Respectful Insolence

I realize that I’m possibly stepping into proverbial lion’s den with this one, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. As you may recall, former ScienceBlogs bloggers Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (and current Discover Magazine bloggers) recently released a book called Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. As you may also recall, the arguments and assertions that Chris and Sheril made in their book ruffled more than a few feathers around ScienceBlogs, chief among them the big macher of atheism around here, P.Z. Myers, who really, really didn’t like what Chris and Sheril had to say and has spent considerable verbiage trashing them (in particular Chris) wherever they’ve appeared promoting the book and getting in flame wars with Chris, who (foolishly, in my opinion)responded in kind. It became personal. Or maybe it was personal before the book was ever released. Of course, P.Z. wasn’t the only one who really, really didn’t like what Chris and Sheril had to say; almost overnight the science blogosphere in general and ScienceBlogs in particular appeared to divide along the lines of those who agreed with Chris and Sheril’s thesis and those who were really, really hostile to it.

I never really commented much because I learned during the “framing wars” that erupted around ScienceBlogs a couple of years ago that it’s a no-win situation to insert oneself into such a charged issue with both sides deeply entrenched. Since I’m not Jim Kirk and this no-win situation is not the Kobayashi Maru simulation for Star Fleet, unless I’m really passionate about an issue (vaccines, for instance), these days I hesitate more before wading into such a morass. At least, I hesitate more than I used to. Of course, another reason is that I hadn’t read the book. It’s kind of dumb to wade into a huge kerfuffle about what a book says about science communication if you haven’t–oh, you know–actually read the book yet. Still, after a month and a half or so and a vacation last week that allowed me finally to crack Unscientific America, I thought I might chime in to defend Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum.

But not against P.Z. Myers or the other critics of Unscientific America. Rather, Age of Autism has attacked Chris and Sheril, and I can’t allow that to go by uncommented on.

Psyche!

I realize I may have just pissed off a few of my readers. Sorry about that, but I haven’t actually finished the book; so it’s still too early to comment, and, given that the kerfuffle has basically died down I may well have missed the moment where anyone cares what I have to say about Unscientific America by the time I finish it. In any case, better the morass I know very well than the one I’m less familiar with. Besides, it’s always the right time to give an anti-vaccinationist like Ginger Taylor a bit of the ol’ Not-So-Respectful Insolence, especially now that she’s apparently guest blogging for that happy home of wandering anti-vaccine propagandists, Age of Autism. This time around, she’s responding to Chris Mooney in the LAT (also on her own blog). In essence, Chris Mooney was featured several days ago in an interview published in the LA Times under the title Bringing science back into America’s sphere, and he had some things to say about the anti-vaccine movement in the overall context of the them of his book, specifically:

It [the anti-vaccine movement] bubbled up originally for legitimate reasons. The mercury preservative thimerosal probably shouldn’t have been in vaccines. It was taken out for precautionary reasons. Since then, science has come in and we can’t detect the correlation between a rise in autism diagnoses and use of childhood vaccines. And study after study has been done.

So, at some point you have to let go. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, there’s a conspiracy theory and people have appointed themselves as experts on this. And so it starts to take on the cast of kind of a more-left-leaning version of global warming and evolution where — I’m sorry, but your anecdote doesn’t beat the studies’ evidence.

It is really unfortunate. It’s not like people who think the moon landings are a hoax. Vaccine denial really is dangerous. The people who try to avoid vaccination, who believe this, are not stupid. They’re not disadvantaged. They actually tend to be well-to-do, educated. So the distrust of science — this is not something a better high school education would have saved them from.

Actually, before I defend Mooney, I have to take him to task for a moment. The anti-vaccine movement didn’t really bubble up so much for “legitimate” reasons, given that there never was really any good science behind it. He also makes it sound as though the thimerosal issue was the be-all and end-all of the movement. I know Chris knows better than that, given that he wrote an excellent article for Discover Magazine published in June entitled Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On? Maybe it was editing or the short form of an interview. But I can forgive him that one little slip because he got a really good zinger in with that moon hoax comment. The reason I like that comment is because it echoes what I’ve been saying all along, namely that the anti-vaccine movement really is like moon hoaxers, the 9/11 Truther movement, the Obama birther movement, homeopaths, reiki practitioners and creationists in that ideology is all and science must either bend to serve and reinforce the core beliefs of the ideology or be discarded or tortured until it can somehow be made to appear to reinforce those beliefs. Hence, no matter how many studies are done that fail to find evidence for a correlation between vaccines and autism, you’ll find Age of Autism and its fellow travelers out there insisting against all evidence that, yes, vaccines cause autism. That’s because, above all, it’s not about autism. Not really. It’s about the vaccines and fear of vaccines.

Naturally, Ginger Taylor and the anti-vaccine zealots at Age of Autism were quite displeased:

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism.

I saw Lori’s piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don’t seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing “science” as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public.

I feel like you may have confused actual hard “Science” with “things that most scientists think”, as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been (and most assuredly still is in many places) wrong.

First off, let me just point out that Ginger mentions her masters degree pretty much every opportunity she gets (she’s even used it in her signature in an e-mail to me before), as though we’re supposed to be impressed. Here’s a hint: A masters degree in clinical counseling does not qualify her to evaluate the science behind vaccines and autism any more than a masters degree–in science! (Actually, I’d trust Mr. Science more than Ginger to evaluate science.) Ginger likes to think it does, but she’s shown time and time again on her own blog that she is so wedded to the vaccine/autism myth that she can’t objectively look at the evidence. I don’t flaunt my MD or PhD when I’m discussing this subject. In fact, I rarely mention my degrees on this blog (although occasionally, when others are flaunting whatever credentials they have I’ll add mine in, but it’s usually done more to make a point than anything else.) The reason I rarely, if ever, flaunt my credentials on my blog is because I understand that most people truly don’t give a rodent’s posterior about them and that holding them up like a talisman against criticism would be rather pathetic. In the blogosphere, arguments need to stand and fall on their own. (Is that anything like, “In space, no one can hear you scream”?) My desire for my arguments to stand or fall on their own is one reason why, even though a fair number of people, Ginger included, know my real identity, I continue to write under a pseudonym. (The other reason, of course, being that I like the pseudonym and have become attached to it over the years.) It’s also why I make very sure to point out that my logorrheic ramblings do not reflect the views of anyone but myself, and most certainly not the views of my university, cancer center, or bosses, except perhaps only occasionally and then only by coincidence.

More importantly, Ginger is using the ever-famous doggerel of “science has been wrong before.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: That’s one of the lamest rebuttals pseudoscience boosters like to use. It’s very much of the “They thought me mad, but I’ll show them all!” variety of rejoinders. I think that Skeptico and John Jackson explained best why this gambit is bogus (word choice intentional). Basically, science is a process that results in a series of provisional truths, backed by evidence and experimentation, that are amended when new evidence shows that they need to be amended. Over time, science gets closer to an accurate description of how a phenomenon works.

The most important thing, however, is that these provisional truths have evidence supporting them. If you think a conclusion of science is wrong, then you have to provide evidence sufficient to make scientists start to wonder if their understanding is wrong. My usual example is homeopathy, which goes against so many tenets of so many branches of science that for it to be true much of what we consider to be well-established principles about physics, chemistry, and physiology would have to be seriously wrong. To make me think that there might be something to homeopathy would require a quantity of evidence that’s at least in the same order of magnitude in terms of quantity and quality as the evidence that shows that homeopathy cannot work. Yet, if such studies were ever produced in sufficient quality and quantity, I would start to change my mind about homeopathy. Crappy studies showing an effect barely greater than that of a placebo that is probably due to either bias or random chance, however, do not qualify as being sufficient to start that process. In terms of whether vaccines cause autism, the same thing applies, although admittedly, as implausible as it is, given the extreme implausibility of homeopathy, the contention that vaccines cause autism is more plausible than homeopathy and thus less evidence would be required for me to start to question existing science that says that vaccines do not cause autism. This is where the anti-vaccine movement has failed and continues to fail miserably. It can’t provide the evidence. All it can do is whine, as Ginger does, that “science was wrong before,” the implication being that because science has been wrong before it is wrong now and–more importantly–Ginger is right. Well, I have news for you Ginger, just because science was wrong before doesn’t mean it’s wrong now. To show that, you need evidence, and you simply don’t have it.

There’s also the matter that there are multiple ways of being wrong. I think John Jackson put this the best:

What we need to understand is that we can be wrong to varying degrees. Let’s say a man has robbed a shop and police ask witnesses for the robber’s height. They could get answers such as 5′ 10″, 6′ 0″, and 1′ 8″. If the robber was 5’11” they are all technically speaking wrong; but the police chief who doesn’t understand that there are degrees of being wrong will not stand much chance of catching his man if he sends his force out looking for a 20-inch armed-robber.

There are many complex areas of inquiry and finding answers is not easy. Initial ideas and hypotheses may be quite wrong; however, where they are shown to be wrong, they will be amended and retested. In this process, what happens is that an absolutely true answer may not be found, but we get closer to what is true every step of the way by being less wrong than before.

By rejecting theories and hypotheses that can be shown to be false and replacing them with others that stand up to attempts to prove them wrong (Note: not attempts to prove them right. See: confirmation bias fallacy), we can accept them as being provisionally true. Truth, by definition, could never be shown to be wrong. This is why a scientific theory that cannot currently be shown to be wrong is accepted as provisionally true.

To argue that science can’t prove things to be 100% true is fine, but for people to use it as an argument to give validity to completely untenable ideas is fallacious. Both their ideas and science may be wrong; but science is highly likely to be far less wrong than they are.

So, yes, it’s possible (albeit highly unlikely) that science is wrong about vaccines and autism, but it’s far more likely that anti-vaccinationists are wrong, given the state of the evidence. Not that that stops Ginger from dazzling us with her mad skillz with ALL CAPS in making the next part of her argument:

When my son regressed into autism following his 18 month shots and I spent a year trying to reconcile all of the contradictory positions of my own pediatrician, the AAP, the CDC, HHS, the “science” you say exonerates vaccines from autism causation, the whole of the research out there and the facts of my own son’s case, what I found was a ridiculous mess.

What you keep referring to as “science” is making contradictory statements all over the place. It resembles nothing like the thing that “Science” is actually supposed to be, the methodical study of phenomena to figure out what is ACTUALLY, TRULY happening.
Yet the statements that scientists make claiming that all the vaccine/autism questions have been answered, that all the possibilities have been explored and that people should just kill what intellectual curiosity and concern for child safety that they have left and move on? How is that “Science”? How is that not laughable?

The first part of Ginger’s complaint is the classic appeal to other ways of knowing. She is placing her anecdotal evidence above that of science. Yet, as I have explained time and time again, personal experience and anecdotes are inherently misleading. As Richard P. Feynman so famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” That’s lesson number one in the scientific method, but those who are not steeped in doing science often find this warning hard to accept, even though the ease with which all humans–you, Ginger, and, yes, I–are fooled is the very reason science is necessary.

We humans are hard-wired to leap to conclusions and confuse correlation with causation. If we weren’t, we might not need science nearly as much as we do to determine what causes what disease and what treatments work for what disease. Harriet Hall explains it well when she observes that “I saw it with my own eyes!” is not enough. We humans confuse correlation with causation all the time. Given the millions of children who receive vaccines around the age range that the first symptoms of autism most frequently manifest themselves, it is to be expected that some children will regress after vaccines by random chance alone. To those parents, it seems for all the world that the vaccines caused the regression. The only way to verify that these anecdotes do represent evidence for causation is science. I’ve tried to explain this to Dr. Jay Gordon time and time again, for example. It’s like talking to a brick wall, because he is so confident that his “thirty years of clinical experience” trumps epidemiology. I expect I’ll have as little success explaining it to Ginger, given that her personal experience trumps that of Dr. Gordon in emotional intensity because it has to do with her child. Indeed, I doubt that even the classic “vaxed versus unvaxed” study that Ginger calls for would persuade her that vaccines were safe even if it were completely negative. Never mind how expensive and difficult it would be to do and how it would be virtually impossible to do a study of sufficient power to convince people like Ginger that vaccines are safe

Oh, wait. I wrote about that very topic on Monday.

