot of us multilingual people around. Enough to drown Orac in translations at the moment, I’d guess. Really, is sharing ad space (it is an ad, not a blogroll…) with another part of scienceblogs so bad? Bad enough for a layout change? Sorry you don’t speak German, but if you already know which blogs you regularly visit through links, maybe an rss reader or a bunch of bookmarks are a good idea.

  19. Jadehawk says

    I’ve read his “proof” article (and as a sidenote, what’s with the anglicizing of German?! It’s “Beweis”, not “Evidenz”!!). First off, he says that there isn’t anything about how the Aluminum compounds work in people. then he cites a lot of animal studies that say that those compounds create neurological and autoimmune reactions in various critters. (though one of the articles specifically states that different critters have completely different reactions). it doesn’t say how the amounts those animals get would compare relatively to what humans get in vaccines, though.

    Then he notes early experiments with a failed vaccine for the RS virus; apparently, the vaccine worked apparently, but the body had an extremely strong reaction to the virus, i.e. the vaccinated person didn’t get sick from the virus per se, but go very sick from an overblown autoimmune reaction. the study he cites draws the conclusion that there is a correlation between how this reaction happened and allergies etc. It doesn’t clearly state what the scientists in the study said directly about the aluminum compound used, and whether they think it causes allergies, though it seems that the reaction with that particular vaccine was apparently caused by the aluminum compounds…

    since I don’t know anything about any of this, it sounds fairly reasonable. if he weren’t a HIV denier, he’d sound believable…

  20. says

    @Jadehawk: You got it. That’s the way Ehgartner works: For non-specialists he sound always reasonable. Until the moment, you begin reading studies.

  21. Catherina says

    Beweis = proof

    so it is not “Beweis”, it is Evidenz-basierte Medizin, just like in English, a technical term.

    Ehgartner is a master in free association on a theme, putting papers together that have nothing to do with each other.

  22. Arnulf says

    @perceval: To be precise: Ehgarten is Austrian, not German. And science journalism in Austria is, let’s put it this way, very special.
    But in Germany we have our very own problems with guys, calling themselves science writers and presenting themselves as skeptics, which are trying to disparage everything from organic food to climate change and vaccinations using questionable experts and scientific papers. They are called Maxeiner and Miersch and so on, they are making big bucks with their books and they have no difficulties publishing their stories in reputable newspapers and magazines. So a lot of people starting to believe them.
    Fortunately their blogs aren’t on scienceblogs.de, at least not yet. But I fear, if Burda Media (the publisher of the German Scienceblogs) could negotiate a profitable deal the company would not hesitate to bring such guys on the platform.

  23. Malcolm says

    OT but,
    About half the time when I come to Science Blogs, The links at the top right which should be “Top Five/Reader’s Picks” comes up as “Top Five/Most German”.
    Since I live in New Zealand, and don’t speck German, this seems a little strange.

  24. says

    Tens to hundreds of people used to die of it every year, and lifelong damage was also common. Are you sure you’re old enough to remember…?

    Actually, nearly a half a million children die from measles worldwide every year, down 50% from 900,000 about a decade ago. The reason for the decline? An aggressive vaccination program sponsored by WHO and UNICEF.

  25. wolfgang says

    For a virologist I just made a copy of the clinical course of a boy with measles who ist in coma since 12.Oct 2007 due to the measles complication SSPE.

    And here is another piece of Bert Ehgartner- he posted it in the guest book of an anti-vaccine group around 2005.

    Translation: In life unfortunately not all things are black or white. I repeat my arguments to mesales. Measles today has nearly nothing to do the disease measles 20 yrs ago. Caused by immunizations measles appears more frequently in age groups, where the complication rate is significantly increased: In children <12 month (because immunized mothers give less protection to their Babys) and among adolescents and adults. Therefor the measles immunization has transformed measles from a harmless disease- by good care- to a disease with frequent complications. Insead of contributing to a maturation of the immune system and of contributing to the psychic maturation of toodlers, measles appears to have a weakened course due to immunization has only a small positive effect on the immune system and has the risk of chronic inflammation of the gut, and the triggering of severe autoimmunity (ie autism)

    and here the original text in German

    Aber im Leben ist leider nicht alles nur schwarz oder nur weiß. Ich wiederhole nochmal meine Argumentation zur Masern: Masern heute hat mit der Krankheit Masern vor 20 Jahren fast nichts mehr gemeinsam. Durch die Impfkampagnen tritt Masern heute vermehrt in Altersgruppen auf, wo die Komplikationsrate wesentlich erhöht ist: Bei Kindern unter 12 Monaten (weil geimpfte Mütter ihren Babys weniger Schutz weitergeben), sowie bei Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen. Damit hat die Masernimpfung aus einer – bei guter Pflege – harmlosen Kinderkrankheit eine komplikationsreiche Krankheit gemacht. Anstatt zur Reifung des kindlichen Immunsystem und zur psychischen Entwicklung im Vorschulalter beizutragen, verläuft die Masern in folge der Impfung abgeschwächt, hat kaum einen positiven Effekt auf das Immunsystem und birgt das Risiko chronischer Darmentzündungen, sowie die Auslösung schwerer Autoimmunerkrankungen (z.B: Autismus).

    in summary this is dangerous bullshit.

