On Absolute Faith
I agree Mark. I'm of the same mindset for this and many other reasons. I also agree that no matter what the WPI does or how well they explain what they do, there will always be people who don't trust them. Just look at all the people who still don't believe that HIV causes AIDS. They don't come around with any amount of evidence. There will likely be people who will always believe that XMRV is not related in any way to CFS and then there will be those who don't even believe XMRV exists or exists in their country... etc...
Quite right. We will never be completely free of such scepticism, and nor should we wish to be.
Trying to draw several recent strands of this thread together into a general principle: whenever us humans have a strongly held and generally-true belief about pretty much any proposition, and we apply that belief to a situation where our belief doesn't hold good, we end up mangling the facts and fitting them into a seriously flawed conclusion which then seems to us to be undeniably true.
That's just human nature. When we don't want to believe something, we find a way to justify our own belief, and there's always a way to do it. The world is so complex that there's always a perfectly logical chain of reasoning to be found, based on what looks to us suspicious but is merely noise in the system.
Tina has set out a wonderful and probably very accurate narrative explaining exactly how several unfortunate false conclusions about the cancer issue came to be made by many people. Fundamentally, people who assumed that the WPI findings must be wrong because of deeply held beliefs, managed as we always do to find sufficient hooks to hang their doubts upon.
On whatever level, Wessely and the Imperial College researchers, and probably the Kerr group as well, managed to make the same mistake, and could easily do so in all good faith by making assumptions about the science that they didn't think were worth checking too rigorously because they were only aiming to prove what they already 'knew' to be true.
Vernon, due to her pre-existing beliefs about CFS that nearly all of us had probably assumed (that CFS is complex, diverse and multi-factorial and therefore doesn't have one single cause) felt sure there must be something wrong with the study, and concluded - like many, many people - that the cohort the WPI studied must be special in some way and the researchers must be looking only at a subset of CFS if they are claiming figures as high as 98%. So she looked for the evidence, and of course she found what she expected to find: a clue that seemed to suggest there were too many cancer patients in the study, prompting the theory that the cohort was drawn only from the Incline Valley cohort that Dr Peterson had been tracking for 20 years. The whole picture made sense, so she was sure she had identified something true and important, and shared it with the world.
The example I like best today, though, is this one:
I like your sig too Mark. I was actually surprised to read your post this morning. I thought you were one of the people that didn't trust the WPI.!
To me - and it's perhaps a joke that only I can really get - that is the funniest thing I've read today, and that is really saying something!
Ever since I heard the WPI news, read the Science paper, watched the CFSAC presentation live, studied the detail, explored the ins and outs here on this forum, and then reached my conclusion in the space of about one week, I have been absolutely and firmly convinced that the WPI study was correct, and I have been an ardent - even perhaps at times over-zealous - supporter of the WPI. I looked at them, and felt that I could trust them, and I've posted here many, many times expressing that near-absolute faith in them, trying to defend them from unfounded suspicions, and stating that those who have doubted them seem to have a fundamental distrust of the WPI that seems insolent and disrespectful to me.
How on earth, Teejkay, did you come to the conclusion that I didn't trust the WPI? That leaves me almost speechless! I thought I was their number one fan!
I hope it's not going to be impertinent to you, Teejkay, to speculate how you might have formed this impression. There must have been some pre-existing belief of yours, into which some small piece of evidence, some comment or behaviour of mine fitted neatly, and led you to a conclusion about me. Did I perhaps ask a searching question, seeking clarification of something I didn't understand, that you read as scepticism? Or is it related to my robust defence here of other people (Esther, Holmsey) who asked similar questions, and I became tainted by association? I'd love to know where that belief of yours came from, and I'd like to gently suggest that if you were to analyse how you came to make this mistake, there must be an opportunity there to modify or relax some flawed assumptions in your mental map of the world - we all have them, I don't know what yours might be, but it's always worthwhile exploring such things IMO.
The example of the (to me) ludicrous suggestion that Esther is an undercover somatiser, no matter how many times she says over and over again that she hates and disbelieves the somatisation theory (and yet wishes to explore it and explore the beliefs of the somatisers - confusing sophistication I know): that example might even be more extreme than thinking I don't trust the WPI.
I'm going too far here perhaps, but could your misunderstanding of me be related to the pre-existing belief/fear that there are spies in our midst with a hidden agenda to discredit the WPI, and that their searching and provocative questions need to be prevented rather than answered? And does hitting that Ignore button that lets you disregard anything you don't want to hear (a button I would disable globally if I had my way) help you to maintain that belief about me as a WPI sceptic? Or is it related to misunderstanding of the way I hold a strong belief and yet continue to ask probing questions about that in which I believe (a trait I find all too rare in humanity?).
I hope I'm not being offensive or being seen to attack you personally there, Teejkay, I honestly mean no disrespect, but it's quite jarring to me that after everything I've said here over the last few months, you are still able to think that I don't trust the WPI? That's quite upsetting: the points I make are so over-complicated that obviously the simple but more limited message I could have expressed instead gets lost along the way. That idea that I don't trust them could only be true in one very limited sense: I make it a principle that I don't, ever, trust anyone, or anything, 100%. 99.999% may round up to 100%, and sometimes like all of us I use confusing shorthand due to the limitations of language, but there should always, always be room for doubt. Always. Well...99.999% of the time, at least...