Ginger then trots out anti-science canards that pseudoscience boosters love, one after another. First, there’s one of my favorites, the “science is a religion” canard:

There are about a thousand questions on the vaccine/autism connection that neither scientists nor research has ever addressed, and the medical establishment won’t even allow to be asked in their “pulpits” because “science” is the new religion and their dogma cannot be questioned. Scientists are the priests, and those who diverge from the cannon are branded heretics. Vaccines are inherently “good” and cannot be “bad”. The research that points to vaccines causing autism is treated like the evidence that priests were molesting young boys… ignored, buried and those who dared call attention to it are bullied into silence. And yet you have a problem with the suppression of discussion of evolution in churches? Again…. from where I sit, the hypocrisy of your statements are stunning.

I tip my hat to Ginger’s sliming scientists and physicians with the analogy to pedophile priests, but, science is not a religion. It just isn’t, as much as ideologues like Ginger like to say it is. Anti-vaccinationism is far more akin to a religion than science will ever be. Nothing shakes the faith of the denizens of AoA and Generation Rescue. No study, no evidence, no experiment, no epidemiology, nothing will convince them that vaccines don’t cause autism. Remove thimerosal from vaccines so that levels to which children are exposed are lower than they have been in 20 years and autism rates continue to increase? No problem, blame formaldehyde! Blame aluminum! Blame squalene (the latest “toxin” in the “toxin” gambit)! Can’t blame any single ingredient in vaccines? Still no problem! It must be “too many too soon.” These ideas for how vaccines supposedly cause autism (I would hardly dignify them any more with the term “hypothesis”) may have little in common on the surface, but they do share one core belief: That it must be the vaccines. They also follow a progression in that each is more difficult to falsify than the last. The anti-vaccine movement will never make the mistake of coming up with a hypothesis that is so easily falsified, like the mercury hypothesis.

Ginger then goes into an extended rant, complete with even more ALL CAPS and bold type, about, in essence, how science is corrupt and how supposedly scientists don’t ever question vaccines because there is too much money to be made or because they have spent their lives working on them. She brings out the “arrogant” gambit. Of course, my response to the charge of “arrogance” is to ask: Who is more arrogant, the one who recognizes his limitations or someone who thinks that, through Google knowledge, she knows more than scientists who have spent their lives studying and developing vaccines or studying autism? Now that’s real arrogance, and Ginger (and everyone else at AoA) has it in spades. She also trots out the “negativity” (i.e., Why are you guys so mean to us?) gambit, about how those of us who refute the nonsense that people like Ginger lay down do nothing but insult and dismiss, using Chris as a whipping boy for supporting scientists and urging that they learn to communicate with the public better.

It’s around then that Ginger nearly blasted my irony meter into millions of bits:

People see right through condescending BS. People have a tenancy to treat you with the same dismissal with which you have treated them. What you are seeing may not be a “deep-seated streak of anti-intellectualism” but a deep-seated distrust of self-proclaimed “intellectuals” who openly disdain the unwashed masses, then wonder why their scientific pronouncements have no sway with them.

Actually, it is a deep-seated streak of anti-intellectualism. I can produce many examples, but I’ll pick one that’s particularly illustrative. Not surprisingly, it’s from Age of Autism itself. Let’s go back and quote, for example, J.B. Handley, who demonstrates anti-intellectualism and resentment of us pointy-headed scientists who don’t accept them as scientific equals in responding to Steve Novella. Steve Novella is a friend of mine. He is also not Orac. He is far more polite and far less snarky than Orac. He is never anything less than a class act, even with those who propagate nonsense. Yet, after Dr. Novella criticized Generation Rescue’s latest anti-vaccine propaganda project, this is how J.B. Handley responded:

I’m not intellectually intimidated by any of these jokers. Their degrees mean zippo to me, because I knew plenty of knuckleheads in college who went on to be doctors, and they’re still knuckleheads (I also knew plenty of great, smart guys who went on to be doctors and they’re still great, smart guys).

I chose a different path and went into the business world. In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else. There are plenty of Harvard Business School grads who have bankrupted companies and gone to jail, and plenty of high school drop-outs who are multi-millionaires. Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement.

If that isn’t an anti-intellectual attitude displayed about as plainly as it can be displayed, I don’t know what is. In other words, J.B. thinks that the scientific community’s rejection of the claim that vaccines cause autism is all about “elitism,” not science, and Ginger seems to be reflecting a similar attitude. Indeed, J.B. honestly seems to believe that the reason the scientific community doesn’t accept his wild beliefs that vaccines cause autism is because of elitism and groupthink, not because the scientific evidence doesn’t support that belief. Again, that’s anti-intellectual and anti-science to the core. Unlike the case for scientists, who must always–always–consider the possibility that they might be wrong about their conclusions, it seems that it never once occurs to J.B. (or Ginger) that he might be wrong or that the reason he is correctly viewed with such disdain among scientists is because, well, he is wrong. But not just wrong, spectacularly and arrogantly wrong about the science. As both Steve and I have pointed out, it is the arrogance of ignorance. Moreover, J.B. certainly launched the first shot. Steve made an evidence-based criticism of the anti-vaccine movement’s latest propaganda effort. Did J.B. respond with a polite, reason-based critique? Of course not. He went into full bull-in-a-china-shop attack mode.

Why should we treat someone like J.B. Handley as a scientific equal?

Ginger also takes yours truly to task for supposedly being so mean and dismissive of parents, as though I’m mean and dismissive of all parents with autistic children. It’s what I like to call the “Why do you hate mothers?” gambit. Of course, regular readers of this blog know that it is only a small subset of parents who become the target of my not-so-Respectful Insolence. Parents who peddle pseudoscience with the confident arrogance of ignorance of Jenny McCarthy, who is willing to see the return of infectious diseases as a result of her cause, and thereby endanger public health. Parents who scare other parents into not vaccinating based on pseudoscience. Parents who organize marches on Washington to promote fear and loathing of vaccines. Parents who misrepresent science and place their personal anecdotal experience above epidemiology and science, while peddling conspiracy theories, logical fallacies, and misunderstanding of the nature of science. Other parents I have nothing but the utmost respect for. Some of them may be confused, but they are confused through no fault of their own but rather through the fault of a vocal, pseudoscientific fringe group that spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines. Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with some of them and come, as close as I can come, to understanding some of the difficulties of raising an autistic child.

In fact, I have enormous respect for parents who can handle the difficult task of raising special needs children like autistic children (yes, I respect even Ginger for raising an autistic child, although I do not respect her understanding of science). It is doubtful that I could do as good a job as many of these parents do, including many of the anti-vaccine parents. However, my respect for a parent’s ability to handle an autistic child and her love for her children is a completely separate matter from whether or not her understanding of science is worthy of respect by scientists. Ginger, however, tries to conflate dismissal of the anti-vaccine message with contempt with parents of autistic children in general:

Your ‘skeptic’ community’s message to the public and parents like me? “You are an idiot and we have nothing but contempt for you. Now think what I tell you to think and do what I want you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense”.

Treat your audience like crap, and they will leave. Claim to be a scientist and spout completely unscientific and illogical statements (mean ones at that), and no one will care what you say.

No, Ginger. My message, at least, is that parents like you, who actively promote anti-vaccine beliefs, are dangerously wrong and need to be countered vigorously with reason and science. The only reason you don’t accept what science tells you is not because it doesn’t make sense but because it challenges and attacks your unshakeable faith that vaccines must cause autism. Believe it or not, bring me strong scientific evidence rather than confusing correlation with causation or making unjustified extrapolations from shaky basic science, and I may well change my mind–yes, even if that evidence comes from you. It may force me to eat a lot of crow and experience profound embarrassment, but I would do it. Moreover, my sarcasm is reserved mainly for the leaders of the anti-vaccination movement: people like Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, and the pseudoscientists and quacks who feed their beliefs. If you consider the use of the words “pseudoscientists” and “quacks” to be insulting, contemptuous, or otherwise just plain mean, tough. They’re an accurate description, in my opinion, of the targets of my sarcasm.

Ginger finishes up lecturing Chris thusly:

It is clear from this article that those you target, you do not consider your equals.

“Smart” is not the only virtue, and it may not even one of the most important virtues. Look back at the people who have done the most damage to humanity through out history. You will be hard pressed to find a dummy among them.

Love the veiled allusions to people like Hitler and Stalin without actually mentioning them. Very nice. I’m impressed.

In any case, Ginger appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what “equals” means. We should consider each other equals as far as being human beings, but it’s a fallacy to insist on being treated as equals in terms of abilities in specific areas of expertise. For example, would Ginger consider me an “equal” when it comes to counseling? Of course not! I don’t have a masters’ degree in it. Would J.B. Handley consider me an “equal” in business? Of course not! Nor should he. I’m a crappy businessman. Heck, I don’t even consider myself an equal to my colleagues in surgical oncology who specialize in forms of surgery that I no longer do. Yet somehow, Ginger thinks that scientists should somehow treat her and parents with no advanced training in science and who clearly do not understand vaccine and autism science as an equal in the understanding of science. Sorry, but I don’t think so. That doesn’t mean that communication and mutual respect aren’t still possible, but not as scientific equals.

Quite frankly, I’m not interested in reaching someone like Ginger. She’s too far gone. Her belief is so entrenched that nothing I can say and no evidence I can present will ever change it. She’s made that abundantly clear time and time again. I’m far more interested in reaching people who can still be reached, namely the public who sees the sort of misinformation spread by people like Ginger and Age of Autism and wonder whether there might be something to it. So is Chris. We merely differ in our degree of–shall we say?–vociferousness in how we approach the problem.

Finally, I can’t help but note in closing that the call for “playing nice” from Ginger and other anti-vaccine zealots is always one-sided. They demand respect, but they give none at all to scientists who don’t buy into their beliefs, whom they think nothing of labeling as completely corrupt, arrogant, blinded by the “religion” of science, likening to the Roman Catholic hierarchy that covered up accusations of pedophilia among its priests, and, it sometimes seems, implying (or out and out saying) that they are actively and evilly plotting to make all their children autistic by vaccinating them. Ginger thinks nothing of, in essence, sliming us by labeling my entire profession dishonest, corrupt, and incompetent, and she thinks we should just smile and patiently try to assure her that this is not so. It’s a no-win situation for the scientist or science communicator, as the only “communication” that the anti-vaccine movement doesn’t consider a direct attack on it is agreement and acquiescence, and any criticism that isn’t milquetoast is viewed as a full frontal assault worthy of massive retaliation. Indeed, don’t be too surprised if AoA launches yet another personal attack on me after this piece to go with the two or three others it’s posted. I’ve strongly criticized two of their posts in the course of a week; that’s often enough to provoke another “outing,” especially since it’s been several months since the last one. Anti-vaccinationists are predictable that way.

I may not agree with Chris on a lot of things, and maybe I’ll even do an analysis after I finally get around to reading his book (that it, if it’s not hopelessly out of date by the time I do), but I do know one thing: He didn’t deserve Ginger’s attack, nor does he deserve the nastiness heaped upon him in the comments section devoted to his interview.

Comments

  1. #1 SC (Salty Current)
    August 26, 2009

    Psyche?

    It became personal. Or maybe it was personal before the book was ever released.

    Or maybe it became personal when they attacked him, personally, in the book (which is completely aside from their failure to make evidence-based arguments in the book or to defend themselves against substantive criticism from PZ and others after it was published).

  2. #2 LovleAnjel
    August 26, 2009

    Excellent post! Ginger’s requests for civility housed in attacks sounds a lot like Anne Coulter’s “Slander”. Could make good point, but gets completely run over by hypocrisy.

    Happy bonus of references to Trek & Aliens.

  3. #3 Brent Rasmussen
    August 26, 2009

    Hi Orac,

    Wow – this was a wonderful, cogent, easily-understood article – that is unfortunately flawed.

    Oh, not your points, or your position, which I think are right on the mark – but because the “arrogance of ignorance” will cause most folks who really need to hear what you are saying to only muddle through the first three of four paragraphs before stopping and concluding (again, with no evidence, jumping to conclusions that just aren’t there,) that you’re nothing but a big-old pointy-headed intellectual meanypants who kicks autistic puppies for fun.

    So, it is flawed, in that it does not address the basic requirement to communicate to the very people that it needs to communicate to.

    I have not commented on the framing issue, or on Chris and Sheril’s book, precisely because of this classic catch-22. When you expend the verbiage necessary to really nail down your points, you lose most of the folks who need to hear and understand those points.

    This is the conundrum of science communication, I think, that can only be addressed by good science education.

