Respectful Insolence

These days, I’m having a love-hate relationship with Elsevier. On the one hand, there are lots of reasons to hate Elsevier. For example, Elsevier took payments from Merck, Sharp & Dohme in order to publish in essence a fake journal designed to promote its products, and then got caught doing it again. On the other hand, Elsevier owns both The Lancet and NeuroToxicology. The former recently retracted Andrew Wakefield’s original 1998 Lancet paper that launched the latest iteration of the anti-vaccine movement in the U.K., as well as a thousand quacks, to be followed by the latter, which withdrew Andrew Wakefield’s unethical and poorly designed monkey study of the hepatitis B vaccine. These decisions go a long way–although not all the way by a long shot–towards balancing the harm that Elsevier has done over the years.

Perhaps the most persistent atrocity unleashed upon science by Elsevier has come in the form of a journal. It’s a journal I have written about before called Medical Hypotheses. MH is a journal that describes itself and its requirements thusly:

The purpose of Medical Hypotheses is to publish interesting theoretical papers. The journal will consider radical, speculative and non-mainstream scientific ideas provided they are coherently expressed.

Medical Hypotheses is not, however, a journal for publishing workaday reviews of the literature, nor is it a journal for primary data (except when preliminary data is used to lend support to the main hypothesis presented). Many of the articles submitted do not clearly identify the hypothesis and simply read like reviews.


So far, there’s nothing inherently objectionable or anti-scientific in the concept behind MH. I can easily see a role for a journal that publishes speculative biomedical papers. The problem is that the editor of this journal has over the years allowed MH to be seriously abused by cranks and quacks, turning it into, in essence, a vanity journal that will publish almost anything, no matter how much it goes against established science. For example, Mark Blaxill published pseudoscientific speculation that vaccines cause autism, and the anti-vaccine movement trumpeted Blaxill’s paper for the next several years as “evidence” in a “peer-reviewed journal” (more on that later) that vaccines cause autism. It worked, too, because most lay people can’t distinguish between a highly speculative scientific article and a scientific report based on sound data from well-designed experiments and/or clinical trials, with solid scientific reasoning leading to its conclusions. Nor do most people–even scientists– have any idea of some of the other amusingly (and not-so-amusingly) wacky “hypotheses” published in MH, such as ideas that masturbation is a treatment for nasal congestion, a paper linking high heeled shoes to schizophrenia, a meditation on the nature of navel fluff, and truly offensive speculations about “mongoloids.”

Perhaps the worst debacle suffered by MH came to pass last summer, when it published an article by HIV/AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg that was so outrageously wrong and even downright racist. So bad was the article, that Elsevier administered one of the worst indignities imaginable to a scientist. It retracted his article from MH. Can you imagine the humiliation, to have an article retracted from a pseudoscientific, bottom-feeding crank journal.

As a result of this rather hilarious incident, a number of things happened. First, it became apparent that MH is not peer reviewed. Indeed, its editor Bruce Charlton showed up in the comments of my blog lamenting how mean I was to his journal and admitting that his journal is “editorially reviewed,” rather than peer-reviewed. In essence, Charlton picked the articles to be published and declared himself as “agnostic” as to the likely validity of any article he published.

Another consequence of the MH kerfuffle about Duesberg’s paper was that a group of scientists got together to complain to the National Library of Medicine, which is responsible for deciding which journals are listed in the MEDLINE database. Being listed in MEDLINE is critical to a biomedical scientific journal, and being delisted would have been a severe blow to MH. In their letter, the scientists explained their rationale, which was that MH does not meed the criteria for inclusion in MEDLINE. It’s very clear that it does not.

Another result, something that I had not heard about (and am rather puzzled why) was that apparently Elsevier started a review of MH and its editor Bruce Charlton. The result was that Elsevier issued an ultimatum:

The editor of the journal Medical Hypotheses–an oddity in the world of scientific publishing because it does not practice peer review–is about to lose his job over the publication last summer of a paper that says HIV does not cause AIDS. Publishing powerhouse Elsevier today told editor Bruce Charlton that it won’t renew his contract, which expires at the end of 2010, and it asked that Charlton resign immediately or implement a series of changes in his editorial policy, including putting a system of peer review in place. Charlton, who teaches evolutionary psychology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, says he will do neither, and some on the editorial advisory board say they may resign in protest if he is fired.

Elsevier’s move is the latest in an 8-month battle over the journal; it comes after an anonymous panel convened by Elsevier recommended drastic changes to the journal’s course, and five scientists reviewed the controversial paper and unanimously panned it.

Well, well, well. Isn’t this interesting? Again, I don’t necessarily disapprove of a journal devoted to highly speculative, even radical hypotheses. My problem with MH is that it blurred the line between the speculative and apparently confused “speculative” with “making shit up.” Apparently the reviewers agreed:

Following the advice of an external panel whose membership has not been made public, Elsevier wrote Charlton on 22 January to say that Medical Hypotheses would have to become a peer-reviewed journal. Potentially controversial papers should receive especially careful scrutiny, the publisher said, and some topics–including “hypotheses that could be interpreted as supporting racism” should be off limits.

Elsevier also had its flagship medical journal, The Lancet, organize a formal review by five anonymous experts. The reviews, which have not yet been released publicly but were obtained by Science, were unanimously harsh–especially about the Duesberg paper, indicating that it is riddled with errors and misinterpretations. “It might entertain their friends and relatives on a cold winter evening, but it does not belong in a scientific journal,” one reviewer wrote. On 24 February, Elsevier wrote Duesberg that his paper–which had not yet been printed and had been taken down from the journal’s Web site in August–would be “permanently withdrawn.” Ruggiero received a similar letter 5 days later.

In the meantime, Bruce Charlton has been using every means he can think of to defend himself. Again, normally I’d be sympathetic to the idea of a journal devoted to weird and wacky hypotheses. I can even be sympathetic to some of the defenses of MH published by Charlton on his blog. I cannot be sympathetic to idiotic statements like this by Professors Lola J. Cuddy and Jacalyn M. Duffin:

If it emerges that Duesberg’s paper erred beyond his minority viewpoint to actual errors–be they deliberate or accidental, a signal comparison can be made to two leading medical journals. Medical Hypotheses would have been no less a victim or a wrongdoer than the distinguished entities The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Earlier this month, Elsevier’s flagship journal The Lancet withdrew a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield et al. that helped foster the now discredited theory linking autism and MMR vaccines. No one has called for the alteration of Lancet. Indeed, the issue has drawn attention to the preeminent leadership role that The Lancet plays in the dissemination of knowledge and ideas.

Similarly, in 2000 the New England Journal of Medicine published a peer-reviewed paper that strongly supported the use of rofecoxib (known as Vioxx®). Later it emerged that the paper had suffered improper industry interference and failed to declare a treatment-related death. The drug was taken off the market in 2004. Considerable discussion surrounded the editorial responsibilites for the 2000 article when the flaws came to light in 2005. But no one called for the New England Journal of Medicine to be altered in any way. Jeffrey Drazen is still its editor-in-chief.

OK, maybe I’ll give Cuddy and Duffin that last bit, at least partially. On the other hand, it’s been well known that fraud is very difficult to detect through a standard peer review of a scientific paper, and most journals do not have good systems in place to detect undisclosed conflicts of interest. In any case, Cuddy and Duffin are demonstrating extreme ignorance at best or extreme disingenuousness at worst. There is a profound difference between journals’ peer reviewers missing examples of scientific fraud, which peer review tends to be ill-equipped to detect, and a journal editor just taking any ridiculous “speculative” paper that comes along and calling it science. Although an argument can be made that Wakefield’s paper should never have been accepted for publication because it was such thing gruel, the Vioxx paper at the time it was published looked like a perfectly legitimate and reasonable randomized clinical trial. It took years to discover the problems with both papers. In brief, Cuddy and Duffin are comparing apples and oranges, and, in essence, invoking the tu quoque fallacy.

Whatever the value of the concept behind a journal like MH, in the case of MH that value has not only failed to be realized, but has in fact been degraded and brought into serious disrepute. Charlton has, through his carelessness, arrogance, and his ideologically blind refusal to enforce even the most minimal minimal scientific standards on articles submitted to MH, has resulted in embarrassment after embarrassment falling upon his journal, from its abuse by the anti-vaccine movement to the latest debacle. The Peter Duesberg HIV/AIDS denialist paper retracted by Elsevier was merely the last straw. As a result, Elsevier decided that it had little choice but to order Charlton to impose peer review or to resign. By refusing to adhere to even a modicum of scientific rigor, Charlton has destroyed the aspect of MH that he apparently most values.

