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Germ theory denialism

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Some alternative medicine advocates deny the validity of germ theory in medicine, believing that despite many, many validations of the work of Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Ignaz Semmelweis, Joseph Lister, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, bacteria and viruses are not the causative agents of infectious disease. Typically, they argue that microorganisms are symptoms rather than causes of illness. While many cloak their denialism in other altie specialties such as naturopathy or chiropractic, others are more strident, often invoking conspiracy theories by the medical establishment and accusing Louis Pasteur in particular of fraud.

Germ theory deniers pop up in a number of different locales:

  • Some HIV denial advocates also partially or completely discount germ theory.
  • Germ theory denialists are generally antivaxers as well, which makes a kind of perverse anti-intellectual sense.
  • Dairy cranks who support the use of raw milk over pasteurized sometimes accuse Pasteur of being a shill for the French wine industry (a somewhat incoherent accusation that sometimes betrays a Prohibitionist streak).
  • NaturalNews, of course.
  • Bill Maher.[1][2] (Though he claims he is not a "germ theory denier"[3]).

Curiously, few of these people have shown a willingness to drink a glass of pathogen. Those that do do not always learn their lesson from the expected result.

It should be noted that the label "germ theory denialism" is often applied to systems of alternative medicine which claim that if a person is in optimal/perfect health then that person's immune system will be 100% effective at fending off all infections, and thus 1) anyone following said system has no need of vaccines, and/or 2) anyone who has a bacterial infection should use said system's means of "boosting the immune system" to fight off the infection rather than using any antibiotics. Proponents of these systems reject the notion that they're germ theory denialists on the grounds that they acknowledge that germs play a causative role in infections. That said, there are systems of alternative medicine which claim that germs play no causative role in any illnesses, and that instead that the presence of germs is the effect of certain forms of illness. Similar to the "not outright denialist"-alties, US Senator Thom Tillis (R[4]) is against requiring food servers to wash their hands after using the bathroom,[5] while Andrew Shlafly claims that hand washing amounts to a phobia, because both think that hand borne pathogens are of no great concern to public health (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary).

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[edit] Footnotes

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