    Oh noes! They’re after our children now! :)

  4. #4 Orac
    August 26, 2009

    Ah, but the title of my post will probably get people who normally don’t read me to read this post. True, they may be pissed off that I did a little misdirection (it’s a risk I’m willing to take), but hopefully they’ll keep reading.

  5. #5 FastLane
    August 26, 2009

    Actually, until and unless Mooneybaum speak out against the many worse attacks made daily against science by the fringe religious idiots, I don’t think they deserve any kind of defense for their actions.

    Coddle the enemy and estrange your allies…that’s a sound strategy.

  6. #6 Pascale
    August 26, 2009

    I actually did read the book before commenting on it. You have illustrated once again why the Mooney-Kirshenbaum argument (science needs better communicators, like Carl Sagan, to win the hearts and minds of US anti-intellectuals) is wrong.
    The example that first came to my mind was evolution:
    “even if Carl Sagan came back from the dead to poetically tell them (anti-evolutionists) that the beliefs of their faith (creationism, etc) are wrong, it is unlikely that they will budge.”
    The same is true of the vaccination foes. They believe (with religious fervor) that vaccines cause autism. No amount of study or education or communication is likely to sway their opinions. We can only hope that others can be educated and maintain discourse there.

  7. #7 Eamon
    August 26, 2009

    Can anyone tell me:

    Is this Mooney/Kirshenbaum hate due to religious (or arelgious) views?

    This Japan-resident UK Paddy hasn’t managed to decipher what it’s all about yet…

  8. #8 Scott
    August 26, 2009

    Actually, until and unless Mooneybaum speak out against the many worse attacks made daily against science by the fringe religious idiots, I don’t think they deserve any kind of defense for their actions.

    The religious wackos aren’t trying to kill people. Antivaxers are. Frankly, the religious nuts aren’t even worth worrying about in comparison.

  9. #9 Scote
    August 26, 2009

    Good article. Cute tease.

    This issue is also another example of Science vs. True Believer, the latter being a creature Moonybaum say you must appease lest you offend them and turn them off to science forever. You must tell them that their “other ways of knowing” are perfectly valid and that you respect their views–er, or something. I really don’t see Mooney being able to follow what little of his own advice he gives in his book when it comes to the real world.

  10. #10 JThompson
    August 26, 2009

    Man what’s with all the nutjobs in that LA Times thread? I’ve blown my crazy quota for the next three days reading all that.
    And even though I said I’d never defend Mooney over anything, I didn’t make it past the fourth comment before I realized I was going to end up saying something. Assuming it gets out of moderation, which it should. Good grief.

    @FastLane: While I agree, I thought about it a bit and realized the anti-vaccine movement can’t be allowed to run over *anyone* without sane people doing our level best to stop it. Mooney will soon discover you can’t really negotiate with someone that insists you’re telepathically poisoning their toast with plutonium every morning. Even if he doesn’t, we still need to dispute the claims of the anti-vaccine fools every time they pop up. Especially when the vast majority of comments on that thread were from the nutters. The random confused parents wondering what the hell kind of fire is causing all this smoke may see that thread and shift a little toward not vaccinating because nearly everyone is arguing against it. That’s not an acceptable outcome no matter how important the other arguments are.

  11. #11 Sigmund
    August 26, 2009

    Orac, its not an us or them situation with Chris and Sheril and their ‘new atheist’ critics. There are plenty of things that we agree about – the anti-vaccine situation being a prime example.
    Most of us think your in-your-face approach to pseudoscience (or anti-science) is exactly the correct strategy. If someone is advocating something that clashes with empirical evidence so much that the stupid, it burns, then you should (and indeed do) say so directly and without trying to politely let them think that all views have equal weight.
    Some views are simply wrong, and demonstrably wrong.
    Chris gets flak because he seems quite happy with this tactic being used in the vaccine question but adamantly opposed to exactly the same approach in the question of evolution and its religious detractors.
    A few years ago his views were the same as those of PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran et al yet he now claims he’s decided on a more pragmatic path. Clearly its more pragmatic to keep attacking the anti-vaccine crowd who have little or no political power but advocate deference about the religious opponents of evolutionary science. One can understand this is a political tactic but that doesn’t mean one has to agree with it or to keep quiet about what you might think is an ultimately mistaken policy.
    There is a long history of opposition to the ‘framing science’ tactic of silencing non-religious scientists and the decision of Chris to rekindle this battle is the primary reason he is getting all the current criticism.

  12. #12 Pablo
    August 26, 2009

    I’m confused. On one hand, Ginger complains that the science doesn’t say what the scientists claim it does, and that true science supports the anti-vaxxers. Meanwhile, science is just a religion and has been known to be wrong.

    So if science doesn’t matter, why is she so concerned about who’s scientifically correct?

    And does she apply the “science has been known to be wrong” to her “correct” interpretation?

  13. #13 Pablo
    August 26, 2009

    PS Those were rhetorical questions. I know the answers.

    I’m also wondering about the “treat mothers like crap” accusation.

    If I go into the doctor’s office and claim I have a broken leg and need a cast, and he says, no, it’s just a sprained ankle and all you need is to stay off it for a couple of days, is he treating me like crap because he doesn’t respect my opinion?

    And when I get home and whine to my wife that the doctor doesn’t believe I have a broken leg, and my wife says, well, he’s the doctor and does have a better idea of what is causing your problem. He has given you advice on how to make yourself better, why don’t you follow it? Putting your leg in a cast isn’t going to do much good for your sprained ankle, and certainly isn’t worth the cost.

    Is she treating me like crap, not respecting my opinion, or being elitest?

  14. #14 Sara
    August 26, 2009

    Ginger is made of fail, obviously.

    HOWEVER, M&K absolutely fail at doing social science. It’s not about PZ, it’s not about what they think about accommodationism or whatever, it’s that they have a hypothesis which they don’t try to test or check empirically at all.

    The logical course of action would be to, for instance, try and compare the USA with other developed countries with higher acceptance of, let’s say, evolution, but not necessarily only evolution, and look for correlations that would explain the differences.

    Somehow, I don’t really think this differences are caused by the scientists over in Iceland being bloody superstars and PR geniuses.

  15. #15 Umlud
    August 26, 2009

    Wow. Long, LOOOONG post. Well written, though, as expected, with a good tease line.

    I personally don’t ascribe to the thesis outlined by Mooney/Kirshenbaum, as framed by various scibloggers. However, I haven’t read the book, either. Yet, doing research in that “interface” between science and policy-making, I have come to realize (as has become patently obvious in the recent “debates” on health care) that personal beliefs act as additional source of “information” around which to set up policy.

    Sometimes that personal belief happens to correspond with scientific evidence, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, one doesn’t need scientific evidence to have a personal belief that water flows downhill or to be able to determine a flight trajectory of a baseball. However, there are several cases in which personal belief (sometimes colored by pseudoscience or a mis-understanding of science) runs counter to that of scientific evidence, such as AGW, vaccine-autism links, evolution vs. creation, deadzones cause by Midwest corn farming vs. a “natural phenomenon”, etc.

    As much as we hate to admit it, people tend to trust their personal instincts rather than what the science is saying. Especially more so (or so it seems) when it comes to issues that are vastly separated in time and/or space relative to the viewer (as all the cases above demonstrate).

    A fish kill caused by a burst sewage pipe upstream is something that many people can see and understand. However, how those fish evolved into their current forms; the impact of a changing world on the fish and their habitat; the changing population dynamics caused by hormones in the water; and the implication of these changes cannot easily be seen (as they cover greater expanses of space and time than can easily be understood by the human mind), and so are either thought of as un-important to the individual (which can be good, since the scientific POV might be the go-to position in this case) or as a problem based on what the individual knows or sees (which usually leads to science vs. personal conviction issues).

    The point of engaging the institutions that favor the anti-viewpoint, though, seems problematic, especially when one of the reasons that institution has (or has come to include) is to be against the evidence that happens to be shown by the science (i.e., they might not have started out as being anti-science per se, but become so once science shows their personal beliefs to be wrong). Of course, not all institutions are equal, nor does there have to be acceptance of a scientific POV in order to get a desired outcome. The environmental stewardship movement is one example where environmental science and evangelical christianity have come to an agreed-upon endpoint based on vastly different (and often antagonistic) world-views. (That I personally believe the scientific one to be the correct world view is a different argument from the need indicated by the science of increased conservation.)

    However, there are organizations that have become so deeply entrenched in their position that science is perceived as being fundamentally and diametrically opposed to everything they hold dear. For these groups, I don’t think engagement works. At all. And it would be best to not acknowledge; trying to work with someone who’s motivation is only to act against your intentions is by definition a non-starter. (Okay, if one’s a masochist, this might be fun, but I don’t particularly like hitting my head against a brick wall, either in reality or in metaphor.)

    I’m tempted to read the book in question to form my own opinions and determine if there are some kernels that I can incorporate, but perhaps only when it comes to my university or local library…

  16. #16 marie
    August 26, 2009

    Orac: “Here’s a hint: A masters degree in clinical counseling does not qualify her to evaluate the science behind vaccines and autism any more than a masters degree–in science! ”

    As a holder of a master’s degree in genetics…all I have to say is OUCH!! I’m pretty sure I (and many other hard science MS holders) can “evaluate science” just as well as PhDs can. We went through the same grad programs, had to defend a thesis (mine was just as long and involved as my PhD husband’s was), and are now depended on for our critical thinking skills as well.

  17. #17 Pierce R. Butler
    August 26, 2009

    Scott @ # 8: The religious wackos aren’t trying to kill people.

    Izzat so?

  18. #18 Orac
    August 26, 2009

    As a holder of a master’s degree in genetics…all I have to say is OUCH!! I’m pretty sure I (and many other hard science MS holders) can “evaluate science” just as well as PhDs can.

    I wasn’t talking about holders of masters degrees in “hard sciences.” (Actually, some snarky physicists would disagree that PhDs in biological sciences are “hard sciences,” but that’s besides the point.) Clinical counseling is not the same thing as being a research science, and, more importantly, it doesn’t require much, if anything, in the way of the sciences necessary to understand why the evidence doesn’t support the vaccine-autism link.

    Remember, I’ve even applied this criticism to M.D.s: Namely that most of them are not scientists and are shockingly lacking when it comes to evaluating science. Masters in clinical counseling is more akin to an M.D. in that way.

    But maybe I went too far there with the sarcasm, even though I think my point is a valid one about Ginger. Oh, well, I guess it’s just me being mean.

  19. #19 Scott
    August 26, 2009

    Scott @ # 8: The religious wackos aren’t trying to kill people.

    Izzat so?

    More precisely, the religious wackos’ anti-science isn’t trying to kill people. The cited examples therefore do not support FastLane’s contention.

  20. #20 I have degrees too, so what?
    August 26, 2009

    Actually, some snarky physicists would disagree that PhDs in biological sciences are “hard sciences,” but that’s besides the point.)

    To which the Biology Ph.D.’s might respond: would you rather be snarky or marketable?

    Times have changed for Physics Ph.D.’s

    I understood Orac’s main point (I believe). A degree doesn’t make you right. The lack of a degree doesn’t make you wrong.

    But, people who waive their degrees like a copy on Law and Order waives his badge just look silly. An M.S. (or a Ph.D. for that matter) diploma is not a badge in the science police force.

  21. #21 David D.G.
    August 26, 2009

    Still, after a month and a half or so and a vacation last week that allowed me finally to crack Unscientific America, I thought I might chime in to defend Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum.

    But not against P.Z. Myers or the other critics of Unscientific America. Rather, Age of Autism has attacked Chris and Sheril, and I can’t allow that to go by uncommented on.

    Psyche!

    Well played, Orac! Well played indeed!

    ~David D.G.

  22. #22 Pliny-the-in-Between
    August 26, 2009

    How do we combat all these versions of the ‘god in the gaps’ to which people cling? ID uses it, the antivac forces use it, CAM advocates. They seem to believe that the truth is just around the corner in that increasingly small realm of uncertainty that remains each time science moves forward.

    Does it all boil down to neglect of probability in the service of personal bias enabled by a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect?

    It certainly is disheartening that so much of the science related dialogue in this country is nothing more than re-covering ground unnecessarily.

  23. #23 Jennifer B. Phillips
    August 26, 2009

    Scott

    More precisely, the religious wackos’ anti-science isn’t trying to kill people.