A journal devoted to cutting edge, even fringe scientific hypotheses might indeed be valuable, but because of his carelessness, Charlton guaranteed that Medical Hypotheses was not that journal and that it never will be. If there is to be a journal devoted to highly speculative scientific articles, it’s clear that Medical Hypotheses isn’t it and can no longer even attempt to be it. Bruce Charlton saw to that.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    Why oh why are such journals even allowed to exist?

    Yes, we need free speech. Yes, even the most bizarre of theories ought to be allowed the light of day- for no other reason than to be proven as false or true via careful and studied scientific examination (where appropriate since I’d not be in favor of spending tax money to see if masturbation cured anything at all). The problem, in my eyes, is that we do not live in an egalitarian society. We have a great mass of people who are wonderful, hard working, and rely on a two-paragraph blurb from USA Today to provide them an opinion. This is the majority and they can not be relied upon to do the research necessary to have facts with which to form opinions. So once upon a time I thought that ecinacea (etc.) was helpful when you had a cold. I also thought Airborne worked, simply because I had not yet invested the time to read and research. Once I had done that, I discovered that neither products did anything more than placebo me (which maybe gave me some benefit or maybe did not) and I have long since stopped bothering to use these products. This makes me abnormal in that I did research.

    How do we, the skeptics, the believers in research and study, convince people to check facts? To trust but verify? To be OK with the idea that once an opinion is proven to be incorrect by fact that it is OK to change that opinion? Journals such as that mentioned here are terrifying because they provide “proof” to those people who are seeking to have “facts” where none exist.

  2. #2 Militant Agnostic
    March 11, 2010

    Perhaps Charlton is used to making shit up in light of the following.

    Charlton, who teaches evolutionary psychology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne

  3. #3 "GrrlScientist"
    March 11, 2010

    Bob O’Hara wrote about this very topic a few days ago at his Nature Network blog.

  4. #4 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    I just looked at Bob’s post. I sort of agree with it, but he doesn’t seem to realize just how bad, from a technical and scientific standpoint, so many of the articles in MH were. He also seems to downplay just how bad MH’s reputation had become. From my perspective, an MH-like journal could be a fun and interesting journal to read, but MH just can’t fulfill that role anymore. It’s too tainted with pseudoscience, HIV/AIDS denialism, anti-vaccinationism, and quackery for its reputation to be rehabilitated. Better to shut it down. Maybe another journal could be started up to fill a similar niche but with an editor who doesn’t just consider how “radical” a hypothesis is but also considers the scientific and logical arguments, factual correctness, and accurate representation of studies used to support those radical hypotheses.

  5. #5 J Todd DeShong
    March 11, 2010

    It is amazing how hypocritical people can be. Some peole are in favor of Medical Hypothesis remaining just as it is. They screamed “censorship” when Duesberg’s paper was retracted from MH. Yet these same people have been trying to get Dr. Gallo’s original articles on HIV retracted from SCIENCE for well over two years. How is that not cesnorship?
    JTD

  6. #6 Kimberly
    March 11, 2010

    Did you see the comments at the Sciencemag.org link? Quite a few think any old stupid idea must be given publicity in the name of fair “debate”, and that any dissenting scientific critique is just “opinion.” Unreal. One comment I have to quote in its entirety:

    “Peter Duesberg has been controversial for many years, not only with respect to AIDS, but also with respect to cancer pathogenesis. Nevertheless, the fact that a paper is pulled because of opinions of individuals in the scientific community seems to me to go against the idea of open debate. I’m pretty uncomfortable with this.”

    They. Just. Don’t. Get it.

  7. #7 Bellerophon
    March 11, 2010

    Coincidentally the initials MH also stand for a rare but particularly unpleasant medical condition called Malignant Hyperpyrexia.

  8. #8 Sir Eccles
    March 11, 2010

    @Scott

    Doesn’t it come down to tenure? To be on a tenure track you have to publish publish publish. What better way to get in print than to say something like “My field just isn’t properly represented by journals, I must start my own”. At which point egos take over and as editor of your new shiny journal you print anything you can think of.

  9. #9 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    If you have a crackpot theory the disseminate, just get a blog like the rest of us. It’s quick, it’s easy, and nobody can force you to take it down (unless you do something illegal, I suppose). Leave medical journals to things that have actual evidence behind them rather than pure speculation.

  10. #10 The Chemist
    March 11, 2010

    “some on the editorial advisory board say they may resign in protest if he is fired.”

    That’s a little bit like refusing to ride your bike as a kid because your parents refused to let you.

  11. #11 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    Why oh why are such journals even allowed to exist?

    Because there’s no way to block them without also blocking legitimate speech.

  12. #12 Pablo
    March 11, 2010

    Take the journal out of PubMed or MedLine, and that is as good as dead. There is no credibility in it.

    It’s like having a PhD “thesis” that is not submitted to Dissertation Abstracts. It has no credibility in the world.

    I’m not a huge fan of Elsevier as publishers. I wasn’t aware the Lancet was published by them, but my general view of them is a buttload of lower-quality, highly-specialized journals that, more importantly, cost a buttload for a subscription. Elsevier journal subscriptions have historically taken up the major chunk of library journal budgets, especially on a per subscription basis. When you are paying 5 – 10x more for a low quality Elsevier journal than you pay for Science, Nature, or anything from the ACS publishers, you are getting ripped off.

    Elsevier journals are usually the first ones cut or not found at smaller institutions.

  13. #13 jen
    March 11, 2010

    well, I don’t have a phD, but basically it looks like Elsevier tried to get away with promoting pharma bullshit(re. Vioxx) and then they tried to get away with mudslinging a non-pharma sympathetic article (Wakefield/Hewitson). It’s all highly pharma slanted is the bottom line.
    It is encouraging that you are angry at the lack of ethics involved with Elsevier.

  14. #14 jen
    March 11, 2010

    what about the idiot journal that published the poor quality “Danish” study (supposedly concluding that thimerosal is not harmful) with the CDC’s go to guy, Poul Thorsen?

  15. #15 BrianX
    March 11, 2010

    I get some of Elsevier’s books (mostly through their Focal Press imprint) through Amazon Vine for book reviews. They make some good stuff but I’m really hesitant to recommend them because of their sketchy behavior. It’s good to know they have at least some standards.

  16. #16 Austin Elliott
    March 11, 2010

    “journal… to fill a similar niche but with an editor who doesn’t just consider how “radical” a hypothesis is but also considers the scientific and logical arguments, factual correctness, and accurate representation of studies used to support those radical hypotheses.”

    That is kind of the consensus emerging from the comments thread after Bob O’Hara’s Nature Network blogpost referred to earlier.

  17. #17 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    basically it looks like Elsevier tried to get away with promoting pharma bullshit(re. Vioxx) and then they tried to get away with mudslinging a non-pharma sympathetic article (Wakefield/Hewitson)

    This is truly hilarious, given that there’s no way Elsevier could have caught the Vioxx article ahead of time, but SHOULD have rejected Wankerfield’s garbage.

  18. #18 Joseph
    March 11, 2010

    what about the idiot journal that published the poor quality “Danish” study (supposedly concluding that thimerosal is not harmful)

    @jen: In your own words, what makes the study “poor quality”? Let’s see you work.

  19. #19 jen
    March 11, 2010

    well Scott, that’s good that you find it so funny, but “Pediatrics” role in publishing such a misleading/bogus study as the Danish Study “showing a negative relationship between the removal of thimerosal and a decrease in autism” is not funny at all. It is shameful.
    Even Vaerstaten noted in 2001 that the thimerosal received by British children was too low relative to American children to compare. Denmark’s thimerosal use was as low or lower than Britain but they did a study there looking at thimerosal and autism anyways. (joke #1)
    The Danish study concluded that not only did autism rates not go down after thimerosal was removed but they actually went up. In /95 the Danish registry added outpatient clinics to their count of autism cases. Outpatient clinics are where 93% of Danish children are diagnosed with autism so the number of cases before /95 did not include the clinics. The authors even say “this may exaggerate the incidence rates.” Ya think?!! (joke #2)
    Conflicts of interest-several co-authors received direct funding from CDC on vaccine safety related projects and were vaccine company people) WHICH was NOT mentioned in the study.
    Pediatrics (and AAP) should be ashamed of itself.

  20. #20 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    well Scott, that’s good that you find it so funny, but “Pediatrics” role in publishing such a misleading/bogus study as the Danish Study “showing a negative relationship between the removal of thimerosal and a decrease in autism” is not funny at all. It is shameful.

    Illiterate too, I see. If you could read, you’d have noticed which of your posts I responded to. And in fact, the post you decided to assume I responded to wasn’t even up at the time I posted!

