Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
Bond and Small-pox Vaccination
(1898): S542, S544, and S548
Dr. Bond and Mr. A. R. Wallace (S542: 12 May 1898)
Sir,--Dr. Francis T. Bond, honorary secretary of the Jenner Society, has, in several local papers, referred to my essay, entitled "Vaccination a Delusion; its Penal Enforcement a Crime," in uncomplimentary terms, and I beg you to allow me, through your widely-circulated paper, to challenge Dr. Bond to give a proof of his statements.
In the "Shrewsbury Chronicle" (April 28) he says that my essay "is crammed full of misrepresentations and fallacies"; in the "Cumberland Advertiser" (March 19) he declares that it is a "collection of wild assertions, flagrant fallacies, and incredible blunders"; and in the "Leicester Daily Post" (April 9) that it is a "specimen of wild and inconsequential rhetoric, and utterly fallacious statistics on this subject." Now my alleged "wild assertions," "flagrant fallacies," and "inconsequential rhetoric," are all based upon a large body of statistics, which Dr. Bond declares to be "fallacious." If they are "fallacious"--that is, either actually erroneous, or directly opposed by other statistics of at least equal extent and of greater authority--I will admit that some of Dr. Bond's assertions may be justified. I ask him therefore to prove, by indisputable facts, first, that the statistics I have set forth in my twelve diagrams (all the authorities for which are given by me) are either themselves unreliable, or have been falsified by me; or, secondly, that there exist other statistics, equally extensive and of greater authority, which I have not made use of, and which lead to directly opposite conclusions.
For example, my first diagram exhibits the death-rates in London from small-pox, from all other zymotics, and from all diseases; and, if correct, proves that these various death-rates all generally agree; sinking and rising together during the same periods; thus strongly suggesting the same general causes, and showing no indication of a special cause affecting smallpox more favorably than other diseases. This diagram alone is conclusive against the claims of vaccination; it is founded on statistics given by the Registrar-General and the Royal Commission reports, extending over a period of 136 years. Will Dr. Bond kindly inform your readers what are the "fallacies," "blunders," or "wild assertions" as regards this most important part of my work, or where are the body of statistics of higher authority which contradict its teachings?
Passing over my diagrams relating to England and Wales, to Scotland and Ireland, to Sweden, and to Leicester, all of which are founded on equally authoritative statistics, and always for the whole period given in the tables, I come to Diagrams XI. and XII., showing the smallpox and total mortalities of revaccinated Army and Navy, as compared with those for similar ages of imperfectly vaccinated Ireland. The comparison of the smallpox death rates of the picked men of these revaccinated and medically-cared-for services with those of impoverished Ireland, at p. 65, and with almost unvaccinated Leicester, at p. 67, show, in the first case a practical equality; in the second, a great superiority for the unvaccinated manufacturing town--thus again proving the total inutility of vaccination. Again, I ask Dr. Bond to point out the "fallacies," "blunders," or "wild assertions," in these diagrams and comparisons; or, failing that, to adduce more complete and more reliable statistics which directly contradict the conclusions to which these lead us.
Finally, I would remark that, unless the seriously erroneous character of these statistics can be proved, the mere production of other statistics apparently showing the utility of vaccination in preventing smallpox is of no avail whatever; because, both conclusions--viz., that vaccination is useless and is also useful, cannot be true, and the more extensive and more trustworthy body of evidence must prevail. I therefore confidently challenge Dr. Bond to show, either that the statistics of the Registrar-General for England and for Ireland, and of the Army and Navy authorities, are erroneous, or that I have falsified them in my diagrams, or that there exists more authoritative statistics, of equal or greater extent, leading to an opposite conclusion. Failing which, his accusations against me must be held to be in his own words, "wild assertions" and "inconsequential rhetoric," and should be unreservedly withdrawn.
--I am, Sir, yours truly, Alfred R. Wallace. Parkstone, May 9.
Sir,--Dr. Bond has now written four long letters without approaching the real point at issue between us, which is, whether the large masses of national statistics exhibited in my diagrams are, as he alleged, "fallacious;" and, if not, whether they prove or disprove the alleged value of vaccination. His first two letters dealt only with the origin and spread of zymotic diseases, as to which I stated what I believe to be the opinion of the best authorities; but Dr. Bond holds different views, and he is entitled to his own opinion; though it is doubtful whether this and other small details were worth discussing at such portentous length.
In his last two letters, however ("Echo," June 7th and 11th), he comes to a definite though still very small point, disputing the accuracy of a single case I quoted to illustrate the phenomenon of pro-vaccinist "bluff," of which I have given several examples; and he accuses me of having "doctored" a death-rate, of "statistical sleight of hand," and of "suppressing" essential facts. Let us see how the matter really stands.
(1) I quoted from the appendix to Sir John Simon's Parliamentary Paper on the "History and Practice of Vaccination" (1857), a statement by Dr. T. Graham Balfour as to vaccination and small-pox in the Royal Military Orphan Asylum at Chelsea. Dr. Bond, however, does not consult this original paper, but the reprint of it in the first report, from which reprint Dr. Balfour's statement is omitted, as I stated to the Royal Commission (Third report, Q. 7,211). Hence arises a long series of blunders. Dr. Bond says:--"The quotation of Dr. Balfour by Sir John Simon, on which Mr. Wallace bases his comparison, is to be found on page 72 of the first report of the Royal Commissioners"--and then he quotes what Sir John says about another paper of Dr. Balfour's, not the one in the appendix to his original Parliamentary Paper!