    So you’ve forgotten about the recent child deaths in Wisconsin and Oregon? And the near miss that Daniel Hauser of Minnesota had via his pro-religion anti-science driven refusal of
    chemo?

  24. #24 James Sweet
    August 26, 2009

    Actually, before I defend Mooney, I have to take him to task for a moment. The anti-vaccine movement didn’t really bubble up so much for “legitimate” reasons, given that there never was really any good science behind it.

    Orac, now try to imagine if Mooney not only offhandedly mentioned that the anti-vaccine movement bubbled up for “legitimate” reasons, but also loudly proclaimed that the only viable strategy for educating people about the safety and efficacy of vaccines was to allow that the anti-vaccine movement begin with “legitimate” reasons. And if you really pressed him on it, he might say that it wasn’t actually legitimate, but that by saying so it will alienate those who are on the fence and destroy any progress that might be made. And if you kept saying that it was illegitimate, he’d write a book talking about how evil you were.

    That’s how some of us feel about Mooney’s continued prattling about how we daren’t say that faith and science are incompatible. I have to say, I am so not surprised that Mooney tried to be conciliatory towards the origins of the anti-vax movement. That seems to be his MO these days: If you can’t convince people of the whole truth, try endorsing some of their delusions in the hopes they’ll think you are on their side.

    Frankly, it’s an elitist attitude. Mooney seems to think that if we tell it like it is, the poor unwashed masses will get angry or frightened or sad, and be driven into the hands of quacks and charlatans. Maybe it will turn out he is right… but I for one am going to continue on the presumption that the average person does NOT need to be coddled with sweet lies if we are to stand any hope of bringing them an inch closer to the truth.

  25. #25 Scott
    August 26, 2009

    So you’ve forgotten about the recent child deaths in Wisconsin and Oregon? And the near miss that Daniel Hauser of Minnesota had via his pro-religion anti-science driven refusal of
    chemo?

    Not sure what you’re referring to on the former, but Hauser’s case really had very little to do with religion – pure emotion, with religion claimed as an excuse.

  26. #26 Scott
    August 26, 2009

    I should also mention that individual cases don’t mean much of anything next to the millions who will die if the antivax brigade gets its way.

  27. #27 James Sweet
    August 26, 2009

    BTW, as a holder of a Masters in computer engineering, I had no problem with what you said about Ginger and her MS-whoring. The idea of signing my e-mails as “James Sweet, MS” is frankly hilarious. The idea that I would then try to use that to establish credibility in some other field is even more hilarious.

  28. #28 MikeMa
    August 26, 2009

    Ginger, Jenny, JB, Dr JG, Sue 7 Jake and all the other anti-vax loons will never accept that vaccines are a positive boon to mankind. All the gambits that Orac points out are denial mechanisms (things Ginger’s MS should help her with) and endanger public health.

    The one important thing that science does that buries these clowns completely in their own excrement is accept change. Science will eventually find what causes autism. If vaccines are implicated by evidence, then science will accept that. If anything else is implicated, the loons will howl more desperately at the moon and ignore that evidence. Clear evidence of where the religion is too.

  29. #29 Sigmund
    August 26, 2009

    I suspect religion causes far more deaths than the anti-vaccination brigade. Look at the disastrous result of the Catholic churches anti condom policies in Africa for one example.

  30. #30 Paul
    August 26, 2009

    Not sure what you’re referring to on the former, but Hauser’s case really had very little to do with religion – pure emotion, with religion claimed as an excuse.

    I believe he is referring to the Neumanns. Orac has written on that case on multiple occasions.

  31. #31 Screechy Monkey
    August 26, 2009

    I’m glad Orac has come to Mooney’s defense against the anti-vaxers. Now I can just enjoy the rich, rich irony of seeing Chris Mooney having to fend off “you’re meeaan!” accusations. If only Chris could learn to communicate better, this wouldn’t happen to him.

  32. #32 SLC
    August 26, 2009

    Not having read the book in question, I’m also not in a position to comment from personal experience. However, I have observed that Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirshenbaum have become very intolerant of criticism on their blog. They banned Ophelia Benson for having the temerity to pose some questions to them that they didn’t want to answer. On the other hand, they allow numerous comments from their most steadfast defenders, one Anthony McCarthy, whose lack of knowledge of science issues rivals Ken Hams’ and one John Kwok who clearly doesn’t operate with both oars in the water. Apparently, they are in no way troubled by having such defenders as Mr. McCarthy and the Kwok.

  33. #33 Jake Crosby
    August 26, 2009

    Has anybody here ever considered the possibility that vaccines cause autism, even for a second?

  34. #34 Scott
    August 26, 2009

    Yes – most people here have considered it, examined the evidence, and (provisionally) rejected the possibility based on that evidence.

  35. #35 MikeMa
    August 26, 2009

    Jake,
    Yes, we have and rejected it as Scott said, provisionally, based on all available evidence.

    Too bad we can’t get the same reasoned response from AoA. Grow a pair and look at this stuff for yourself.

  36. #36 Science Mom
    August 26, 2009

    The anti-vaxers have had plenty of opportunities to substantiate their claims, yet they can’t, or at least can’t without disingenuous data massaging and/or outright fraudulent science. They will never be convinced otherwise, particularly when they have a small cadre of swill-peddlers with the requisite letters after their names to continue to feed the delusions. Educate and communicate with those that may be sitting on the fence but keep pushing the Ginger Taylors out to the fringe, where they may yet, fall off the edge of.

  37. #37 Jen
    August 26, 2009

    “Has anybody here ever considered the possibility that vaccines cause autism, even for a second?”

    Yes, Jake, some of us did consider it. Some of us were were even frightened enough by the anti-vaccine crap spewers that we rejected vaccines for our subsequent children. Guess what? Unvaccinated kids get autism too.

    Did YOU ever consider the possibility that something ELSE might be causing autism? Even for a second?

  38. #38 Tanya
    August 26, 2009

    @Jake Crosby

    Has anybody here ever considered the possibility that vaccines cause autism, even for a second?

    As the mother of a ten-year-old Autistic boy I can assure that I have, in fact, considered the possibility that vaccines cause autism. I’ve read a plethora of papers, research studies, meeting transcripts, and articles. I studied the immune system, the digestive system, the neurological system, and genetics.

    This was my son referenced in those vast piles of papers. It was my son that wouldn’t look at me, who would only accept hugs with his back turned, who still couldn’t speak at the age of 4, who threw tantrums so volatile he had suffered 6 concussions by the age of 5, who would “shut off” for heart breaking periods of time – unreachable even by frustrated screams.

    You can bet I considered it. Not only did I need to understand the disorder so that I could treat him, I needed to understand what caused it so I could make damn sure he wasn’t still at risk.

    I found the culprit eventually. It very, very likely isn’t vaccines – there are no additives in vaccines capable of producing such profound neurological symptoms even at much higher doses, and even an exaggerated immune response to live virus lacks the means to cause the neurological “damage” inherent in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Same goes for “toxic” environments. I couldn’t muster the gall to even consider the “Indigo Children” crowd… no, the culprit is simple – it lies in his genes.

    Read over the Autism studies relating to chromosomes and you’ll start seeing the same numbers over and over again. If you were able to look, you could see the damage written in his genes. It’s an unfulfilling conclusion, certainly… there’s no one to blame, no one to sue, no substance I can remove from him, or food I can feed him, that will “fix” him. All I can do is what I have done – provide him with ABA therapy and support, advocate for him with his teachers and society as a whole, and spend my free time trying to let people know that Autism isn’t an epidemic, it isn’t a reaction, and it isn’t the end of the world. No one’s “soul” is being stolen, no child “disappearing”. Grieve your expectations, not your child, then learn how best to help them get along in our world.

    We’re biological creatures. We mutate. It’s what we do. Unsatisfying, but true.

  39. #39 Jacques Hughes
    August 26, 2009

    great post as ever, however, I think these folks (AoA etc,) really need a decision tree:

    Has your child been diagnosed with Autism?
    Yes? Go to information, read the evidence, all of it, then see how it was falsified by Wakefield et al, then see how much money is being made by charlatans, snake-oil peddlers, then come back.

    No? Read same information, follow above instructions.

    Do you still think Autism is caused by vaccinations?

    Yes? You weren’t listening too closely were you? Read again.

    No? congratulations, now we can get on with accepting that Autism is a terrible thing for a child and parent/s to live with, but it’s not the end of the world, even if it may seem that way at the moment. Let’s all see what we can do to improve the outcome.

    This here is science, not a conspiracy against you or your child, we are all here to help. Let’s move on shall we?

    There we are, not so difficult after all.

    Did I miss anything?
    (Obviously, insert references where applicable)

    JH

  40. #40 Jacques Hughes
    August 26, 2009

    Just read Tanya’s post after mine was posted. Humbled.
    I hope you understand that I’m not being condescending here Tanya.

    All the best,

    JH

  41. #41 Sastra
    August 26, 2009

    James Sweet #24 wrote:

    Orac, now try to imagine if Mooney not only offhandedly mentioned that the anti-vaccine movement bubbled up for “legitimate” reasons, but also loudly proclaimed that the only viable strategy for educating people about the safety and efficacy of vaccines was to allow that the anti-vaccine movement begin with “legitimate” reasons.

    Another analogy would be to try to imagine if Mooney said that the best way to attack the anti-vaccine movement was to get moderate homeopaths, chiropractors, and energy healers who are ‘pro-vaccine’ on our side. Many people who are on the fence about vaccination will listen to them before they listen to us, so we need to focus on the important battle. Who cares if someone takes extra vitamin C to help with their cold? The problem isn’t with alternative medicine itself — it’s with those forms of alt med which cross the line into being dangerous.

    If you can make an argument against this tactic, you can better understand how the atheists ‘frame’ the other one.

  42. #42 kevin
    August 26, 2009

    When someone suggests we dismiss the science of today, another way to respond is to put them on the spot, asking, “and replace it with what?”. Superstition, fantasy, or wishful thinking? Perhaps the science of yesterday?

    True, the science of today is not perfect. But is obviously more reliable than superstition, fantasy or wishful thinking. It is obviously more accurate than the science of yesterday. It is only trumped by one thing: the science of tomorrow… so, unless you’ve got a time machine handy, thank you very much, I’ll take the science of today any day of the week.

  43. #43 Jake Crosby
    August 26, 2009

    Tanya,

    Thank you for a very thorough ND perspective of your child and his condition. It certainly stood out among all of the “Because they don’t.”-type answers everyone else responding to my question here gave. I would advise you read what Simon Baron-Cohen has said of the role of genes in autism, and the chances of one identical twin developing the condition if the other one with 100% the same DNA has it.

    I would also advise you take a look at the CDC website, look at the summary of autism prevalence studies, look at the one from 1985, the results of which were released in 1987 that examined 2-18 year-olds, and compare that to the recently released results from the survey taken two years ago that examined 2-17 year-olds, and then decide for yourself if you think autism rates really have increased.

    I’m sure your reactions to both of these will answer my question on their own. In the meantime, I wish the best for you and your son.

    Cheers.

  44. #44 Brian
    August 26, 2009

    It might be elitist (a word whose negative connotations I still do not understand completely) but I think that degrees and credentials do make a difference. The arguments stand or fall on their own, of course, but there are literally thousands of arguments on both sides of every controversial topic out there. You can’t go through each and every one with a fine-tooth comb. People like Ginger, who have no demonstrated ability to critically evaluate scientific evidence despite her MS in counseling, are different than people with a PhD in the sciences, who have gone through at least 5 years of that.

  45. #45 Tanya
    August 26, 2009

    @JH

    I hope you understand that I’m not being condescending here Tanya.

    No worries, JH – I didn’t find your post condescending at all, you’re right.

    One of the things that aggravates me most about the myriad of unsupportable theories regarding Autism is that the parents who are duped into believing them lose time. ABA therapy (the only known successful treatment for Autism) works best in the first five years of life. Every day spent pouring supplements down a child’s throat, cleansing the house of “toxins”, sitting in hyperbolic chambers, etc… is another opportunity for real improvement lost. It’s tragic.

  46. #46 You goal is profit
    August 26, 2009

    Orac – “Ginger then goes into an extended rant, complete with even more ALL CAPS and bold type, about, in essence, how science is corrupt and how supposedly scientists don’t ever question vaccines because there is too much money to be made”

    And we all know that scientists are only interested in truly helping people and not in making money off of them don’t we? Except that is not true. There are lots of stories about scientists doing things for money and not for science. Like the news story snippet below.

