Respectful Insolence

I don’t know how I missed this one, but it jut goes to show that antivaccination ignorance with respect to autism is truly a bipartisan affair. You have folks like Representative Dan Burton on the right, and on the left you have this particular Daily Kos diarist, who falls like a ton of bricks for the recent Generation Rescue “study” of autism rates in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children:

The first ever study comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated children was completed with startling results.

  1. Vaccines Caused Autism
  2. Vaccines Caused Asthma
  3. Vaccines Caused ADHD

The study was privated funded and conducted through an independent research firm. 11,817 households with 17,674 children were interviewed.

This is important to note as this is the first ever study of its kind. All other studies on autism and vaccines only studied a changed variable, such as removing the MMR shot, or reducing the mercury in vaccines.

Talk about a lack of critical thinking skills and a surfeit of credulity! As Kev so ably described, in actuality this study demonstrates unequivocally that there is at the very minimum a significant rate of autism in unvaccinated children. There were quite a few cases found in unvaccinated children. Indeed, its results are disastrous for Generation Rescue’s longstanding “it’s the mercury in vaccines, stupid” claims.

Of course, as I documented when it was first released, the Generation Rescue poll that this diarist is referencing is a steaming, stinking, pile of crap that shows nothing of the sort. It’s so full of methodological flaws that it’s a fantastic example of how not to do such as study. I guess that “financial” needs to be shown just how bad this “study” is. To that end, I happily list my post on the subject, along with some other excellent deconstructions of this Generation Rescue pseudoscience:

  1. Fun with phone surveys and vaccines
  2. Survey says….. Nothing!!
  3. Generation Rescue Survey Results
  4. A Simple Selection Bias Model Explains Generation Rescue’s Survey Results

I doubt that “financial” can be turned from the dark side, given that he or she appears to have drunk deeply of the Kool Aid, even parroting the “Amish anomaly” and the utter crap that Dan Olmsted wrote about the Home First group in Chicago. Sadly for my sanity, I can’t help tilting at windmills from time to time, and this is no exception. On the other hand, I do note that “financial” caught a lot of much-deserved flak in the comments for this post. His or her defenses are so utterly, risibly pathetic that J. B. Handley himself appeared in the comments to defend the study.

Comments

  1. #1 Rjaye
    September 21, 2007

    My goodness, I went over to read Kos, and was mightily disturbed at the lack of reasoning going on. It was propaganda, and I found the wording disturbing.

    As an adult with autism, the impression I get is that the people who propose these ideas and stick to them so religiously never look at their children as people but as a trauma in their lives. Don’t they realize how these attitudes are affecting their children?

    As an older adult with autism, there are many of us middle-aged and older fold who live in society, doing the best we can, and no-one has bothered to come looking for us, because in theory–we don’t exist. We don’t have services, or we get them for some mental illness “unspecified.” It would might be more informative to study older populations and see what the incidence of ASDs are in those cohorts, and compare it to the younger generations.

    And using school records for scientific studies? Oy.

  2. #2 Clare
    September 21, 2007

    You’ll notice that in repeating him or herself over and over again, “financial” struggles hard to seem like a dispassionate seeker of truth. But every now and again, the slip shows, like in this priceless remark that “right now, it appears, the vaccines are themselves doing greater damage then has ever been known.” Unfortunately for “financial,” but fortunately for the rest of us, real scientific research does not, nor should it serve as a vanity project for people who simply want their assumptions confirmed. If this was all it took to whip up a few hundred thou to do a study, we’d be wasting our time studying the link between broken mirrors and seven years bad luck (don’t tell me someone has demanded that someone do that?????)

  3. #3 fusilier
    September 21, 2007

    Unfortunately I do have Dan Burton – I live in his district. He’s an insurance saleseman fercryinoutloud, not even a lawyer.

    He does have a primary opponent, though, for the first time in decades – an ER doc – so maybe there’s a chance for sanity.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  4. #4 wfjag
    September 21, 2007

    Daily Kos is about the most rabidly unreasonable partisan attack site on the web I’ve found. It makes even Michael Savage look reasonable by comparision.