    Congratulations, moron. You’ve managed to lower my opinion of you even lower.

  21. #21 DLC
    March 11, 2010

    On the other hand, MH gives the cranks a place to publish their silliness so that we can point and laugh.
    Remember, sometimes pointing and laughing is the proper response.

  22. #22 jen
    March 11, 2010

    Cool it buddy! I get your point (about the post; the illiterate and moron stuff is just infantile). It just seems funny how ultimately pro-pharma Elsevier is. They were probably under the gun to get rid of the Hewitson/Wakefield stuff.

  23. #23 Adam C.
    March 11, 2010

    It should probably be noted that there appears to be an effort to whitewash the Wikipedia page on Medical Hypotheses, removing or trivializing the criticism.

  24. #24 Science Mom
    March 11, 2010

    Oh look, jen @19 used the exact same talking points as the scientifically-illiterate morons for ‘fourteen studies’ because reading and evaluating a study is so haaaaard. If you are going to use someone else’s work, even as dumb as that, you should still credit your source. Now why don’t you try and read the full text and point out the flaws in the methodology and results.

  25. #25 Chris
    March 11, 2010

    jen, there are many more actual studies that show thimerosal has not casual relationship with autism. Including another Danish paper. Do you see Thorsen’s name on that one?

    Get over it, jen. The science has been done, the link between vaccines and autism does not exist. It is a dead link… “It’s not pinin’! ‘It’s passed on! This link is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch it’d be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now ‘istory! It’s off the twig! It’s kicked the bucket, it’s shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-LINK!! ” (hat-tip to Monty Python and the dead parrot sketch)

  26. #26 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    Actually, the Thorsen thing is such an obvious attempt to distract from Wakefield’s downfall, but there are several differences that make the two comparing apples and oranges. Looks like it might be time to apply a not-so-Respectfully Insolent slapdown to the mercury malicia, particularly now that RFK, Jr. has returned from the grave to hype this one.

    Let’s put it this way: Even if every single nasty accusation against Thorsen is completely true, it would not invalidate the Danish study, and, even if the Danish study were to be found to be completely fraudulent (highly unlikely), there are plenty of other studies that exonerate mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism. The Danish study is old news. The field has moved on since then, and the science showing that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism does not depend on the Danish studies.

  27. #27 cervantes
    March 11, 2010

    The vile RFK Jr. has a repulsive post up on HuffPo. Get over there and comment bomb him. And don’t be nice about it either.

  28. #28 jen
    March 11, 2010

    science mom and Chris! Get over it! Alot of your studies (a few of Thorsens’ being some of the main ones to supposedly exhonerate thim) are full of shit. Probably alot of your stupid “scientists” and “journals”, like Pediatrics, are full of shit. As granny Clampett would say, “if that don’t tear the roof right off the barn!”

  29. #29 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    Jen,

    Please specify your scientific, epidemiologic, and methodologic criticisms of the multiple studies other than the Danish study that have failed to find a correlation between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Proclaiming them and the journals that publish them as “probably full of shit” does not impress me. Science and epidemiology talks, bullshit (like yours) walks.

  30. #30 Bob O'H
    March 11, 2010

    Hmm. Orac – do you really support publishers meddling in editorial decisions?

    On the other hand, Elsevier owns both The Lancet and NeuroToxicology. The former recently retracted Andrew Wakefield’s original 1998 Lancet paper that launched the latest iteration of the anti-vaccine movement in the U.K., as well as a thousand quacks, to be followed by the latter, which withdrew Andrew Wakefield’s unethical and poorly designed monkey study of the hepatitis B vaccine. These decisions go a long way–although not all the way by a long shot–towards balancing the harm that Elsevier has done over the years.

    This is a mis-representation. In both cases, the decisions were taken by the editorial board, not the publishers.

    This is not nit-picking, as it suggests that Orac is happy for publishers to tell their editors what they can and can’t publish. And this is what they have done with Medical Hypotheses. Here’s something Orac omitted to quote from the Science article:

    Potentially controversial papers should receive especially careful scrutiny, the publisher said, and some topics—including “hypotheses that could be interpreted as supporting racism” should be off limits.

    Would Orac be happy if his Seed overlords told him there were some things he wasn’t allowed to blog about?

    Clearly there’s an issue with the quality of some of the articles published in Medical Hypotheses. As people has discussed on my post, there are things that can be done about this, such as implementing peer review. I have no big problem with that. But Elsevier go beyond that.

    There’s another issue here that is worrying: Elsevier have come under external pressure to do something about MH and have apparently caved in. What if a large group (e.g. Big Evil Pharma) decided to go after The Lancet? Would we be confident they wouldn’t cave in again?

  31. #31 Todd W.
    March 11, 2010

    @jen

    Stop throwing insults and swearing around and give the lowdown on the specific flaws in the studies with which you disagree, as you were asked to do.

  32. #32 jen
    March 11, 2010

    Cervantes: it must be a drag being paid by pharma…

  33. #33 jen
    March 11, 2010

    well Todd, right now I’m kind of revelling in the fact that, just like Wakefield,(and worse) one of your own blessed scientists has been called out. Where there’s one, there could be more. One time I remember criticizing some of the links Chris sent to me. I noted some specific concerns around sample size, time of follow-up etc.from the studies I read. Well, I could see the steam coming off the page when Chris emailed back that “those were just a few studies, there were many more.” I’m not going to waste my time doing that again.

  34. #34 Travis
    March 11, 2010

    I want my pharma money as well. jen, can you accuse me of being one as well? It might give me some street cred.

    Seriously though, it is a pathetic argument. It is a non-argument.

  35. #35 Joseph
    March 11, 2010

    In /95 the Danish registry added outpatient clinics to their count of autism cases. Outpatient clinics are where 93% of Danish children are diagnosed with autism so the number of cases before /95 did not include the clinics. The authors even say “this may exaggerate the incidence rates.” Ya think?!! (joke #2)

    @jen: I realize this is an oft-repeated anti-vax talking point, but the fact is that the paper does consider this outpatient issue, and they performed a separate analysis to determine if it had any bearing on the results. It looks as though they did all the double-checking they had to do, and were aware of the limitations of the data.

    So what makes this study ‘low quality’ again? Jen?

  36. #36 Todd W.
    March 11, 2010

    @jen

    Then don’t bother saying that the studies are crap if you’re not going to back up your opinions with legitimate criticisms.

  37. #37 Sam
    March 11, 2010

    We are born ignorant, but not stupid. It is not that which we do not know that will do the most harm. Rather, it is WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE BUT ISN’T, that will be our undoing. Sure, his theory is probably wrong. But history clearly shows some of the most impactful events started as heretics and rejection until the truth became self evident (flat earth, scurvy germ theory, being the center of the universe, etc).

  38. #38 jen
    March 11, 2010

    well Joseph, it’s still pretty disingenuous of them to go around (and I’ve heard people here say this) that they removed the thim and the autism rate actually went up. The limitations of the data are so, let me see, l.i.m.i.t.i.n.g., that it should not have been published. The Danish study uses Danish children and the Danish vaccine schedule and thim load is far lower than that for American children so maybe it’s really not a good place to check for the effect of thim. Get it? Also, conflicts of interest. I mean God forbid that HEwitson be a vaccine injury plaintiff and that be a crime but have some of those Danish researchers be paid by vaccine companies and no problemo? I don’t think so.

  39. #39 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    @ Bob O’H

    You kind of defeat your own comment here, as you say that the publisher (Elsevier) did NOT interfere with the publication of the articles in question – it was the decision of the editorial boards of the journals. Furthermore, the decision was that the controversial topics should receive extra scrutiny; not that they should be banned altogether (except in examples of hate speech, like racism).

    The point about publishers being allowed to influence the editorial integrity of a journal is surely a cause for concern. However, as someone who is closely involved with the publication and editing of a journal, I can tell you that there are extremely strict rules about exactly the thing you are talking about. The publisher has to register with an international body and declare that they will keep away from editorial decisions. The publisher that fails to do that would face legal consequences.

    Finally, I’m sure there ARE things that Seed says you can’t talk about. I’m sure that any number of publishing companies have restrictions. However, those are likely to be in place to avoid defamation suits rather than control scientific content. If they WERE to say that Orac couldn’t publish something critical of a Seed sponsor, Orac would be free to ditch Seed, take his incredibly popular blog to another site, and fully trash Seed for their misconduct.

  40. #40 Joseph
    March 11, 2010

    well Todd, right now I’m kind of revelling in the fact that, just like Wakefield,(and worse) one of your own blessed scientists has been called out.

    See, here’s the difference. I’m not going to defend Thorsen’s wrongdoing. AoA and anti-vaxers would, if he were one of their own. I hope Thorsen gets what’s coming to him, if indeed he’s found guilty of theft.