    “Americans may be receiving too much radiation from medical tests whose value has not been proven, researchers reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine…”

    “Some studies have suggested that the growing number of CT scans being performed results at least in part from ownership of the machines by physicians, who view them as a new profit source and prescribe unnecessary tests.”

    Says right in the story that scientists perform unnecessary tests for profit Orac. How exactly are you going to deny that reality?

    Scientists try to quash alternative medicine for profit reasons. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine do work on the principles they describe. If western scientists were interested in health and not money, they could translate Acupuncture and Chinese medicine into western science ideas.

    But you can’t charge big money for Acupuncture and Chinese medicine because there are no fancy machines or technological tests. So you western scientists will keep on attacking real health care in order to protect the income necessary for your cars, homes, and vacations, that comes from all that expensive quackery you have convinced people to pay for.

  47. #47 Scott A. Mandia
    August 26, 2009

    I read this book and agree with the central premise: we scientists must learn how to communicate with the general public. Communicating science via the peer review process must continue but each of us must learn how to take that information and bring it to policy makers and to the public in a style that is easy to understand. We can no longer just shrug our shoulders when we hear and see pseudo-science on the airwaves and on the Web (thinking Rush Limbaugh, WUWT, etc.)

    Blogs such as this one, Realclimate.org, and others are extremely helpful but many science blogs require some scientific background or, at the minimum, some post-secondary education. Many voters in this country do not meet that standard.

    My Earth & Space Sciences team presents a public lecture each month to try to bring current science topics to the community. One such presentation by me titled Global Warming: Man or Myth – The Science of Climate Change has been published on the Web at: http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/

    I hope that my site can help the general public separate the science from the pseudo-science. Any comments about or suggestions for my site are very welcome. Thank you.

  48. #48 Donna B.
    August 26, 2009

    Tanya — thank you for an informative view of the mother’s side. I have a severely autistic grand-nephew and I tire of the endless accusations from various family members that his autism is somehow her fault. Oh yes, she was (and is) a wild thing which is why her Mom and Dad are raising her son. I suspect they would be doing so if he were perfectly normal.

    But, I think the blaming has something to do with the need to find fault removed from the parents, even if it is genetic. It’s psychological defense (entirely irrational, but we are all human) against those who proudly proclaim whatever good comes their way as the result of having “good” genes.

    Then, to add insult to injury, there is the leftist view of “bad lifestyle choices” and the rightist view of “personal responsibility” which are simply two different ways of saying that anything bad that happens to you is your own fault.

    While I do not excuse the evangelical promotion of the idea that vaccines or some other toxin causes autism, I can sympathize with the psychological need to blame something “outside” the individual (parent or child) as the cause.

    Where I draw the line, personally, is those who have latched onto this need for financial gain. I think that Jenny McCarthy has crossed that line, along with many of the others that Orac has written about.

    Plus I see a bit of hypochondria and Munchausen’s syndrome in play… feel sorry for ME, not my child. I really think this comes into play when parents of autistic children subject them to painful and useless treatments, which are essentially child abuse.

  49. #49 Jake Crosby
    August 26, 2009

    “No worries, JH – I didn’t find your post condescending at all, you’re right…Every day spent pouring supplements down a child’s throat, cleansing the house of “toxins”, sitting in hyperbolic chambers, etc… is another opportunity for real improvement lost. It’s tragic.”

    Thank you for answering my question, Tanya.

  50. #50 Tanya
    August 26, 2009

    @Jake Crosby

    I would advise you read what Simon Baron-Cohen has said of the role of genes in autism, and the chances of one identical twin developing the condition if the other one with 100% the same DNA has it.

    I actually have read what Dr. Baron-Cohen has said regarding identical twins and Autism, along with much of his work regarding fetal testosterone and “male mindedness”. With all due respect, the theory that identical twins have identical genes (“100% the same DNA”) was long ago found to be false. In fact, the genetic differences between identical twins are currently being used to identify the specific genetic regions that give rise to certain disorders – including Autism.

    Additionally, the statistics purported by Dr. Baron-Cohen in his work on prenatal autism screening are false – Dr. Baron-Cohen stated that in cases where one identical twin was Autistic, there was a 60% chance that the other is also Autistic. The actual percentage is 82%, and that percentage rises when one includes those disorders which are caused by singular chromosomal defects (like those thought to cause AD/HD) that also occur in the “cluster” of chromosomal defects that contribute to Autism Spectrum Disorders. This is exactly what one would expect to find in a genetic disorder caused by a combination of chromosomal defects.

    I would also advise you take a look at the CDC website, look at the summary of autism prevalence studies, look at the one from 1985, the results of which were released in 1987 that examined 2-18 year-olds, and compare that to the recently released results from the survey taken two years ago that examined 2-17 year-olds, and then decide for yourself if you think autism rates really have increased.

    I have, and I have concluded that Autism rates have not increased. There’s an important fact that many gloss over when looking at Autism rates – they only take into account those individuals with a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The prevalence studies simply show that more children were diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, and PDD-NOS in 2007 than in 1985. The apparent increase is most likely due to advances in diagnosis, not an increase in prevalence. There are a number of factors that led me to that conclusion:

    Nearly half of all children diagnosed with an ASD are also diagnosed with mental retardation – until recently, it’s likely that many children with an ASD were only diagnosed with unspecified mental retardation.

    States with early detection programs show a higher prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders, strongly suggesting that prevalence rates are affected by diagnostic efforts and education.

    Some 10% of children with an ASD also have another identifiable disorder such as Fragile X Syndrome. Again, until recently, Autism Spectrum Disorders were not diagnosed in children with those disorders as all symptoms were related to the more recognizable disorder.

    The definition of Autism has changed over the years as well. Children now diagnosed with PDD-NOS were likely diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction and AD/HD in the past.

    There’s more… but I should leave the book writing to Orac. *smiles*

  51. #51 Doubting Thomas
    August 26, 2009

    I was led to your blog (& Ginger Taylor’s) by the LA Times & Discover articles. I am disappointed.

    As seems to be so typical of skeptics, you did your best to deconstruct both Ms. Taylor & her argument, but you didn’t really answer it. Perhaps you had trouble discerning her point?

    My understanding was that she was criticizing the scientists who try to pass off bad science on the public & then become outraged when the public dares to call them on it – “the emperor has no clothes” syndrome.

    So she did not appear to be criticizing science so much as the scientists who seem offended by being questioned or that anyone might dare to doubt them. No one deserves such a pedestal.

    I don’t think we have to work very hard to find examples in our own time of scientists who are more interested in personal acclaim or being right than being scientifically objective. Or do you prefer to believe that S.Korea’s embarrassment was a geographical or political aberration rather than a human one? The pharmaceutical companies in the west will just as readily help us out with what we need here.

    So with no small amount of irony, your response pretty much appears to confirm her criticisms of the anti-anti’s.

    I don’t necessarily agree with what Ms. Taylor wrote, I’m still on the fence, but could not miss the incongruity of the ridiculing of her MS by a group that apparently does believe that credentials matter at least as much as the alleged science – since more than a few of the responses I have seen just in the comments here still amount to “who do these ignorant people think they are to be questioning (insert credentials here)?” I suspect she’s just anticipating the question based on past experience.

    I have known many people who studied in college for one career, but then on their own studied a subject in which they became considered expert – despite having no degree to prove it.

    My own father, who worked several decades as an electrical engineer for TI despite having no degree, taught me that the stupidest people I would ever meet in life would be the ones who prided themselves on their intellect (a disease made worse by but not necessitating credentials). I have yet to encounter anyone who proved him wrong…

  52. #52 Pablo
    August 26, 2009

    Orac: “Here’s a hint: A masters degree in clinical counseling does not qualify her to evaluate the science behind vaccines and autism any more than a masters degree–in science! ”

    As a holder of a master’s degree in genetics…all I have to say is OUCH!! I’m pretty sure I (and many other hard science MS holders) can “evaluate science” just as well as PhDs can. We went through the same grad programs, had to defend a thesis (mine was just as long and involved as my PhD husband’s was), and are now depended on for our critical thinking skills as well.

    You think YOU were offended? Shoot, I actually even HAVE the “masters degree…in science!” to which Orac was referring. I have the diploma and everything to prove it, signed by Dr. Science himself. We even had a ceremony when I was in college to celebrate it (with lots of booze).

    I should look to see if I can find my old Dr Science tape…”Dear Dr. Science. If sound can’t travel in a vacuum, then why are vacuum cleaners so loud?”

  53. #53 Rahne
    August 26, 2009

    lol Good one Orac

  54. #54 Pareidolius
    August 26, 2009

    I have known many people who studied in college for one career, but then on their own studied a subject in which they became considered expert – despite having no degree to prove it.

    My own father, who worked several decades as an electrical engineer for TI despite having no degree, taught me that the stupidest people I would ever meet in life would be the ones who prided themselves on their intellect (a disease made worse by but not necessitating credentials). I have yet to encounter anyone who proved him wrong…

    Hey it’s that swell Smart People are Really Stupid argument Orac was just talking about. FAIL

  55. #55 Jake Crosby
    August 26, 2009

    Right, because “smart people” cannot possibly make mistakes… :S

  56. #56 Donna B.
    August 26, 2009

    Doubting Thomas, #50:

    #1 — are you suggesting that the deconstruction of her argument did not refute it at the same time?

    #2 — scientists are not on a pedestal. That is a strawman argument. It is science – not those who use it – that should be considered. You are trying to make personal that which is decidedly NOT personal.

    Science does not care about my emotions or yours and it’s a damn good thing.

    It is not the fault of science that my husband has cancer. Nor is it the fault of science that it may not be “curable”. I put that word in quotation marks because we, as a society, do not agree on its meaning.

    If we knew the cause of autism, that does not mean we will know a cure for autism. It’s just not that simple.

  57. #57 Sid Offit
    August 26, 2009

    @Tanya

    Children now diagnosed with PDD-NOS were likely diagnosed with … AD/HD in the past.

    I have to question your assertion that those on the spectrum would have been diagnosed with ADHD since the symptoms are quite different. I know others have posited that hypothesis but I’ve found their argument unpersuasive.

  58. #58 Donna B.
    August 26, 2009

    I hit post too soon.

    One possible cause of autism has been eliminated — vaccines. To insist that vaccines are the cause after it has been eliminated as such is a barrier to further research that might actually find the cause.

    It is only when the cause is found that a cure is possible. And possible doesn’t mean guaranteed.

    Because I find nature extremely complex, I doubt there is one single cause of autism, just as I doubt there is one single cause of cancer. Or heart disease, or depression, or numerous other diseases.

    There are diseases with rather simple causes (or so it seems… ) that we are not able to find cures for. Science is not simple and it’s not black & white and it’s not always understandable by those not deeply immersed in a certain area.

    Those who say such things as “if we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we ___ fill in the blank___” seriously misunderstand how simple flying to the moon is compared to the variability of cancer and/or autism and/or many other diseases.

    Perhaps it is not scientific illiteracy that plagues this nation, but mathematical illiteracy… the inability to understand randomness and its effects.

  59. #59 Michael Ralston
    August 27, 2009

    I have to question your assertion that those on the spectrum would have been diagnosed with ADHD since the symptoms are quite different.

    I was misdiagnosed with ADHD at the age of about six. For almost a decade I was then given increasing amounts of ritalin, plus clonadine to control some of the ritalin’s side-effects, plus prozac to control the depression, plus zoloft to replace the prozac when that caused hand tremors, plus possibly one or two other drugs I don’t remember.

    At the age of about fifteen, when my much younger sister was turning three and was clearly autistic to anyone who knew anything about it – she was misdiagnosed with ADHD “because she couldn’t even focus long enough to make eye contact”, by the same doctor who had misdiagnosed me. At that point, my mother realized the man was incompetant, so she got a second opinion. My sister was then (correctly) diagnosed with autism and mental retardation, and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

    So yes, at least some children were diagnosed as ADHD when they were really on the spectur.

  60. #60 flim flam
    August 27, 2009

    your goal is profit, you’re soooo right!.
    all that acupuncture, biomeds, homeopathy, supplements , chiro ,chelation etc, they’re all free aren’t they? no-one’s making any profit out of them. all those altruistic DAN doctors giving their services to parents for free!. All those wonderful cures all totally free!. Thoughtful House charges nothing for their “services” right?.