    However, it also gets about 500K hits a day — which, unfortunately, is fewer than this site has gotten in total. So, you can expect this article to become known far and wide, and, since many of the D’Kos readers are true believers who accept without question anything posted there — even when those posting are easily demonstrated as false — it will almost be as if the evidence from vaccine court doesn’t exist. And, since all of the Dem. Party candidates (except SEN Biden) are willing to crawl before D’Kos, you’ll probably see this issue politicized as at least some of them try to use it to curry favor with D’Kos believers (RFK, Jr. is already a true believer in this myth, and he’s a name that will attract notice and a crowd). As you note, Dan Burton is already a true believer — so it’s also a perfect “we’re willing to reach out to and work with conservatives” pitch — especially since it’s a “save the children” campaign issue. Quick, book Dr. Wakefield to speak on what it’s like to be the Martyr of Big Pharma. That’s a good warm up speech before the candidate takes stage. This could become the Perfect Political Storm for the ’08 elections.

    And, you thought a has-been former UPI reporter was capable of doing damage.

  5. #5 Joseph
    September 21, 2007

    It’s utterly false that the phone survey found autism to be more common among vaccinated children. But Generation Rescue obviously did a good job of giving that impression. What happened was that they spun it as “more likely to have neurological disorders like autism and ADHD“. They aggregated the data of autism and ADHD to be able to say something about autism, as the survey did find significant differences for the ADHD group (probably because of a health care avoidance confound combined with the survey introduction bias confound).

    In fact, the survey found vaccines to be a “protective” factor, if you will, when it comes to autism, albeit a non-significant one.

    There was a difference for boys vs. girls, but the risk factor was not significant for boys. The “protective” factor was statistically significant for girls, though, a fact you won’t see Generation Rescue mention, ever. I explore some of these matters in my post (#4 linked in the list above).

    In all, the way Generation Rescue spun the results was extremely dishonest IMHO.

  6. #6 Michael Patrick
    September 21, 2007

    My wife is a diarist on Kos, and since we have a daughter with autism, her diaries frequently deal with autism issues. I’ve had a front row seat at a number of the debates on autism issues on Kos. There are a few anti-vaccine types there, but as happened with “financials” diary, they tend to get shouted down by the science-based crowd who are in the majority.

    Just because one person writes an anti-vaccine screed, one shouldn’t assume it represents the entire Kos community.

  7. #7 usagi
    September 21, 2007

    Daily Kos is about the most rabidly unreasonable partisan attack site on the web I’ve found. It makes even Michael Savage look reasonable by comparison.

    wfjag, you need to get out more. Google townhall, redstate, & littlegreenfootballs. You also don’t need to worry about candidates “crawling” for approval. They view Kos & the rest of the blogsphere as an ATM to extract cash from, nothing more. And considering practically all of the comments below the diary point out the study is crap, “accept without question anything posted there” seems, well, incorrect.

    Orac, you consider cutting back on the caffeine. I could see you responding to this if it were posted by a front pager at Kos, a declared candidate or sitting officeholder (far more comparable to Representative Dan Burton, don’t you think?), or were topping the recommended list with a call for specific action. It was a diary by a member. There are hundreds of those a day. Anyone who’s been a member for more than a week gets to post one a day. Most are poorly written. Many are poorly reasoned. The community policing system is seriously broken and has been for some time. It’s unfortunate that the noise to signal ratio in the diaries has gotten so high, but it’s not as if anyone who’s paying attention hasn’t noticed. About the only available response at this point is to ignore them until they go away (there was an anti-circumcision nut posting like clockwork every day for a month over the summer who finally ran out of steam after people stopped reading–I think that diarist only lasted as long as he or she did because the initial couple of posts brought hundreds of “why are you posting this here?” comments).

    Equating a diary from a random member on Kos to “the left” is a sloppy comparison that’s beneath you, Orac. Save this kind of outrage for someone who’s in a position to actually affect policy in a meaningful way. Or if the point really was that irrationality and lack of critical thinking skills cuts across the political spectrum, why not just post on the wetness of water or the easterlyness of sunrise?

  8. #8 Orac
    September 21, 2007

    Equating a diary from a random member on Kos to “the left” is a sloppy comparison that’s beneath you, Orac.

    How about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., then? Is that prominent enough “left” for you?

    As I said, although irrationality and lack of critical thinking skills cut across ideological lines, the issues over which irrationality reigns tend to differ between the left and the right. Antivaccination idiocy, however, is truly a bipartisan affair.

  9. #9 usagi
    September 21, 2007

    How about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., then? Is that prominent enough “left” for you?

    You did a pretty thorough job on his antivac piece of crap already (unless there’s a new article somewhere). If you felt the need to flog that horse again, why not pull out the classic post?

    Antivaccination idiocy, however, is truly a bipartisan affair.

    It’s not restricted to antivaccination. There are plenty of “lefties” who don’t accept evolution or global warming. For right-wing conspiracy theories, substitute shadowy Men In Black for the Elders of Zion and the left-wing version reads practically the same. Or add aliens. That usually works too.