  26. wolfgang says

    uups some part of the translation dissapeard in cyberspace

    Caused by immunizations measles appears more frequently in age groups, where the complication rate is significantly increased: In children below 12 month (because immunized mothers give less protection to their babys) in adolescents and in adults. So the measles immunization has caused that a harmless childrens disesae- with good care- has changed to a disease with frequent complications. Instead of contributing to the maturation of the immune system of the child and of contributing to the psychic development in toodlers age, the disease is weaker due to immunization, hardly has a positive effect on the immune system and carrys the risk of chronic gut disease, and the causation of severe autoimmundiseases.

  27. Terrorance says

    Hello Pharyngulists.

    Just a regular lurker who was wondering if the scientific community could point me in the direction of some good reading material on vaccines. I am a bit of a lay person who has read various books on the pro and cons of vaccines. Some of them were helpful and some of them were obviously biased to one side or the other (ie. Vaccines are dangerous/ Vaccines have no side effects). I have read independent articles claiming that data for world wide illnesses vs. vaccines is flawed. This is supposedly due to the loss of consideration that at the same time vaccines are introduced into a population, clean water is also being introduced. As well, I have been lead to believe that there is a general lack of scientific data on post immunization effects on populations.

    My concern in this area stems mainly from my first born becoming extremely ill after his one year vaccination of MMR and Varicella. It may have been simply coincidence but he is still in the hospital almost a year after. Regardless this has caused me to becoming vary wary of vaccinating my second child.

    Anyway, I can appreciate the unscientific bashing of a persons character to invalidate their argument (well when it comes to religion at least). However, I would prefer if someone could post some material or point me towards articles that I should read concerning vaccinations.

    Feel free to contact me at terrance.mcquaid@gmail.com


  28. Natalie says

    Terrence, I would highly recommend Paul Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets. The book is obviously specifically about the “connection” between vaccination and autism, but it has a lot of good information for the lay reader. In particular, his explanation of such phenomena as confirmation bias is quite good, IMO.

  29. says

    Um, I think he should be run out on a rail. He’s a quack. And belief in medical quackery is almost as common in Germany as belief in sky wizards is over here. It would be like giving a DI drone a blog on scienceblogs.com.

  30. David Marjanović, OM says

    and as a sidenote, what’s with the anglicizing of German?! It’s “Beweis”, not “Evidenz”!!

    Most certainly not, no. That would be “proof”, not “evidence”.

    German has a lexical gap for “evidence”. The best I can come up with is Hinweise, but that’s rather pathetic (for example because it’s a plural, and because its meaning is closer to “hints” than to “evidence”). Some seem to use Belege or Nachweise, two synonyms for “proofs” that have fewer connotations of being absolute; again pathetic (and again both plural). I’ve encountered Evidenz before in such contexts; it’s probably best to take it and run with it. I can’t think of another way to translate “evidence-based medicine”.


    Man, was I wrong about measles.

  31. Terrorance says

    Thank you Natalie. I will be sure to check it out.

    I probably should of mentioned though, my concern isn’t about autism. It is more about the early effects that multiple viruses can have on a child’s immune system. Is there a possibility that having an individuals immune system weakened can have other adverse effects? From a lot of articles I have been reading lately, it seems that oncologists/oncology researchers are finding that the immune system plays a large part in fighting off cancers (ie. graft vs cancer effects in SCTs). As well, I have been hearing many personal stories of girls developing cancer after HPV immunizations. Of course, I realize these could be all coincidence. I was just wondering if anyone has ever looked into anything like this. Is it possible that vaccines could reduce an individuals ability to prevent cancers from taking root?

    I am not trying to get involved in any sort of “quackery”. I just have some concerns and due to my own lack of knowledge, I simply do not know if there is any legitimacy to them.


  32. hery says

    The typical, neutral water-solution was not used. Instead, the mix was one of all ingredients of the HPV-vaccine, except for the HPV-antigens