    That must be why i keep reading posts from families spending their life savings on worthless crap because jenny or oprah or some other fuckwit told them it would fix their kid.

    Honestly, you’re not up to playing with the grown ups, back to AoA, or MDC, or FSM help us …whale.to.

  61. #61 Militant Agnostic
    August 27, 2009

    Tanya @49

    sitting in hyperbolic chambers, etc

    Your malapropism has boggled my mind – I can’t stop imagining what a hyperbolic chamber would look like. However, I think hyperbolic chambers are much more appropriate than hyperbaric chambers for the anti-vax crowd.

    Donna B @58

    You have nailed it with inumeracy being the problem. Most people can’t appreciate the effects of large numbers or the problems in interpreting statistic for rare events.

  62. #62 MartinB
    August 27, 2009

    @Yourgoalisprofit:

    Read carefully your own quotations:

    “Americans may be receiving too much radiation from medical tests whose value has not been proven, researchers reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine…”
    “Some studies have suggested that the growing number of CT scans being performed results at least in part from ownership of the machines by physicians, who view them as a new profit source and prescribe unnecessary tests.”

    Keywords to notice are “researchers reported” and “studies suggested”.

    Scientific results and practices are tested by scientists, and if they are erroneous, this will be found out sooner or later.

    When did we ever read a similar correction from “alternative” medicine?

  63. #63 clinteas
    August 27, 2009

    Ah, but the title of my post will probably get people who normally don’t read me to read this post.

    Yeah, true, but it also sort of reinforeced what I already knew, which is that facts are not your strongest point.
    I followed this debate for weeks, and M&K did a good job to promote their book,and the sciencebloggers got a bit of traffic reporting the kerkuffle, but PZ was right to point out that they did not make any actual evidence-based arguments in their book,the conclusions are lukewarm, and the personal insults in the bits on PZ only serve to sell copies.
    Chris Mooney seems ok with an in-the-face approach to anti-vax,but not in the atheism debate.
    One of many inconsistencies.

  64. #64 jim
    August 27, 2009

    Psyche indeed. That raised a definite grin.

    I was groaning inwardly at the top of the post – oh, no, Orac isn’t going to resurrect this nonsense kerfuffle?

    Heh. Nice one.

  65. #65 Orac
    August 27, 2009

    …personal insults in the bits on PZ only serve to sell copies.

    I’m a bit curious. What “personal insults” are in the book? The one section I actually have started to read is the passage on PZ, and, although I see criticism I have yet see personal insults. Yet, I hear this “personal insults” trope time and time again. Methinks you’re conflating harsh criticism of what someone’s said, written, or done with ad hominems, a common thing in these comments

  66. #66 The Hypocrisy!! It Burns!!!
    August 27, 2009

    “Methinks you’re conflating harsh criticism of what someone’s said, written, or done with ad hominems, a common thing in these comments”

    Yes, something you are well known for doing, David.

  67. #67 Scott
    August 27, 2009

    If it’s so well known, you should have no trouble citing several examples.

    Keep in mind what actually constitutes an ad hominem:
    “The claim is completely wrong due to X, Y, Z and therefore the person making it is an idiot” is not an ad hominem.
    “The arguments made to support the claim are utterly moronic” is not an ad hominem.
    “This person is an idiot, therefore we know they’re wrong” is an ad hominem.

  68. #68 Jake Crosby
    August 27, 2009

    “In fact, the genetic differences between identical twins are currently being used to identify the specific genetic regions that give rise to certain disorders – including Autism.”

    Even if true, there is no evidence that these genetic differences apply to identical twins where one becomes autistic. Also, recent studies examining the copy number variations in children with autism which the 2008 paper said could be different among some identical twins found that they were not etiologically related to autism, but immaculate.

    The “autism was once MR” claim is thoroughly wrong, because autism has been found to increase substantially where mental retardation was stagnant.

    The 1985 survey used direct examination as a method of ascertainment, so your assertion of better diagnostic efforts are irrelevant here.

    Last but not least, the survey did not just include classic autism but also other ASDs. PDD was not born with the DSM-IV, I was associated with that label myself before that manual came out. If your suggesting that all this rise is a result of the addition of Asperger Syndrome to the ASD category, then you’d have to claim that people with AS account for 97% of all ASDs, since the difference then verse now is 3 verse 100 per 10,000. I doubt, however, that is what you believe.

  69. #69 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    August 27, 2009

    David–

    A question: Will you be recommending the new H1N1 vaccine for your patients?

    Thanks.

    Jay

  70. #70 Tanya
    August 27, 2009

    @Sid Offit

    I have to question your assertion that those on the spectrum would have been diagnosed with ADHD since the symptoms are quite different. I know others have posited that hypothesis but I’ve found their argument unpersuasive.

    The misdiagnosis of AD/HD would have been most often applied to those individuals on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum in response to socially noticeable symptoms – primarily short attention span, “fidgiting”, inability to follow complex verbal instructions, “daydreaming”, lack of eye contact, etc… all of which are symptomatic of both AD/HD and ASDs.

    @Militant Agnostic

    Your malapropism has boggled my mind – I can’t stop imagining what a hyperbolic chamber would look like. However, I think hyperbolic chambers are much more appropriate than hyperbaric chambers for the anti-vax crowd.

    *laughs* Freud slips again.

  71. #71 Todd W.
    August 27, 2009

    @Jay Gordon

    A question: Will you be recommending the new H1N1 vaccine for your patients?

    Why would a surgical oncologist be recommending the vaccine to his patients, unless the topic arises? A general practitioner, perhaps, but a surgical oncologist? Not to mention, are flu vaccines contraindicated in cancer patients?

  72. #72 Tanya
    August 27, 2009

    @Jake Crosby

    Even if true, there is no evidence that these genetic differences apply to identical twins where one becomes autistic.

    From a genetic standpoint, no one “becomes autistic”. The genetic damage is present at birth, simply lying dormant until triggered by natural physiological changes.

    Also, recent studies examining the copy number variations in children with autism which the 2008 paper said could be different among some identical twins found that they were not etiologically related to autism, but immaculate.

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around the sentence structure here… the studies you’re siting state that copy variations found in children with autism don’t relate to symptoms associated with Autism?

    If that is, in fact, what the studies you’re siting claim I would very much like to read them myself as that completely contradicts a great deal of the research I’ve encountered regarding genetic factors and ASD.

    The “autism was once MR” claim is thoroughly wrong, because autism has been found to increase substantially where mental retardation was stagnant.

    I never stated that “Autism was once MR”. I simply pointed out that a number of children now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mental Retardation would likely have only received a diagnosis of Unspecified Mental Retardation in the past. That dual diagnosis only applies to roughly half of those diagnosed with ASD.

    Also, the increase in diagnosis of ASD in areas where Mental Retardation was “stagnant” is neither evidence for an increase in ASD prevalence nor against the possibility of past misdiagnosis. The apparent increase in those areas can be attributed to a number of factors (increased diagnostic resources and education, increased awareness, decreased misdiagnosis not related to Mental Retardation, etc…) just as it can in any other area.

    The 1985 survey used direct examination as a method of ascertainment, so your assertion of better diagnostic efforts are irrelevant here.

    My assertion was that diagnostic advances were likely a driving factor in the apparent increase, not diagnostic “efforts”. Those conducting the direct examinations used in 1985 had only a fraction of the diagnostic information available to doctors and researchers now. Using the same standards of ASD identification used in 1985, a great many children currently diagnosed with ASD would not be included as such in the survey.

    Last but not least, the survey did not just include classic autism but also other ASDs. PDD was not born with the DSM-IV

    I never suggested that the survey only included classic autism or that PDD-NOS was “born with the DSM-IV”. In fact, I specifically stated “The prevalence studies simply show that more children were diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, and PDD-NOS in 2007 than in 1985.” Clearly I am aware that multiple categories of ASDs were included.

    I was associated with that label myself before that manual came out. If your suggesting that all this rise is a result of the addition of Asperger Syndrome to the ASD category, then you’d have to claim that people with AS account for 97% of all ASDs, since the difference then verse now is 3 verse 100 per 10,000. I doubt, however, that is what you believe.

    Of course it’s not what I believe – which is why I never claimed the “addition of Aspergers Syndrome to the ASD category” was responsible for the apparent increase.

    What I do believe is that “all this rise” is an illusion created by increased diagnostic resources and education, public awareness, refined ASD definition, acceptance of possible co-morbidity with other recognized disorders, etc…

  73. #73 Marcus Ranum
    August 27, 2009

    Your goal is profit writes:
    But you can’t charge big money for Acupuncture and Chinese medicine because there are no fancy machines or technological tests.

    Since there are no fancy machines (the acupunture needles I got on Ebay were $1.00/box)and you’re unregulated ansd have no responsibility for your mistakes, you should count yourself fortunate. Your profit margin should be sky high. Get it while you can.

  74. #74 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    August 28, 2009

    You may not friggin’ believe it, but I value the opinion of a surgical oncologist and the other assembled docs and scientists here.

    When asked, will you, Orac, be recommending the new H1N1 vaccine to your patients? And, for the others here, what do you think of this new vaccine?

    Jay

  75. #75 Robin Levett
    August 28, 2009

    @Jay Gordon MD FAAP #74:

    My inner cynic, aware that there is talk of the vaccine being released before all the standard testing is done, because of the urgency of the situation, is trying to get me to believe that:

    If Orac says he will recommend, then you’ll take that as evidence that he uncritically support vaccines even where they haven’t been properly tested, so his general position on vaccines is suspect;

    If he says he won’t recommend, you’ll applaud him and ask why, if he has seen the light on the H1N1 vaccine, he doesn’t think again about all the other vaccines that your anecdotal experience tells you cause harm.

    If he says he doesn’t (yet) know, or that as an oncologist the chances of being asked by his patients are vanishingly small, you’ll accuse him of avoiding the question.

    I do hope my inner cynic is wrong.

  76. #76 Orac
    August 28, 2009

    Dr. Jay appears to be doing what Prometheus says: giving orders and trying to hijack the thread. Perhaps he should reveal his hand first. Of course, I suspect I know what he will say, as I’ve seen his Twitter account.

    Suffice it to say that I will be getting the H1N1 vaccine for myself when it becomes available at my hospital. Dr. Jay can infer what he will as to my recommendations to my patients, Women with breast cancer usually aren’t too worried about the flu when I first meet them.

  77. #77 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    August 29, 2009

    Thanks for the answer. I really just wanted to know how you felt about this particular vaccine. As Robin Levett implies, there is a little different type of controversy surrounding this shot and I respect your opinion.

    Best,

    Jay

  78. #78 Jake Crosby
    August 29, 2009

    @Tanya,

    Because the latest autism gene paper did not replicate the copy number variation findings of the previous one, that’s why. Copy number variations, the one genetic component found to potentially differ in identical twins, even if they were different in such a pair of twins where one had autism and the other didn’t, would not explain such a discrepency.

    Besides, this hypothesis really only had any potential in studying diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s because such weaknesses would not be eliminated by natural selection, not a lifelong condition such as autism.

    You say children would have received an MR diagnosis in the past rather than autism, in spite of the fact that MR was stagnant and autism grew all this time. This is evidence against your unfounded claim.

    “Also, the increase in diagnosis of ASD in areas where Mental Retardation was “stagnant” is neither evidence for an increase in ASD”

    Except that your the one making the claim that the ASD increases are not real, an assertion for which this does not support.

    “The apparent increase in those areas can be attributed to a number of factors (increased diagnostic resources and education, increased awareness, decreased misdiagnosis not related to Mental Retardation, etc…) just as it can in any other area.”

    Which like your claims of MR misdiagnosis, none of those would apply to the 1985 survey through its direct examinations, case-counting and large sample size, that looked directly at children with autism and other ASDs. Yet the recorded prevalence of which is about 3% of today’s.

    “My assertion was that diagnostic advances were likely a driving factor in the apparent increase, not diagnostic “efforts”.”

    Right, like children with Asperger Syndrome: 97% of all children with ASDs?

    “Clearly I am aware that multiple categories of ASDs were included…”

    “Of course it’s not what I believe – which is why I never claimed the “addition of Aspergers Syndrome to the ASD category” was responsible for the apparent increase.”