Having thus blundered at the very beginning, he goes on to say that I have "for some unexplained reason inflated 5,744 into 31,706." But Dr. Balfour, in his original article, gives 31,705 as the number of boys during 48 years (evidently obtained by adding together the numbers in the asylum for each of the 48 years), among whom there were 39 cases and four deaths; and he himself gives the death-rate at 126 per million, a rate which Dr. Bond accuses me of having "doctored." It is true that I added the words "on the average number in the Asylum," because it is only thus you can compare one death-rate with another. That average number is 660 and a little more than a half over, and whether you calculate the death-rate among 31,705 in 48 years, or among 660 each year, the result is the same, 126 [[per]] million. Of course, the numbers are too small to have any real statistical value. But they were adduced by Dr. Balfour himself to show the value of vaccination, and he took it for granted that 126 million was an exceptionally low rate. But I show that among the very imperfectly vaccinated outside population of the same ages the rate was only 94 per million, so that the case, if it proves anything, is dead against vaccination. The number 5,744, given, apparently, in Dr. Balfour's other paper, may probably be the actual number of the boys who passed through the asylum in the 48 years, a number which, for statistical purposes, is unimportant.
(2) Dr. Bond's accusation as to my "suppression" of the alleged fact that the four boys who died, were all unvaccinated because they were "believed already to have suffered from small-pox" is equally unfounded, for that statement is not made in the original article. Dr. Balfour says, most clearly, that every boy was vaccinated unless he had been vaccinated before, or had had small-pox; and he states positively that they were "all protected." It is only Sir John Simon, in his second-hand statement, who hints a doubt by his "believed to have had small-pox;" and the fact of the whole four deaths occurring after previous small-pox is too improbable to be accepted except on the very best first-hand evidence. But, if it were the fact, it is not one to be suppressed by us, but rather by the pro-vaccinists. For they all admit that protection by vaccination can never exceed, and very rarely equal, that afforded by an attack of small-pox; so that if small-pox does not protect against the disease still less does vaccination.
I have now shown that every word and figure of my reference to the Chelsea Asylum case (at pp. 50-51 of my "Vaccination a Delusion") is strictly accurate; and that my conclusion, which, as Dr. Bond tells his readers, "seems on the face of the evidence to be justifiable," is really so.
To use the very words of my critic against himself, "This is not a bad illustration of Dr. Bond's trustworthiness as a controversialist, as well as of his competency as a statistician." He has misread my very plain reference; he has, therefore, quoted the wrong authority; he has got hold of the wrong figures; he has thus left my facts and my conclusions wholly untouched, and he has occupied a column and a-half of small print in thus convicting himself of incompetence as a critic. I shall be perfectly ready to acknowledge any real and important errors he can point out, but unless he can do something much better in the way of real criticism, I shall not think it necessary to waste any more time in elucidating his obscurities, or correcting his misrepresentations.
--I am, Sir, yours truly, Alfred R. Wallace. Parkstone, June 13.
Sir,--Dr. Bond's three long letters on the Army and Navy statistics of small-pox really call for no reply from me, since he leaves my main statement, that the best re-vaccination possible has produced absolutely no effect in diminishing their small-pox mortality, entirely unaffected. The crucial fact that, in both Army and Navy for the last 34 sears, the total mortality from all diseases has decreased more rapidly than the small-pox mortality, is an unanswerable proof of this, and neither the Royal Commissioners nor Dr. Bond have attempted to answer it. And the further fact that these two bodies of picked and re-vaccinated men have suffered from small-pox about as much as the whole population of Ireland of the same ages, and more than twice as much as almost unvaccinated Leicester, still further shows the absolute inutility of the best re-vaccination the medical staff of the Army and Navy can give. In the face of these two indisputable facts Dr. Bond's various petty criticisms, which never touch the main points, may be neglected.
My general conclusion, founded on the very best and most extensive body of statistics in existence, as given in my essay, remains totally uncontroverted by anything in Dr. Bond's numerous letters. It is, that the long series of records of mortality in London (the largest and most continuous known), the whole modern registration statistics of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the accurate official records of the Army and Navy, and those of the almost unvaccinated town of Leicester, all give the same consistent results. By comparing in each case the small-pox mortality with the total mortality, or with that from zymotic diseases, we see that the diminution occurs in all alike, and that there is absolutely nothing that can be attributed to the special influence of vaccination in the case of small-pox. In the large town of Leicester the steady decrease of vaccination for a quarter of a century, till it is now only about 2 per cent. of the births, has been accompanied, not only by an almost total absence of small-pox, but also by a continuous and striking diminution of infant mortality. As if to enforce this lesson, the opposition to vaccination, which has led, as officially stated, to only two-thirds of the infants born being now vaccinated, has been accompanied not by an increase but by a diminution of small-pox mortality both in London and over the whole kingdom, and also in a gratifying diminution of infant mortality.
Against this overwhelming consensus of the best evidence available, we have nothing but an array of individual experiences not founded on authoritative evidence, and in any case worth nothing, since an equal array can be and has been adduced on the other side. The broad and consistent teachings of the great masses of national experience we now have at our disposal, combined with that of extensive communities exceptionally treated--as in the case of the Army and Navy and the town of Leicester--cannot be affected by any amount of more limited or personal experience. Evidence most be weighed as well as counted. Yet the bulk of the medical profession and the great majority of our legislators, without paying the slightest attention to these facts, content themselves with again and again declaring their "firm belief in the immense benefits of vaccination." Like the historic Bourbons, they learn nothing and forget nothing, but blindly cling to their early beliefs.
Such of your readers as may wish to see a full discussion of the question from a medical point of view, with the arguments of the pro-vaccinators fairly given and fully answered, should read Dr. Scott Tebb's recently published volume, "A Century of Vaccination."
--I am, yours truly, Alfred R. Wallace.