    I don’t much care about that, though. I had never heard of Thorsen before this story broke. I doubt many of us here had ever heard of him. After all, he’s nowhere close to being the main contributor of the two papers in question.

    I do care whether the matter is in any way indicative of scientific fraud, particularly as it relates to thimerosal and MMR studies. I fail to see why it would be, though.

  41. #41 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    Would Orac be happy if his Seed overlords told him there were some things he wasn’t allowed to blog about?

    Your point would have been a lot more convincing if you hadn’t tacked on to it an argument this bad. I’m sorry, but there’s really just no polite way to put it, and I was shocked to see such an awful argument coming from you. I never would have thought you capable of it. Blogs are not scientific journals, which are held to a much higher standard. To answer: No, I wouldn’t be happy, but if Seed told me what I can and can’t blog about, I wouldn’t be with Seed. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, there are plenty of journals out there. If Elsevier dictates too closely what can and cannot be published in its journals, scientists will submit to other journals.

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’ll can the insolence for a moment and move on to your more meritorious points.

    As for the Wakefield affair, yes the editors did ultimately decide, but it took the GMC ruling against Wakefield to get them to act. Consequently, my retort would be: Charlton is more like the case where the editors of The Lancet and NeuroToxicology didn’t retract Wakefield’s papers in the wake of the GMC ruling. (In actuality, it could be argued that Lancet editors should have retracted Wakefield’s paper in 2004, when the allegations of undisclosed conflicts of interest and being in the pay of trial lawyers first surfaced._ When an editor has failed to maintain quality as egregiously as Bruce Charlton has and for as long as Bruce Charlton has, doesn’t his employer have the right–nay, the duty–to tell him to get in line or to show him the door? Especially if that editor is doing damage to the reputation of the company? Especially if that editor’s policies are endangering the listing of the journal in MEDLINE?

    Another point. Elsevier didn’t just tell Charlton to stop doing what he was doing and turn MH into a peer-reviewed journal. It apparently conducted a formal review by two different mechanisms (a panel of experts and peer reviewers) of the content of MH. That is a lot different than simply dictating the content. Such a panel and set of peer reviewers strike me more as a quality review, a review that MH failed. Editorial freedom is important, but it is not without limits. In fact, Elsevier put up with Charlton far longer than was wise for it. That being said, I do think Elsevier probably went too far in dictating that topics that are HIV/AIDS denialist or might promote racism may not be published.

    Finally, regarding the more general issue of pharma or what have you dictating to Elsevier what can and can’t be published, well, isn’t that a really good argument for supporting open access journals over for-profit scientific publishers like Elsevier? I think it is.

  42. #42 MI Dawn
    March 11, 2010

    @Bob O’H (#30): If you read what Orac wrote, you would note that he DOES quote what the publishers said (bolding mine to differentiate between Orac and his quote; the quote is bolded):

    Well, well, well. Isn’t this interesting? Again, I don’t necessarily disapprove of a journal devoted to highly speculative, even radical hypotheses. My problem with MH is that it blurred the line between the speculative and apparently confused “speculative” with “making shit up.” Apparently the reviewers agreed:

    Following the advice of an external panel whose membership has not been made public, Elsevier wrote Charlton on 22 January to say that Medical Hypotheses would have to become a peer-reviewed journal. Potentially controversial papers should receive especially careful scrutiny, the publisher said, and some topics–including “hypotheses that could be interpreted as supporting racism” should be off limits. ,

    So, I don’t think you have a point here.

    I’m going to ignore jen. She’s not worth my time today.

  43. #43 jen
    March 11, 2010

    Todd, @ 36. I told you already. One time I really took the time to read and respond to several specific studies that Chris sent (on pubmed)and when I found flaws in them she flew into a rage and simply said something like, “well, there are hundreds more studies…I’m glad you enjoyed your little foray into pubmed.” Something just like that. Seriously, I could see the steam coming off the page. I won’t waste my time like that again.

  44. #44 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    @Sam

    So are you suggesting we assume every hypothesis to be credible as soon as someone utters it? Flat Earth was done away with in the time of the ancient Greeks. Scurvy isn’t caused by germs (unless there’s supposed to be a comma there), and the geocentric universe was held as a religious truth, not a scientific one. The difference between those hypotheses and the theories that replaced them is that the people who came up with them used EVIDENCE to support their claims (which is why they’re theories and not just ideas).

    If someone can come to the table and propose an idea that is based on either new evidence or a re-interpretation of old evidence that still fits observed reality, they are listened to. Not everyone is wild about it, but that’s the nature of any new paradigm. However it does NOT oblige us to become credulous dupes every time someone has an idea that conflicts with present understanding. Show me the monkeys, as it were.

  45. #45 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    This is a mis-representation. In both cases, the decisions were taken by the editorial board, not the publishers.

    A more careful reading of what Orac actually said would clearly show that he stated that the journals took the action, NOT the publisher. In other words, you’re misrepresenting Orac’s correct representation…

  46. #46 Joseph
    March 11, 2010

    it’s still pretty disingenuous of them to go around (and I’ve heard people here say this) that they removed the thim and the autism rate actually went up. The limitations of the data are so, let me see, l.i.m.i.t.i.n.g., that it should not have been published.

    @jen: That’s ridiculous. All passive databases have limitations of this nature. For example, in CalDDS, you can’t know how much it undercounts. From time to time, California changes its eligibility policies, and so forth. There are tons of studies that use CalDDS data. It’s a matter of understanding the limitations and interpreting the data in reasonable ways.

    It’s a spurious complaint as well. The fact is that thimerosal was removed and nothing happened — anywhere in the world. Debating whether the Danish studies had this or that potential limitation is a lot like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  47. #47 cervantes
    March 11, 2010

    Hey Jen, let me know how I can get a hold of some of that Pharma money? I haven’t had much luck since I write a blog in which about half my posts are rants against the pharmaceutical industry.

  48. #48 MikeMa
    March 11, 2010

    Lots of studies indicate no causal relationship between thimerosal and autism. Nice summary page here.

    jen and her buds have their noses all out of joint over backing and subsequent failure of st andy. He was caught and punished by having his work shitcanned. Worse awaits him. Any distraction offered by the perfidy of another (pro-vax) researcher is a balm to their bruised egos. The thing that still fails to click with the anti-vax stance and support of st andy is that he was developing a vaccine and only failed to profit from it because his work was a sham.

    I do not want to ask jen to read any more studies as that would be hard work but the studies have been done. You say you want someone to work on autism yet you insist on wasting time and money pursuing the dead goal of thimerosal.

  49. #49 mikerattlesnake
    March 11, 2010

    @jen

    Are you implying in your posts that there is a link between thimerosal and autism? Did the rest of the team leave you behind when they moved the goalposts? Forget Thorsen for a sec, how about the fact that thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines ten years ago (and there are thimerosal-free versions of all early childhood vaccines) and autism rates have gone up?

    Oh wait, maybe you’re on that retro trend. Can we argue about repressed memories or facilitated communication? Maybe we can start a VH1 show: “I love the debunked pseudoscientific garbage from decades past”.

  50. #50 Science Mom
    March 11, 2010

    well Todd, right now I’m kind of revelling in the fact that, just like Wakefield,(and worse) one of your own blessed scientists has been called out.

    Actually, that sounds like wishful-thinking and foot-stomping to me. But whatever Thorsen’s crimes are, don’t affect the thimerosal study, unless you are willing to accuse all of the authors of scientific fraud and prove it. You have done nothing of your own to explain any methodological problems with the Danish thimerosal study either except to parrot the regurgitations of idiots that couldn’t find their way out of an Erlenmeyer flask with a map.

    Also consider the numerous studies that are consistent with the Danish study results. Are you prepared to call those fraudulent as well? If you are, prove it. The U.S. removed thimerosal in 1999, with the last remnants in 2002 and yet autism rates have continued to rise. So if all of the thimerosal-autism studies are rubbish, then you have to be prepared to, by your logic, accept that autism rates have actually not risen. Ergo, no autism ‘epidemic’. Do you see what happens when you are unable to apply objectivity to the evidence?

  51. #51 Chris
    March 11, 2010

    jen, you only cause rage by your incredible stupidity. You never even realized that you responded with something incredibly stupid. It is time to ignore the idiotic troll.

    Oh, and Joseph, the new claim is that thimerosal was never removed, so they can still bitch and moan about it. Except there is this plea from Sallie Bernard in 2001 for help in locating DTaP with thimerosal. Considering Burbacher had to add thimerosal to the vaccines he used in his primate study, I assume they were not successful.