    Yet, yet said before you meant diagnostic criteria, not diagnostic efforts, yet now your saying criteria is not responsible for the apparent increase.

    “…increased diagnostic resources and education, public awareness, refined ASD definition, acceptance of possible co-morbidity with other recognized disorders”

    So I see we’re back to stage one, you know none of these claims hold up, so you think mentioning them altogether will make you sound more impressive, it does not. Personally, I think a survey of 180,000 children studying autism and other ASDs that directly examines its subjects is pretty resourceful, educated, aware, refined and accepting of ASD diagnoses, but that’s just me.

  79. #79 Phoenix Woman
    August 30, 2009

    Your malapropism has boggled my mind – I can’t stop imagining what a hyperbolic chamber would look like.

    Wonder no more!

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30990

  80. #80 Norwegian Shooter
    August 31, 2009

    I can’t believe 79 people have commented and no one has pointed out that Orac neither linked* to nor correctly identified Dr. Science. And only 1 even mentioned him! Are there no other geeks among you!

    His answers are seriously funny. For real geeks, Ask Dr. Science is from the same team that created Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

    *Apparently some malware has attacked drscience.com. Hope it’s up soon.

  81. #81 JB Handley
    August 31, 2009

    I remain astounded by what a fucking moron you are.

    The under-pinning, and 100% false presumption, is that the “science” has actually been done to refute the idea that “vaccines cause autism”.

    The science has not remotely been done, and anyone with a college education could easily figure this out for themselves. To make it easier, I personally wrote:

    http://www.fourteenstudies.com

    It’s all there for anyone with half a brain to figure out. The refutations of 14studies written by idiots NEVER addresses the very simple issue that only the MMR and thimerosal have ever been explored as to their relationship to autism, leaving dozens of ingredients and 34 vaccines unexplored. Should all the other vaccines be cleared due to the transitive property?

    Here is what is scientifically true:

    – There are published studies comparing the relationship between thimerosal exposure and autism

    – There are published studies comparing the relationship between MMR and autism

    – There are NO studies comparing the relationship between autism and any other vaccine ingredients

    – There are NO studies comparing autism to any other vaccines, namely: Hep B, Hep A, Flu, Varicella, Polio, Hib, PCV, or DTAP

    To keep saying, over and over again, that the science has spoken and vaccines don’t cause autism makes you either completely full of shit or shit for brains, take your pick.

    JB Handley

  82. #82 Who should be astounded?
    August 31, 2009

    The refutations of 14studies written by idiots…

    Do you really mean to say that the refutations were written by idiots? That’s how it reads.

    By that, can we assume that you had help in writing your “refutations”. Because, I’ve always given you somewhat of a pass on the “Fourteen Studies Dot Com” site. I figured you were out of your element in discussing science.

    Can you explain why you won’t admit that MMR and thimerosal are off the table? Hmmm?

    Keep trying to divert attention, Brad. A lot of kids have and are being chelated because you made definitive statements about autism being mercury poisoning.

    You and Andy Wakefield have something in common–the lack of guts it takes to admit a mistake.

    btw–the opening sentence with profanity. Yeah, that buys you some credibility.

  83. #83 Mike Stanton
    August 31, 2009

    JB said
    “Its all there for anyone with half a brain to work it out.”

    Luckily most of us use all of our brain and we remember when JB was telling us all it was the mercury in vaccines, nothing else, that was causing autism. He took out full page adverts in the papers with this message and launched an organization called Generation Rescue which recruited volunteers, “rescue angels” to advise parents on chelation to get rid of the mercury.

    As I recall, the autism omnibus proceedings were all about mercury and MMR as well. Years and years to prepare the cases of 5000 litigants and somehow they missed the fact that it might have been everything else in the vaccines and not the measles virus or the thiomersal.

    The one thing about MMR and thiomersal was that there was a plausible hypothesis behind them at the time. So the studies were done and the hypothesis was found wanting. Science has moved on.

    Meanwhile JB is flailing around for any excuse, to blame vaccines, not just this vaccine or that ingredient, but all vaccines. He asks us to forget about the studies into MMR and thiomersal and think about all the possibilities that have not been studied.

    Does this mean that he now accepts the results of the published studies that failed to find a link between either MMR or thiomersal and autism? I look forward to a retraction of 14studies.dot.com and its replacement with umpteenstudies.not.done because the logic of JB’s position is that it is the studies that have not been done that prove his point.

    And his point is that he has half a brain and anyone who disagrees with him is full of shit. I’ll take my shit over his brain any day.

  84. #84 l'asperge
    August 31, 2009

    Mr. Handley has run out of options, so now he’s stamping his little feet and swearing like a teamster. First he tried to win on the science, but the universe remained stubbornly mechanistic. So he turned to the courts, but the special masters wouldn’t cooperate. His latest brainstorm, 14Studies.com, just gave “anyone with half a brain” one more reason to laugh at him. Desperate for a victory, he turned to the court of public opinion, where both science and justice are subordinate to a collective need to amuse ourselves to death. But Handley’s shtick isn’t playing in Peoria, or anywhere outside an Autism One conference. Sociopathy is so 1998.

    You need a new website, Mr. Handley. “14NaughtyWords.com” is available.

  85. #85 isles
    August 31, 2009

    JB’s usual wild-eyed frothing: “there are NO studies comparing autism to any other vaccines, namely: Hep B, Hep A, Flu, Varicella, Polio, Hib, PCV, or DTAP”

    (The “a” in DTaP is lower-case, dear. I’m sure you think grammar is for the little people, but this would be more fun if you at least pretended to know what you were talking about. Do you even know what the D, the T, and the P stand for?)

    And why would there be such studies? Because if it’s not thimerosal, and it’s not MMR, and it’s not the magical combination of the two, then it simply must be some other thing related to a vaccine, because it definitely cannot be JB’s superior genes?

    I’ve been meaning to ask: How’s the baby, JB?

  86. #86 Not astounded
    August 31, 2009

    “I remain astounded by what a fucking moron you are.”

    And therein lies a big difference between JB and the reality-based world. It’s prolly the case that there aren’t many here who remain “astounded” by him at all.

    In fact, I’d posit that most aren’t surprised in the slightest by what douchebage JB apparently works his ass off to be.

    I’ll file “14 Studies” away with JB’s other scientific masterpieces:

    “32 Facts”

    “25 Myths”

    They really should give an award to such prolific bullshitters.

    JB’s Award-Winning Performance

  87. #87 Todd W.
    September 1, 2009

    You know what was noticeably lacking from JB Handley’s post?

    There are no studies showing that vaccines cause autism.

  88. #88 Orac
    September 1, 2009

    I’ll take my shit over his brain any day.

    Heh. I like it.

    One can’t help but note that Mr. Handley has devolved even further. Perhaps I can refer him to some excellent posts about his “Fourteen Studies” nonsense. I doubt he’ll read them, much less respond to them substantively (much easier to fling profanity at a blogger he doesn’t like), but here we go anyway:

    Fourteen Studies Later
    Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends, part II: Generation Rescue, the anti-vaccine propaganda machine, and “Fourteen Studies”
    More on Fourteen Studies

    Oh, wait. He did read one of those posts. His response was a string of ad hominems:

    A Personal Attack By J.B. Handley
    J.B. Handley, Generation Rescue, and attacks on critics

    Never mind.

  89. #89 Prometheus
    September 1, 2009

    JB Handley (#81) writes:

    “To make it easier, I personally wrote: http://www.fourteenstudies.com It’s all there for anyone with half a brain to figure out.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I interpreted that to mean that only somebody with half a brain would find the “fourteen studies” piece convincing. People who have not sustained such a debilitating neurological injury would probably not find the “arguments” posted there to be compelling.

    I encourage people to read “fourteen studies” piece and see if it makes sense to them. I read it and found that the metrics used to rate the studies were not only…..eccentric, but they weren’t applied very evenly.

    The “criteria” used to judge were skewed toward already published studies that the “vaccines-cause-autism” (VCA) crowd use to bolster their sagging argument. For example, one of the criteria was (I paraphrase) “Does the study ask the right questions?” This is not only highly subjective, but automatically “penalizes” studies that aren’t looking at the “issue” in exactly the way the VCA group prefer.

    Strangely enough, the criteria seemed to be more …. lenient when they looked at the very few (and very poorly done) studies that “support” the VCA position.

    So, go and read the “fourteen studies” and ask yourself if these are the people who should be dictating the direction of autism research.

    Prometheus

  90. #90 Not a 1/2 brain so I can't figure it out
    September 1, 2009

    To make it easier, I personally wrote:
    http://www.fourteenstudies.com
    It’s all there for anyone with half a brain to figure out.

    BJ, put the Stroh 80-spiked RNA drinks and Butter’s stinky goo down and step away from the keyboard.

    You ought to have someone other than John Best review your comments before you send them out – maybe Sue M or another of your more internetically competent drones.

  91. #91 JB Handley
    September 2, 2009

    Sigh, it’s so nice to see all the same morons commenting behind their screen names of the day.

    But, not one of you morons ever takes on the actual issue at hand. So, I will spell it out one last time, knowing that it’s far easier to cry about the fact that I use bad words when I write to morons than to look at the substance of my argument. Here’s a scenario:

    At 6 months of age, a child following the CDC schedule will receive all of the following vaccines within 10-15 minutes of each other: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal, Polio, and Flu.

    Soon after (within hours or days) the mother of the child reports a material change in the socialization, engagement, and disposition of her baby.

    You are the doctor. You want to reassure her that the science has already spoken, and the changes she is seeing in her baby are unrelated to the shots (changes that ultimately lead to an autism diagnosis).

    Please, tell me, which studies do you show her? Please, send me the links, because I have never seen them.

    If you don’t know of any of these studies, if you have never any studies like this, but still choose to comment that I don’t get it, please fuck yourself.

    JB

  92. #92 Todd W.
    September 2, 2009

    @JB Handley

    So, you think that vaccines cause autism. Please provide a citation to a study showing a causal link between vaccines (any single vaccine or some combination of vaccines) and autism. Thanks.

  93. #93 Orac
    September 2, 2009

    Sigh, it’s so nice to see all the same morons commenting behind their screen names of the day.

    I can’t speak for others, but you seem to like it that way because it allows you to whine about people “hiding” behind pseudonyms and thereby avoid substantively addressing their criticisms. I base this conclusion on my observation that you completely ignore criticisms of the anti-vaccine movement in general and Generation Rescue in particular when published at my other blog under my real name. I know AoA is big on monitoring incoming links and the other blog gets almost as much traffic as this one, and I spelled it out about as plainly as possible in my last comment; so don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    But, not one of you morons ever takes on the actual issue at hand. So, I will spell it out one last time, knowing that it’s far easier to cry about the fact that I use bad words when I write to morons than to look at the substance of my argument.

    You just broke my irony meter, given that it’s far easier to whine about commenters and bloggers using pseudonyms than it is to look at the substance of the criticisms. The bottom line is that the “substance” (such as it is) of your argument has been addressed time and time again; yet you keep repeating the same pseudoscience over and over again.

  94. #94 Steve D
    September 2, 2009

    JB –
    Though a “study” such as the one you speculate about does not exist, the RCA (Rapid Cycle Analysis) of the VSD (Vaccine Safety Datalink) provides a fine-tuned, ongoing, comprehensive set of data that can identify the changes you describe. From the CDC’s website:

    RCA uses data that are updated every week. Potential adverse events that are monitored for each RCA project are based on—

    * data from studies done on vaccines before they are licensed for general use
    * early analyses from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
    * concerns found in published scientific articles

    Each week, the rate of adverse events that occurs in people who have received a particular vaccine are compared to the rate of adverse events that occurs in a similar group of people who have not received that vaccine. If the rate of adverse events among vaccinated people is significantly higher than among the comparison group, the vaccine may be associated with an adverse event. To find out if a vaccine truly increases the risk of a particular adverse event, VSD Project scientists conduct a formal epidemiologic study.

    The VSD Project team is using RCA to monitor the safety of all newly licensed vaccines, including conjugated meningococcal vaccine, rotavirus vaccine, MMRV vaccine, Tdap vaccine, and HPV vaccine. In addition, plans are underway to use RCA to monitor the safety of seasonal influenza (flu) vaccinations.