  10. #10 marion
    September 21, 2007

    Texas (the state in which I live) has a new radio ad being run by some state agency or another. It starts by asking the listener to imagine being racked by a constant cough that won’t stop, then goes on to keep describing the cough, then adds that you’re coughing so hard that you can’t breathe and start to choke.

    And then it says, “Now imagine you’re only two months old.”

    It is, of course, an ad encouraging childhood vaccination (pertussis, in this case, but vaccination in general) and it is, in my opinion, very well done…if by “well done” one means “designed to make non-vaccinating parents feel like the lowest forms of life possible.” Which is fine with me. Anyway, I thought of Respectful Insolence when I heard it. Nice to see the pro-vaccination side using the “do it for THE CHILDREN” card for once. (To be fair, the issue in Texas isn’t educated parents credulously buying into wild autism claims, but more poor and/or immigrant parents just not being fully aware of vaccination recommendations. But still, an unvaccinated child is an unvaccinated child…)

  11. #11 isles
    September 22, 2007

    Ooh, Marion, I like that ad.

    Actually Texas does have its share of antivaccine zealots – it is the home of PROVE (Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education, and you can guess what they want to convey about vaccines) and the U.S. clinic of the infamous Andrew Wakefield, currently facing charges before the General Medical Council in London for his mistreatment of autistic children.

  12. #12 Coin
    September 22, 2007

    How about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., then? Is that prominent enough “left” for you?

    Well… no, actually. Does anyone on the left really listen to him, or look to him for guidance? He’s got a show on Air America, I guess, but it doesn’t seem so much he’s influential or relevant so much as just famous. He’s of note because of his last name.

    This said, I for one really wasn’t really interpreting your original post as “equating” the Kos diarist with the left. All you said was that the Kos diarist was “on the left”. And you’re right– the one Kos diarist, or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., don’t reasonably speak for the left, but they’re definitely a part of the left. They aren’t, I would argue, influential within the left right now, but that could change in the future and so they are something the left has to deal with.

    I dunno. I’ve actually been kind of wondering exactly where, if anywhere, on the political spectrum the antivax/alt-med people are eventually going to settle down. There’s more than enough anecdotal stuff to link them with either mainstream party at the moment, and I’ve kind of started noticing lately more and more cases of alternative medicine aligning with the abolish-the-FDA strain of libertarianism– witness the “Health Freedom USA” guy from the other day, pimping Ron Paul.

    What I kind of suspect it’s going to come down to is whenever nationalized health care or nationalized health insurance finally becomes a reality– and I think it’s pretty likely we’re going to see a serious attempt at that within a presidential election or two. Whenever the government starts gets involved in this, at whatever level, it’s going to have to decide how to fit in the alt-med people (does it force people to get vaccinations? does it allocate money for “CAM”?), and exactly how it decides to deal with that has a good chance of shifting that crowd into being either a permanent part of the left-wing coalition, or its permanent enemy…

  13. #13 HCN
    September 22, 2007

    Coin said: “I dunno. I’ve actually been kind of wondering exactly where, if anywhere, on the political spectrum the antivax/alt-med people are eventually going to settle down.”

    Actually between Phyllis Schlafly with her Eagle Forum and the Wing Nut Daily (WorldNetDaily) on the far right who all hate vaccines, then with RJK, jr and the sMothering forums (the Mothering magazine rag) on the left who also hate vaccines (oh, and that “Mothering” rag had a front page photo of a pregnant woman with an “HIV” with a slash through it painted on her very big tummmy… only to have the child held within die a few years later of an HIV disease) — science ignorance and loony ideas are not political entities.

    In short, the anti-vax/alt-med folks will be on every spectrum of the political fence.

    Then, on the other hand… the fairly libertarian right wing American Council on Science and Health has a link to the very left wing Spiked-Online. This is because they share the same veiws on medical/science issues. Here is what ACSH had to say about Spiked-Online at http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.370/news_detail.asp .. “Sp!ked: The writers of this British online magazine have little patience for unscientific fads, even amongst their fellow left-wingers.”

    Real science should not have a political stance.

  14. #14 wfjag
    September 23, 2007

    Dear Mr. Patrick:
    While I don’t think you intended to, you actually made my point about D’Kos. People are “shout[ed] down” there by the “majority” (or, at least those who shout loudest or most often.