    I have asked a few times in the past week if thimerosal was still in pediatric vaccines (and noting that influenza vaccines do come thimeorsal free), why did Sallie Bernard ask for help in finding some? No real answers.

  52. #52 Prometheus
    March 11, 2010

    “…Charlton, who teaches evolutionary psychology…”

    It all becomes clear, now.

    Jen comments:

    “The Danish study uses Danish children and the Danish vaccine schedule and thim load is far lower than that for American children so maybe it’s really not a good place to check for the effect of thim. Get it? “

    Very interesting, Jen. Now, what if we took the thimerosal out of children’s vaccines in the US? Or, at least, reduced the amount of thimerosal to below the amount a child would have received prior to 1970? Wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment?

    Surprise! It’s already been done!

    Even though there are those who argue that children’s vaccines contain a “trace” amount of thimerosal and that thimerosal is still in some influenza vaccines given to children, the amount of thimerosal children have received in their vaccines starting in 2002 is less than children received prior to 1970 – even if the child received a thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine every year of their life.

    Strangely enough, the autism prevalence in the US has continued its climb unaltered by the reduction of thimerosal exposure to below “pre-autism-epidemic” levels. That’s the same thing they found in Denmark. And it’s the same thing they found in Canada and the UK.

    So, rather than harping on about the obvious (and acknowledged) limitations of the Madsen et al study, how about explaining why so many studies – in so many countries – found the same results?

    Or do you not have an answer for that?

    Prometheus

  53. #53 ldlemind
    March 11, 2010

    Don’t know if “mercury malicia” was a typo or not, Orac, but I like it…

  54. #54 Rob
    March 11, 2010

    What is so fucking stupid about this whole incident is that whether or not Thorsen committed a criminal act with respect to employment or embezzlement has absolutely NOTHING to do with his science. NOTHING.

    He has NOT been accused of Research Misconduct.

    This story is NOT about science.

  55. #55 Katharine
    March 11, 2010

    People have free speech, which not only means that they can yap their dumb crud but I also have the right to tell them they’re completely and utterly bonkers and ought to be locked up in an institution if they’re that detached from reality.

  56. #56 Rob
    March 11, 2010

    Ya know, I’ve got too many windows open to too many blogs, and I just posted my previous comment on the wrong blog.

    Tired, tired, need martini.

  57. #57 not jen
    March 11, 2010

    Oh, crap. You mean the mercury levels in vaccines have been lowered dramatically since 2002?

    Nevermind.

  58. #58 Bob O'H
    March 11, 2010

    @Ian –

    You kind of defeat your own comment here, as you say that the publisher (Elsevier) did NOT interfere with the publication of the articles in question – it was the decision of the editorial boards of the journals. Furthermore, the decision was that the controversial topics should receive extra scrutiny; not that they should be banned altogether (except in examples of hate speech, like racism).

    Eh? So it’s OK for Elsevier to not interfere, except when they do?

    The point about publishers being allowed to influence the editorial integrity of a journal is surely a cause for concern. However, as someone who is closely involved with the publication and editing of a journal, I can tell you that there are extremely strict rules about exactly the thing you are talking about. The publisher has to register with an international body and declare that they will keep away from editorial decisions. The publisher that fails to do that would face legal consequences.

    So are you saying that Charlton should hire a lawyer? Haven’t Elsevier broken these rules by overturning his decisions, and retracted 2 papers, and then told him there are some subjects the journal can’t touch? Regardless of the quality of the retracted papers, the publisher still went over the editor’s head.

    @Orac –

    As for the Wakefield affair, yes the editors did ultimately decide, but it took the GMC ruling against Wakefield to get them to act. Consequently, my retort would be: Charlton is more like the case where the editors of The Lancet and NeuroToxicology didn’t retract Wakefield’s papers in the wake of the GMC ruling.

    So why are Elsevier behaving differently now to then? Isn’t it more serious when The Lancet does something wrong? After all it has a reputation to uphold, which MH certainly doesn’t (um, well MH does have a reputation, but a rather different one).

    When an editor has failed to maintain quality as egregiously as Bruce Charlton has and for as long as Bruce Charlton has, doesn’t his employer have the right–nay, the duty–to tell him to get in line or to show him the door? Especially if that editor is doing damage to the reputation of the company? Especially if that editor’s policies are endangering the listing of the journal in MEDLINE?

    They’re saying he can stay if he (a) institutes peer review, and (b) agrees not to publish on certain topics. If it was only former, I’d be happy with that: it should improve the quality of the product, and improve the reputation of the journal. I guess there we would agree.

    But they’re doing more than that: (b) is just wrong, and Ian’s comments suggests could end up in a law suit. If Charlton could be persuaded to implement a peer review system that would satisfy him and Elsevier (and this is what I hope happens), so that the papers that are demonstrably wrong are filtered out, shouldn’t that be enough?

    That being said, I do think Elsevier probably went too far in dictating that topics that are HIV/AIDS denialist or might promote racism may not be published.

    Yes, that’s my main problem with Elsevier too.

    Finally, regarding the more general issue of pharma or what have you dictating to Elsevier what can and can’t be published, well, isn’t that a really good argument for supporting open access journals over for-profit scientific publishers like Elsevier? I think it is.

    No, because it’s a category error. BMC is for-profit (and even PLoS is “not for loss”). IIRC, Hindawi is making a profit too. You also dodged the issue. Don’t think I didn’t notice. :-)

  59. #59 Pablo
    March 11, 2010

    Elsevier most certainly has an interest in maintaining integrity of the journals they publish. And if one of those journals loses credibility because of actions by a bad editor, then they are absolutely going to try to fix the problem. The first thing to do is fire the editor that caused the problem.

    Their insistence that MH become peer-reviewed is also a reasonable response. That is basically “shape up or ship out.”

    A comparable situation would be if SEED came to Orac and said, “Your blog has no respect in the science blogging community, and you are becoming somewhat of a joke. People have stopped taking you seriously. We are dropping our support and you are on your own.”

    Elsevier has no responsibility to publish journals that are crap even by their own standards. They are in it to make money, and it is not possible to make money on journals that no one wants to read because it is full of cranks.

    Elsevier pulling their support to MH is merely the market being heard. No one in the science community wants to read that crap, and so Elsevier isn’t going to publish it. If the editor wants the journal to continue, he just needs to find another publisher. Good luck.

  60. #60 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    @ Bob O’H

    Eh? So it’s OK for Elsevier to not interfere, except when they do?

    I’m not sure what that means. Maybe you meant that it’s not okay for them to interfere except when they do. At any case, that is not at all the point I was making. The point was that the publisher is allowed to set editorial standards, but they are not allowed to force in or restrict publication of academic materials simply because the materials conflict with the publisher’s wishes. In the case of Lancet and Neurotoxicology, the materials that were excluded were done so because of poor quality, under editorial initiative.

    The publisher can, however, remove the editor-in-chief according to its own bylaws if the EiC works for the publisher. There are better systems, to be sure (making the appointment of EiC subject to board vote, for example), but no legal conflict there.

    You’re trying to force a false equivalence here between restriction of content and editorial interference. Restriction of types of content is absolutely at the discretion of whoever controls the journal, which is not always the EiC. It would be completely inappropriate, for example, for the Lancet to publish an article on astrophysics, or marine ecology, or matrix algebra. While these are certainly worthy scientific fields, they do not fall under the umbra of the Lancet. Should an EiC publish these kinds of articles, the publisher would be right to castigate and yes, possibly even remove the EiC.

    In the case of hate speech, instructing the EiC not to publish that kind of material serves two purposes. 1 – discourages law suits since many countries have laws prohibiting hate speech; and 2 – maintaining the editorial integrity of the journal. The reputation would decline if it began to publish articles of poor scientific merit whose claims brought unwelcome scrutiny to the journal. Top-tier journals rely on their reputation to remain viable. While they should absolutely stand behind good science even when it’s unpopular, they have no obligation to do so when the science is bad.

  61. #61 Bob O'H
    March 11, 2010

    The point was that the publisher is allowed to set editorial standards, but they are not allowed to force in or restrict publication of academic materials simply because the materials conflict with the publisher’s wishes.

    But that is precisely what Elsevier are saying they want to do.

    Restriction of types of content is absolutely at the discretion of whoever controls the journal, which is not always the EiC. It would be completely inappropriate, for example, for the Lancet to publish an article on astrophysics, or marine ecology, or matrix algebra.
    But the issue isn’t relevance – Elsevier aren’t saying “only publish medical hypotheses”, they’re restricting the types of medical hypothesis that can be published.

    I’d agree that a publisher could (and often should) step in to stop publication if there are legal issues, but again that’s not what’s going on here.