    Perhaps you could justify for us your certainty that such parental observations are correct? After all, such ‘observations’ are typically ‘recalled’ after the time of diagnosis when the parent is trying to piece together their justification to blame vaccines. There actually is evidence of this erroneous recall, such as the testimony by Dr. Lord and Dr. Fombonne in the Cedillo Autism Omnibus proceedings. Though Michelle’s parents swore (quite literally) that any changes happened post-vaccination, both expert diagnosticians testified after viewing video of Michelle in her infancy that very clear and obvious signs of autism-related developmental delay were present prior to the vaccines being administered.
    An example that might hit a bit closer to home for you, JB, would be the now-removed pages from Ginger Taylor’s blog where she discussed her son’s diagnosis as making a lot of sense when considering her husband’s quirky characteristics. Her “revised” explanation blames vaccines for her son’s autism. Go figure.

    Ummm … do I still have to go fuck myself?

  95. #95 Sullivan
    September 2, 2009

    Mr. Handley’s comments about people hiding behind pseudonyms would be less a distraction if he himself didn’t have a history of using pseudonyms.

    It still would be a big red herring. Just a way to draw attention away from the real subject at hand.

    What do we tell this mother in Mr. Handley’s hypothetical situation?

    I can tell you one thing, I’d rather have an honest “I don’t know” than a made up “I have the answers for you”.

    If a doctor doesn’t have the answer to Mr. Handley’s hypthetical situation, does it justify JB Handley telling the mother misinformation and outright fabrications?

    Here’s a counter hypothetical situation for Mr. Handley. He will ignore it, no doubt.

    Mr. Handley. A mother contacts Generation Rescue and states that the treatment methods you as an organization and you as a person have promoted resulted in setbacks or regressions in her child.

    What do *you* say in response?

    What studies do you point her to showing the safety and efficacy of the treatments you promote? Please place emphasis on the safety issue.

    A second hypothetical: a mother approaches Generation Rescue for advice. She has heard (correctly) that some children do regress on the treatments your organization promotes. What tests do you tell her that she can give her child before the treatment begins?

  96. #96 isles
    September 2, 2009

    God, JB, how many times do we have to tell you? You are asking for a study that proves a negative. Will you ask us to produce one of the tooth fairy’s wings next? Do you really not get this? It is logically impossible.

  97. #97 Pat Cahalan
    September 4, 2009

    I’m not a doctor.

    I will lay claim, however, to having a reasonable expertise in general science and (probably) more mathematics training than most people that comment here on this particular blog.

    > At 6 months of age, a child following the CDC
    > schedule will receive all of the following
    > vaccines within 10-15 minutes of each other:
    > Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal,
    > Polio, and Flu.
    >
    > Soon after (within hours or days) the mother
    > of the child reports a material change in
    > the socialization, engagement, and disposition
    > of her baby.

    I would tell this mother that there are several large population epistemological studies showing that there is no correlation between vaccination rates and autism. Given several million children between the ages of 0 and 5 in the United States, and the overwhelming tendency of autism to be diagnosed during that age bracket, it is absolutely guaranteed statistically that thousands of children are going to exhibit their first signs of autism within weeks or days of having a vaccination.

    Correlation does not prove causation, but it’s certainly required to even begin forming a causal hypothesis.

  98. #98 Angie
    September 16, 2009

    Where is the real science, the facts, the actual links to the ‘many’ studies and ‘many many many’ pieces of evidence you claim proove that the people you refer to as “anti-vaccine zealots” are wrong?
    I dont think you can proove your points without actualy citing anything. I continue to hold out hope that one day you, Chris Mooney, and others will actually proove their point with science. Show me some numbers, some facts, some studies that back up your claims.
    Stop writing about the motive of an “anti-vaccine zealot” or emotions or lack of knowledge, and start, please start backing up your own thoughts and opinions with actual facts. Until I see some actual facts, actual numbers, actual studies reffered to in your writings, I will have no choice but to rely on the many facts, studies, and real science the “anti-vaccine zealots” are writing about. At least they have the ability to proove a point with facts and not try to sway the reader with personal attacks, by disecting each and every sentenance with pyschology and not with actual evidence, or even reference to evidence other than simply saying ‘asked and answered, studies have already been done, enough with these emotional and uneducated parents looking for something/one to blame!’. Why dont you fight fire with fire and actually respond to their questions. ANSWER them with facts and evidence and stop trying to get the audience off of their actual questions and therefore avoid showing any real information. Your article did not reffer to any of the actual questions that “anti-vaccine zealots” are asking, or claiming in regards to vaccines.

    Until you and the rest of the anti “anti-vaccine” crowd actually start answering the valid questions with valid answers and not your opinons (because opinions are just that, opinions, until they are backed up with evidence, when then it becomes fact not opinion), the public will continue to stop blindly believing and continue to ask the unanswered questions, and they will just get louder and louder, and finally it will just be the anti ‘anti-vaccine’ crowd getting bolder and bolder with personal attacks, continuing to not answer the questions, and looking ignorant, more and more ignorant.

    And before you blast me, please at least, point me to ANY specific answers of yours that contain actual evidence to disproove any of the ‘anti-vaccine’ claims/questions. Then you might sound actually reliable.

  99. #99 Ramel
    September 16, 2009

    Been tried, the anti-vax crusaders simply aren’t interested in anything as inconvenient as facts.

  100. #101 Chris
    September 16, 2009

    Angie:

    Where is the real science, the facts, the actual links to the ‘many’ studies and ‘many many many’ pieces of evidence you claim proove that the people you refer to as “anti-vaccine zealots” are wrong?

    Well, there are several posts where specific papers are discussed on this blog (like this one where Sallie Bernard help design the study), and this other blog. You just have to look for them in the archives.

    But if you don’t feel like going back into the archives here where many of the studies are discussed, here is a list for you:

    Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study.
    Hornig M et al.
    PLoS ONE 2008; 3(9): e3140 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003140
    *Subjects: 25 children with autism and GI disturbances and 13 children with GI disturbances alone (controls)

    Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
    Baird G et al.
    Arch Dis Child 2008; 93(10):832-7.
    Subjects: 98 vaccinated children aged 10-12 years in the UK with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); two control groups of similar age: 52 children with special educational needs but no ASD and 90 children in the typically developing group

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan.
    Uchiyama T et al.
    J Autism Dev Disord 2007; 37(2):210-7
    *Subjects: 904 children with autism spectrum disorder
    (Note: MMR was used in Japan only between 1989 and 1993.)

    No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells from Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
    D’Souza Y et al.
    Pediatrics 2006; 118(4):1664-75
    *Subjects: 54 children with autism spectrum disorder and 34 developmentally normal children

    Immunizations and Autism: A Review of the Literature.
    Doja A, Roberts W.
    Can J Neurol Sci. 2006; 33(4):341-6
    *Literature review

    Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations.
    Fombonne E et al.
    Pediatrics. 2006;118(1):e139-50
    *Subjects: 27,749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools

    Relationship between MMR Vaccine and Autism.
    Klein KC, Diehl EB.
    Ann Pharmacother. 2004; 38(7-8):1297-300
    *Literature review of 10 studies

    Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Institute of Medicine.
    The National Academies Press: 2004
    (w w w . nap.edu/books/030909237X/html) *Literature review

    MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study.
    Smeeth L et al.
    Lancet 2004; 364(9438):963-9
    *Subjects: 1294 cases and 4469 controls

    Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children with Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta.
    DeStefano F et al. Pediatrics 2004; 113(2): 259-66
    *Subjects: 624 children with autism and 1,824 controls

    Prevalence of Autism and Parentally Reported Triggers in a North East London Population.
    Lingam R et al.
    Arch Dis Child 2003; 88(8):666-70
    *Subjects: 567 children with autistic spectrum disorder

    Neurologic Disorders after Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination.
    Makela A et al.
    Pediatrics 2002; 110:957-63
    *Subjects: 535,544 children vaccinated between November 1982 and June 1986 in Finland

    A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism.
    Madsen KM et al.
    N Engl J Med 2002; 347(19):1477-82
    *Subjects: All 537,303 children born 1/91–12/98 in Denmark

    Relation of Childhood Gastrointestinal Disorders to Autism: Nested Case Control Study Using Data from the UK General Practice Research Database.
    Black C et al.
    BMJ 2002; 325:419-21
    *Subjects: 96 children diagnosed with autism and 449 controls

    Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Bowel Problems or Developmental Regression in Children with Autism: Population Study.
    Taylor B et al.
    BMJ 2002; 324(7334):393-6
    *Subjects: 278 children with core autism and 195 with atypical autism

    No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism.
    Fombonne E et al.
    Pediatrics 2001;108(4):E58
    *Subjects: 262 autistic children (pre- and post-MMR samples)

    Measles-Mumps-Rubella and Other Measles-Containing Vaccines Do Not Increase the Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Case-Control Study from the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project.
    Davis RL et al.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001;155(3):354-9
    *Subjects: 155 persons with IBD with up to 5 controls each

    Time Trends in Autism and in MMR Immunization Coverage in California.
    Dales L et al.
    JAMA 2001; 285(9):1183-5
    *Subjects: Children born in 1980-94 who were enrolled in California kindergartens (survey samples of 600–1,900 children each year)

    Neuropsychological Performance 10 years after Immunization in Infancy with Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines
    Tozzi AE, Bisiacchi P, Tarantino V, De Mei B, D’Elia L, Chiarotti F, Salmaso S.
    Pediatrics, February 2009, Vol. 123(2):475-82

    Mercury Levels in Newborns and Infants after Receipt of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines
    Pichichero ME, Gentile A, Giglio N, et al
    Pediatrics, February 2008; 121(2) e208-214

    Mercury, Vaccines, And Autism: One Controversy, Three Histories
    Baker JP
    American Journal of Public Health, February 2008;98(2): 244-253

    Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System: Mercury in Retrograde
    Schechter R, Grether JK
    Arch Gen Psychiatry, January 2008; 65(1):19-24

    Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years
    Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team
    N Engl J Med, Sep 27, 2007; 357(13):1281-1292

    Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations
    Fombonne E, Zakarian R, Bennett A, Meng L, McLean-Heywood D
    Pediatrics, July 2006, Vol. 118(1):e139-e150

    Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System Reporting Source: A Possible Source of Bias in Longitudinal Studies
    Goodman MJ, Nordin J
    Pediatrics, February 2006, Vol. 117(2):387-390

    Thimerosal in Vaccines: Balancing the Risk of Adverse Effects with the Risk of Vaccine-Preventable Disease
    Bigham M, Copes R
    Drug Safety, 2005, Vol. 28(2):89-101

    Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
    Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Grant KS, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T
    National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, April 21, 2005

    Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
    Heron J, Golding J, ALSPAC Study Team
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):577-583

    Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Retrospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
    Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):584-591

    Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Critical Review of Published Original Data
    Parker SK, Schwartz B, Todd J, Pickering LK
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):793-804

    The Evidence for the Safety of Thimerosal in Newborn and Infant Vaccines
    Clements CJ
    Vaccine, May 7, 2004, Vol. 22(15-16):1854-1861

    Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases
    Verstraeten T, Davis RL, DeStefano F, et al
    Pediatrics, November 2003, Vol. 112(5):1039-1048

    The Toxicology of Mercury–Current Exposures and Clinical Manifestations
    Clarkson TW, Magos L, Myers GJ
    New England Journal of Medicine, October 30, 2003, Vol. 349(18):1731-7

    Association Between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism
    Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M
    Journal of the American Medical Association, October 1, 2003, Vol. 290(13):1763-6

    Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data
    Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB, et al
    Pediatrics, Sept. 2003, Vol. 112(3 Pt 1):604-606

    Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines. Lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association
    Stehr-Green P, Tull P, Stellfeld M, Mortenson PB, Simpson D
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2003, Vol. 25(2):101-6

  101. #102 Joseph
    September 16, 2009

    At 6 months of age, a child following the CDC schedule will receive all of the following vaccines within 10-15 minutes of each other: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal, Polio, and Flu.

    Soon after (within hours or days) the mother of the child reports a material change in the socialization, engagement, and disposition of her baby.

    I’d like to see a documented instance of this; i.e. a parental report of a 6 month old baby showing changes in socialization, engagement and disposition hours or days after vaccination. Is there a case report with these characteristics? Is there anything else that might be considered a credible parental account along these lines?

  102. #103 Orac
    September 16, 2009

    @angie

    Also, in case you’re interested, here’s another good source of scientific evidence that show that vaccines almost certainly don’t cause autism:

    http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/vaccines-and-autism/

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