    Dear usagi:
    Please note my reference to Michael Savage. Fortunately, he’s generally ignored by everyone, except those who stay up into the wee hours and call in to talked about there experiences with “Black Helos” and 9/11 was an inside job.
    However, I do not deny that there are plenty of echo chamber sites — on left and right. As you said, “The community policing system is seriously broken and has been for some time.” I don’t dispute that same statement is true on many other sites, too. However, this tripe appeared on D’Kos.

    That said, as Coin pointed out, the US will be facing questions about some sort of national health care system in the near future. And, I’ve seen nothing that seriously challenges my original point — the “vaccines cause autism” slogan is a Perfect Political Storm — anytime you can get Dan Burton, RFK, Jr., Jenny McCarthy and Oprah all on the same stage saying that the same thing has to be done so “save the children”, that’s a potent combination.

    Contrary to what some may think, RFK, Jr. is very influential. It’s not just because of his name and family connections. He’s President of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. The NRDC has followed a strategy of using suits to raise money and force local, state and federal policy changes for decades. It has been very successful, although many of its suits were founded on the worst sort of junk science. It has both the organization and resources, and has on staff or retainer “experts” sufficient to keep their suits alive past the initial motions stage of litigation. In federal court, the judges want all discovery completed before they will consider a motion for summary judgment. That means the government defendant has to retain its own experts, and pay the costs of discovery – which will usually run in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, under the citizens suits provisions found in all enviromental laws and under the Equal Access to Justice Act, if the NRDC prevails on any issue, it almost always is awarded its attorneys’ fees. Very often, perhaps in most cases, the government settles simply to avoid the costs.

    As others have noted, the anti-vax movement cuts across ideological and political party lines. That it’s founded on pseudo-science is no reason to under estimate its appeal.

    Science education in H.S. and college are generally very poor. The typical “science reporter” has little to no training in science. The activists set up “information sites” that they give to the reporters. Yes, if you check into them far enough, you get past the high sounding names and find out that they are advocacy sites. However, don’t expect a reporter facing a dead line to do that very often. “Vaccines May Cause Autism” is a grabber headline, especially when it’s all to “save the children”. Are you opposed to saving the children?

    If you try to point out the facts, then “You must be a shill for Big Pharma.” I know you’ve seen that tactic used, and I believe you’ve seen it used, often very effectively, to silence skeptics. If that isn’t a sufficient attack to silence a skeptic, then the allegation that “You’re a [fill in the blank] denier” is made. Just because you have good science on your side doesn’t mean that personal attacks aren’t effective. The tactics used are to silence or discredit the skeptics, not to answer the arguments based on science.

    Politicians know that emotional appeals get people to give money, work as campaign volunteers and to vote. Who do you think they’ll listen to — the rational scientist, with the rational, but complex, factual argument based on statistical analysis of data, or to the “Save the Children”, “Vaccines cause autism” hysteria mongers? And, who do you think pols want to have their photo ops with — you, or Jenny McCarthy, Oprah, RFK, Jr. and Dan Burton?

  15. #15 marion
    September 23, 2007

    isles: True, but Texas is a big state with a lot of people with a wide range of political views. What I should have said is that anti-vax mumbo-jumbo doesn’t really have any
    mainstream traction. Will you find some educated, well-off people refusing to vaccinate their children because they read Jenny McCarthy’s book? Sure. But they aren’t the motivation for that ad. The motivation for the ad is more that there are a lot of parents in the state who don’t speak English well and/or working three jobs to get by and literally don’t know that their kids need to be vaccinated.

    Can we just agree that the anti-vax types are in the Unscientific Party, whose membership is growing all of the time?

  16. #16 Tomas
    September 26, 2007

    Why are people so upset that Orac points out that the left has woo. I am as leftwing as they come (in an american scale), but certain types of woo have a definant leftwing bias. For instance, new age bs is properly much more prevelant amongst leftwingers. All political positions have an ability to attract certain types of Woo: Creationism, christian science, faith healing (rightwing) New Age, homeopathy, altie medicin (Leftwing).

    Because I agree with somebody on social and economic issues doesnt mean I have to feel my arguments undermined just because some of my fellow lefties are Woosters.

  17. #17 Orac
    September 26, 2007

    In my anecdotal experience, people are upset because the left tends to think itself intellectually superior to the right. They don’t like it when it is pointed out to them that lefties are just as prone to woo as rightwingers. It’s just a different kind of woo.

    (Ducks and puts on asbestos suit.)

  18. #18 Bronze Dog
    September 26, 2007

    Woo knows no political ideology. Or it knows all of them. Whatever: Anyone of any affiliation has the risk of becoming a woo.

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