    P.S. Sorry for ballsing up the blockquotes.

  62. #62 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    But the issue isn’t relevance – Elsevier aren’t saying “only publish medical hypotheses”, they’re restricting the types of medical hypothesis that can be published.

    Absolutely correct. They’re saying “only publish medical hypothesis that correspond to the editorial slant of the journal.” Exactly like them saying to the Lancet “only publish scientific articles that correspond to the editorial slant of the journal.”

    If the EiC disagrees with the editorial slant, he/she is free to quit. If the slant brings the journal into disrepute, then the standing of the journal will decline. However in this case it should be quite evident to anyone watching that the reasons for restriction are valid, reasonable and do not impugn the validity of the publication. You clearly disagree, which is your prerogative, and you can boycott the journal. However it should be clear that no ethical or legal breach has occurred.

    Your alternative scenario seems to be that the EiC will have free reign over 100% of published content, regardless of the stance of the journal. Editorial stance is certainly not something that is taken lightly, but when an EiC flaunts his/her editorial license, there are consequences. That is not the case in any reputable journal. Nobody would dispute your point that the publisher should not have 100% control over published content either, but that’s not what is happening here.

  63. #63 Ian
    March 11, 2010

    That should read that IS the case in any reputable journal. Paging Dr. Freud to the parapraxes ward…

  64. #64 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 11, 2010

    “Let’s put it this way: Even if every single nasty accusation against Thorsen is completely true, it would not invalidate the Danish study”

    Well of course it would. The fact is though… The Danish studies have proven to be bogus
    for years now. This would just be the last nail in the coffin.

    There is something simply hilarious about those of you who have been trashing Wakefield and discussing all his conflicts, all his evildoing, etc. etc… who now want to just throw your hands up and say… “yeah, so… no big deal”… when faced with the recent
    information in regards to Thorsen. It’s predictable but funny all the same.

    Here’s the thing… If you would rather not post/comment on the Thorsen issue…. that would be understandable. There’s too many unknowns at this point. Having said that, already trying to deflect about the importance of that information or to pretend that that inconvenient information about Thorsen wouldn’t matter is laughable. Of course it matters. The Danish studies were flimsy (at best), knowing that there was a crook involved in any of those studies make them even more irrelevant than they already were (which is tough to do….).

  65. #65 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    No, because it’s a category error. BMC is for-profit (and even PLoS is “not for loss”). IIRC, Hindawi is making a profit too. You also dodged the issue. Don’t think I didn’t notice. :-)

    You know, my irony meter exploded when I read that. You compared apples and oranges (blogs and scientific journals) in trying to make a point to me, and now you accuse me of a category error?

  66. #66 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    Well of course it would.

    Really? How, specifically? Was there an allegation of actual scientific–rather than financial–fraud of which I wasn’t aware? Was there an allegation that somehow this alleged financial fraud had anything to do with the Danish studies? Also note that Thorsen’s name appears right in the middle of the pack of authors. He is not the corresponding author; he is not the first author. His position in the list of authors suggests a modest contribution to the study, but certainly not the most important. Otherwise he would have been first author or corresponding author.

  67. #67 Science Mom
    March 11, 2010

    Well of course it would. The fact is though… The Danish studies have proven to be bogus
    for years now. This would just be the last nail in the coffin.

    @Whacko: Proven to be bogus? By whom? What a coincidence too since numerous other study groups from around the world have replicated the findings of the Danish studies. As for ‘nail in the coffin’, that would require scientific fraud and considering that Thorsen was a co-author amongst several other authors, they would have had to committed fraud as well, and I also haven’t read anything about Thorsen being accused of scientific misconduct.

    There is something simply hilarious about those of you who have been trashing Wakefield and discussing all his conflicts, all his evildoing, etc. etc… who now want to just throw your hands up and say… “yeah, so… no big deal”… when faced with the recent
    information in regards to Thorsen. It’s predictable but funny all the same.

    I see the AoA blitzkrieg on Thorsen has had its intended affect upon its simple-minded flock. Completely incapable of seeing Wakers for the parasitic fraud he is based upon his work being scrutinised for years, by numerous professionals and in numerous venues, but somehow comparing that to a recent, scant report of possible embezzlement and employment violation. Unlike your ilk, the rest of us are content to allow the investigation to proceed and form an opinion once all the facts are in. A quality that eludes the likes of the anti-vax pushers, obviously in denial about their poor poor Andy.

    The Danish studies were flimsy (at best), knowing that there was a crook involved in any of those studies make them even more irrelevant than they already were (which is tough to do….).

    Again, please demonstrate that the Danish studies were ‘flimsy’. You also need to demonstrate that Thorsen fabricated data, along with all of his other co-authors. Incidentally, Thorsen wasn’t even a lead author on any of those papers. Wishing so doesn’t make it true and if you wish to keep maintaining such with flimsy evidence, it just further demonstrates your inability to evaluate evidence. Boy, you people must be really smarting over Wakers to be carrying on like a bunch of tantruming toddlers (no affront to toddlers of course).

  68. #68 Glaxo PharmaBase 7
    March 11, 2010

    MESSAGE BEGINS

    Minions and Shills . . .

    The “jen” rebel is onto us. She shall receive a visit from Obsidian 4 and will be replaced forthwith. Her clone is growing in the vats right now. Set your frequency disambiguation coders to .443 and you’ll pick it up on your transponders as soon as it goes on line. Judging from the posts, a full brain download and replant won’t take long.

    Agent “ScienceMom”, your mid month payment will include a bonus for your extraordinary service in February.

    Automotive and jewelry-based rewards on on schedule as per section 9384.4

    You have pleased your PharmaGalactic Overlords. See you at the barbecue in May . . .

    MESSAGE ENDS

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L
    PharmaCOM Orbital HQ
    0010101101001

  69. #69 Emerson
    March 11, 2010

    @Orac What’s a fellow got to do to get a shout out?

  70. #70 Denice Walter
    March 11, 2010

    @ Glaxo PharmaBase 7: My dear Lord Draconis: Diversionary tactics have begun as planned.I have planted the “seed” that all of our internal messaging here at Seed is merely joking among us,a parody of conspiracy theorists’ wildest imaginings,a nod to science fiction mavens, and of course,*nothing to be taken seriously*.BTW, I am so *pleased* with the handbags,especially Karl’s embroidered tweed that appears to be made of crushed wheat-straw: *C’est tres chic*!!! Say “Hi” to Lady Astra and the hatchlings.Most sincerely yours,your devoted minion,DW

  71. #71 Otto
    March 11, 2010

    @jen: “As granny Clampett would say, ‘if that don’t tear the roof right off the barn!’”

    Does everything you touch turn into misinformation? Granny’s surname wasn’t Clampett.

  72. #72 Joseph
    March 11, 2010

    There is something simply hilarious about those of you who have been trashing Wakefield and discussing all his conflicts, all his evildoing, etc. etc… who now want to just throw your hands up and say… “yeah, so… no big deal”

    I don’t think so. I have no problem acknowledging Thorsen’s evildoing and so forth (assuming he’s guilty.) What this has to do with the validity of papers he was a marginal contributor of is unclear.

    It’s as if the 4th co-author of one of Einstein’s papers had committed a crime. Would that overturn General Relativity? That would be plain nonsense.

    Anti-vaxers are trying to milk this for all its got, though. RFK Jr. is saying Thorsen was a “key figure” of thimerosal and MMR research. I bet almost no one in the autism communities had ever even heard of Thorsen before the story.

  73. #73 MikeMa
    March 11, 2010

    Otto,
    According to extensive google research, Irene Ryan was cast as Granny Moses of Possum Flats. Points to you for catching the least of jen’s errors!

  74. #74 Science Mom
    March 11, 2010

    How timely, Wired just announced http://www.ncbirofl.com/ Ten Most Absurd Published Scientific Papers and one from Medical Hypotheses made it.

  75. #75 Chris
    March 11, 2010

    Science Mom:

    Incidentally, Thorsen wasn’t even a lead author on any of those papers.

    And he wasn’t even an author of the paper I posted comment#25 (which jen has probably not even looked at).

  76. #76 Glaxo PharmaBase 7
    March 11, 2010

    MESSAGE BEGINS

    Thank you for your thorough report agent Walters your work is elegant and effective.

    Hatchlings! By the teeth of K’throbhey they are all over the pod and always underfoot! Constantly gnawing on soft-shelled Xthronti and leaving a trail of g’shkx wherever they go. At least that makes them easier to track. Glad you like handbags.

    On the home front “lady” Astra has changed sexes after the last creche cycle, so as far as you monkeys are concerned we’ll be totally gay for the next cycle or two until I am ready to breed. There’s never a dull moment in the life cycle of a Glaxon. Honestly, if it weren’t for Cindy I’d have gone mad by now.

    Well, enough frivolity, back to my evil plans. Obsidian 4 should be docking any moment now and you should have a new drone by Monday.

    MESSAGE ENDS

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L
    PharmaCOM Orbital HQ
    0010101101001

  77. #77 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    MESSAGE BEGINS

    Greetings, minions and shills!

    You may have noticed an influx of rebels trying to equate the alleged financial criminal Poul Thorsen with the known unethical, incompetent, and possibly fraudulent scientist Andrew Wakefield as a strategy to cast doubt on the science behind the Danish studies. Fear not. I will deal with these fools in a post tomorrow morning.

    In the meantime, I look forward to the docking of Obsidian 4.

    MESSAGE ENDS

    Orac
    ScienceBlogsPharma.com

  78. #78 jivlain
    March 12, 2010

    I first became aware of MH after the Infidel Guy podcast did an episode with a debate between Abbie Smith and Lenny Horowitz (who argues HIV was man-made). IIRC, he greatly emphasised how he’d published a scientific!, peer-reviewed! paper! in the esteemed Journal of Medical Hypotheses.

  79. #79 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “Really? How, specifically? Was there an allegation of actual scientific–rather than financial–fraud of which I wasn’t aware?”

    Here’s my opinion (you are free to have your own). From my extensive studies of the so-called “Danish studies”, they were VERY weak (emphasis on VERY). We have different amounts of thimerosal given to Danish children via the vaccine schedule – in comparison to children in the US – can we say apples to oranges in that regard? We have the small little problem (ok huge problem) with the fact that there was a change in the way that Denmark classified their cases of autism. There was the minor little point (ok huge glaring point) that during the years of the study there was a large amount of children who were added to the numbers due to a change in how they tracked the numbers – the addition of a very busy clinic, etc. etc… These are red flags. The studies should have been tossed years ago. If you (and your ‘science gurus’) can’t see that… well, that’s a problem…. This is obvious stuff… Personally, if I were you, I would feel like a jack*ss for even considering the Danish studies to be in any way, scientific. Seriously. For a so-called person interested in real science, are you not ashamed? Here’s a hint: You should be.

    Having said that, the last nail in the coffin has to be IF (I’ll give you that) a person working on these studies is found to be a crook. Flimsy studies by a known crook = FAIL.

  80. #80 dt
    March 12, 2010

    I’m tempted to say: OK, OK, have it your way. Against all logic, evidence and reason, let’s say Thorsen’s work is junk. Let’s erase it from the record. Obviously any suggestion of improper conduct by an author is sufficient to negate a study, regardless of its other merits.

    So now that we have erased all of Wakefield’s work (only fair, after all) and that of folk like the Geiers and other vaccine pseudoscientists, let’s tot up what’s left.

    On the one side, there are still dozens of studies showing no evidence for a vaccine-autism link.

    On the other side – nothing.

    I’d take that option in a flash, if only the antivax crew were consistent in applying the rules they appear to want.

  81. #81 Rob
    March 12, 2010

    Let me post this again.

    What is so fucking stupid about this whole incident is whether or not Thorsen committed a criminal act with respect to employment or embezzlement, his actions have absolutely NOTHING to do with his science. NOTHING.

    He has NOT been accused of Research Misconduct.

    This story is NOT about science.

    For those of you that are particularly hard of understanding, it is as if an accountant was arrested for assault. Does this change the correctness of his accounting methods or invalidate his work. NO, of course not. Same thing with Thorsen.

    Now, with respect to Wakefield, he committed Research Misconduct and his research was retracted from the literature. His actions concerning his research are directly at question, and his actions invalidate his research.

    Why is this so difficult to understand?

  82. #82 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2010

    “Here’s my opinion (you are free to have your own). From my extensive studies of the so-called “Danish studies”, they were VERY weak”

    Translation of “My extensive studies”: “I read a summary some hack posted on an antivax website”.

    “We have different amounts of thimerosal given to Danish children via the vaccine schedule – in comparison to children in the US”

    The problem is, antivaxers have been trumpeting the possible existence of trace amounts of thimerosal in some of today’s vaccines as being significant – so by the same token, you’d have to admit that the much larger amounts used as a preservative in Danish vaccines are important, and thus their removal without a drop in autism rates is an important finding.
    You’d have to admit that, if you were honest about the issue. Since you’re blatantly dishonest, it must never be admitted.

    “We have the small little problem (ok huge problem) with the fact that there was a change in the way that Denmark classified their cases of autism. There was the minor little point (ok huge glaring point) that during the years of the study there was a large amount of children who were added to the numbers due to a change in how they tracked the numbers”

    Except the researchers also corrected for that factor as has been explained to you repeatedly – and came out with a similar result. Your avoiding this point is another example of blatant dishonesty.

    “Personally, if I were you, I would feel like a jack*ss for even considering the Danish studies to be in any way”

    By this time you must be very familiar with how that feels.

  83. #83 Bob O'H
    March 12, 2010

    @ian –

    Absolutely correct. They’re saying “only publish medical hypothesis that correspond to the editorial slant of the journal.” Exactly like them saying to the Lancet “only publish scientific articles that correspond to the editorial slant of the journal.” (emphasis added)

    Who sets the editorial slant of a journal? The editors. if it was the publishers, it wouldn’t be called the publishorial slant (or something more elegant!).

    @Orac –

    You know, my irony meter exploded when I read that. You compared apples and oranges (blogs and scientific journals) in trying to make a point to me, and now you accuse me of a category error?

    Who sold you that irony meter? Alanis Morissette?

    For the purposes of my argument, your blog and a journal are in the same category. For both, there is a publisher, and a content provider. There is also, in both cases, an assumption that the publisher will allow editorial independence.

    I see you’re still ducking the question of whether Elsevier should bow to external pressure, or whether they should support their editors.

  84. #84 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “So now that we have erased all of Wakefield’s work (only fair, after all) and that of folk like the Geiers and other vaccine pseudoscientists, let’s tot up what’s left”.

    Ah, yeah… just the hundreds of thousands of intelligent parents who have witnessed the descent of their children into autism post vaccinations. Just the thousands of parents who have medical records of their children having immune system problems coincidentally following a bunch of vaccinations. Just the obvious fact that children can be and are injured by vaccines (ie seizures, etc.). Apparently, that’s nothing to you… Sorry, I completely disagree…

  85. #85 Ian
    March 12, 2010

    @ Bob O’H

    The publishers absolutely set the editorial slant of the journal. It is extremely rare to find a journal where the EiC has 100% editorial control. The role of the EiC is to set the academic standard and direct the peer review process. The overall management of the journal is handled, usually, by a board at which the publisher has a voice.

    I must confess that I don’t know exactly how Elsevier is connected to MH. I am basing my comments on my own experiences, which are in turn modeled on those journals from which I have received guidance. Without knowing what organizational structure MH/Elsevier uses, it’s maybe not appropriate for me to comment on who controls the slant. However, I can say with some certainty that they haven’t violated any external legal statutes, nor have they done anything unethical (except in your own sense of ethics when any restraint is a violation of free speech).

  86. #86 Rob
    March 12, 2010

    @Orac’s Wackosphere

    Good job. Fall back on anecdotes when you lose the argument about science.

    Epic Fail.

  87. #87 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “Good job. Fall back on anecdotes when you lose the argument about science.

    Epic Fail”.

    Sorry sweet cheeks… Medical records aren’t anecdotal. FAIL.

  88. #88 Pablo
    March 12, 2010

    The publishers absolutely set the editorial slant of the journal

    The goal of the publishers is to make money. That’s it. They will do that if they can sell subscriptions to the journal.

    Telling an editor, “Your journal is so crappy that no one wants to read it. You are embarrassing our company (which is not easy to do for Elsevier) and we don’t want you any more” is not “setting an editorial slant.” It’s quality control and a business decision.

    As I said above, not having the journal listed in MEDLINE is a killer. That means that scientists are not going to be finding articles in the journal when they do searches, which means they are not going to be citing them, which means that no one is going to be reading them, which means no one is going to want to subscribe to them.

    Elsevier doesn’t care about the content, except to the level that it is something that someone wants to read. Publishers do not make money publishing journals that no one reads.

  89. #89 WLU
    March 12, 2010

    @Orac’s Wackosphere

    “Sorry sweet cheeks… Medical records aren’t anecdotal. FAIL.”

    Medical records, examined unsystematically, picking out only confirming records, may not quite be anecdotal, but it’s not much better. There are 6 billion people on the planet. You can confirm pretty much anything if you spend enough time working at it while ignoring disconfirming evidence.

    Also – many aspects of medical records are based on patient reports – “Parent reported autistic regression first occurred following vaccination” isn’t any more credibile because it appears in a medical record. Patient reports are unsystemic and biased by selective forgetting, selective remembering, narrative continuity, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the general illogic that is the human brain. Part of science is being systematic (in both assembling your total population, and in terms of how you randomize your sample), in order to avoid the conscious or unconscious selection of a biased sample.

    Questioning vaccination doesn’t make people bad parents, but failing to admit to the totality of evidence does place people at risk. At some point the evidence accumulates to such a degree the doubters need to seriously reconsider whether their opinions are justified. Digging in, belittling the “other side” (let’s remember – we all want a healthy population even if we disagree about the how), failing to admit their may be flaws in one’s evidence or conclusions this doesn’t help anyone. Bar of course, the people who make money off of skepticism. I’ve never understood people who accuse Big Pharma of bad faith while handing over thousands of dollars to their chelation therapist.

  90. #90 Scott
    March 12, 2010

    Medical records aren’t anecdotal.

    Go look up the definition of anecdote. They most certainly are.

    Not to mention the fact that the anecdotes you’re claiming for the most part don’t actually exist in the numbers claimed, and have been proven inaccurate in most other cases, and are attributable to coincidence in the rest.

  91. #91 Rob
    March 12, 2010

    @Orac’s Wackosphere

    Please tell my you’re joking and truly not that stupid.

    A medical record is the record of someone’s medical history. It contains facts about that person’s medical history.

    An anecdote is an account of a incident or event, sort of like a medical record. Five thousand medical records therefore are five thousand anecdotes or individual accounts of an individual’s medical history, which provide nothing whatsoever besides the records of the medical history of those five thousand people.

    In other words, medical records are anecdotal evidence based on “personal observation, case stud[ies], or random investigations rather than systematic scientific evaluation.” Even more clearly, anecdotes are “based on casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis.”

    What you wrote is false.

  92. #92 Rob
    March 12, 2010

    @Wackosphere

    Better yet, please just tell me you’re going away.

  93. #93 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “In other words, medical records are anecdotal evidence based on “personal observation, case stud[ies], or random investigations rather than systematic scientific evaluation.”

    If the medical records of a child show that said child became ill, suffered a seizure, had ongoing diarrhea issues, etc. etc…. And these illnesses closely followed medical office visits in which a number of untested vaccines were given to the child… It should be considered that these vaccines triggered/caused these illnesses/conditions. The fact that this idea is typically not considered as a reason indicates that our medical professionals are (for the most part) clueless… So, if you prefer to call medical records – anecdotal… Ok, whatever… Those of us with a clue… consider that evidence that vaccines are not good for all children.

  94. #94 Orac
    March 12, 2010

    Sorry sweet cheeks… Medical records aren’t anecdotal. FAIL.

    Actually, yes, medical records most definitely can be anecdotal. Medical records of a single patient represent a case report, and a case report is in essence the equivalent of a medical anecdote. The primary difference between anecdotes as told by anti-vaccinationists and a case report is that a case report is documented by the medical record.

  95. #95 Todd W.
    March 12, 2010

    @Orac’s Wackosphere

    Question: how do you rule out possible other, unreported causes that do not appear in the medical record? How do you control for errors in memory recall (e.g., parent reports that regression occurred the same afternoon, but it really started before the vaccination or weeks after)?

    Suffice to say, medical records, in and of themselves, are not reliable bases on which to form a scientific opinion. They can point to possible avenues for further research, but they do not establish a fact. What appears may actually be coincidental and unrelated.

  96. #96 Scott
    March 12, 2010

    If the medical records of a child show that said child became ill, suffered a seizure, had ongoing diarrhea issues, etc. etc…. And these illnesses closely followed medical office visits in which a number of untested vaccines were given to the child… It should be considered that these vaccines triggered/caused these illnesses/conditions. The fact that this idea is typically not considered as a reason indicates that our medical professionals are (for the most part) clueless… So, if you prefer to call medical records – anecdotal… Ok, whatever… Those of us with a clue… consider that evidence that vaccines are not good for all children.

    Bzzzt, wrong. For many reasons:

    1. Simply if medical records reflect such, does not mean that such is indeed true. Parents’ recollection of timeframes for such things are very often wrong.

    2. Untested vaccines are not given to children outside the context of clinical trials. This part is simply made up.

    3. Even when the situation really is “post hoc”, only the terminally clueless assume that it is necessarily “propter hoc.”

  97. #97 Joseph
    March 12, 2010

    the hundreds of thousands of intelligent parents who have witnessed the descent of their children into autism post vaccinations

    @Wackosphere: Where does the “hundreds of thousands” figure come from? Made up perhaps?

  98. #98 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “@Wackosphere: Where does the “hundreds of thousands” figure come from? Made up perhaps?”

    Guesstimate… :) Shall I use thousands instead….? Clearly that would be a huge underestimate but I could go with it.

    Either way, my guesstimate is better than the morons here who guess on how many vaccines a little baby can get before their immune systems collapse. Or who guess about how much mercury can be injected into a baby. Pot meet kettle.

  99. #99 MikeMa
    March 12, 2010

    Wacko,

    If the medical records of a child show that said child became ill, suffered a seizure, had ongoing diarrhea issues, etc. etc…. And these illnesses closely followed medical office visits in which a number of untested vaccines were given to the child…

    Clearly nothing else could have caused those symptoms. Once again, slowly for the dimwits: Causation does not equal correlation.

    And making shit up does not make your case stronger in the long run. Ask St Andy.

  100. #100 Scott
    March 12, 2010

    Shall I use thousands instead….? Clearly that would be a huge underestimate but I could go with it.

    You should provide actual evidence for the number.

    Either way, my guesstimate is better than the morons here who guess on how many vaccines a little baby can get before their immune systems collapse. Or who guess about how much mercury can be injected into a baby. Pot meet kettle.

    Citations for such “guesses” please. And evidence for them being inaccurate.

    I suspect that the loon shall, once again, ignore the requests for evidence.

  101. #101 Prometheus
    March 12, 2010

    “@Wackosphere: Where does the “hundreds of thousands” figure come from? Made up perhaps?”

    Guesstimate… :) Shall I use thousands instead….? Clearly that would be a huge underestimate but I could go with it.

    While we’re just “making stuff up”, how about “hundreds” or “tens”? In the absence of data, my guess is as good as Wacko’s.

    I guess 5600 (the number of cases filed in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings rounded up to the neraest hundred).

    Prove me wrong.

    I’ve watched the “guesstimate” (def: “A number made up to fill a need without regard to the actual number.”) of the number of parents who have reported their children “decending into autism” immediately after vaccination rise from hundreds, to thousands to tens of thousands to (now) hundreds of thousands.

    The basic rule seem to be “take the last number I heard and multiply by ten”.

    If anyone has an actual number – not a guess – of parents who claim that their child became autistic after or because of a vaccination, I haven’t seen it yet. If someone has that number, I would be interested in seeing it – and its documentation.

    Prometheus

  102. #102 Ian
    March 12, 2010

    Pray tell, what’s the difference between a “guesstimate” and an “estimate”, aside from the fact that “guesstimate” isn’t a word?

    Mathematically calculating the amount of antigen or thimerosal a system contains isn’t a wild stab in the dark, it’s an estimate that’s based on evidence. Your “hundreds of thousands” isn’t an estimate of any kind, it’s an outright GUESS, pulled out of thin air.

    Also, those of us with both a clue and scientific training know that two events occurring simultaneously does NOT infer causation. It may suggest a causal relationship, which must then be investigated. When alternative explanations are removed from the event, and the two factors are clearly not causally related, it becomes evident that while concurrent, thimerosal-containing vaccines don’t cause autism.

    You might like the appeal of saying “I don’t care what science says, I’ve reached my own non-scientific conclusion.” It allows you to feel the satisfaction of finding the answer without putting in any of the work required to do so. However, your conclusion bears no resemblance to objective reality, and prevents REAL solutions from being discovered.

  103. #103 Dave Ruddell
    March 12, 2010

    Who sold you that irony meter? Alanis Morissette?

    Oooooh! Burn! Not sure that it actually makes sense, but it’s a good line. Can’t wait to see what Orac comes back with…

  104. #104 Science Mom
    March 12, 2010

    Ah, yeah… just the hundreds of thousands of intelligent parents who have witnessed the descent of their children into autism post vaccinations. Just the thousands of parents who have medical records of their children having immune system problems coincidentally following a bunch of vaccinations.

    @Whacko: I’ve noticed that you have completely dodged the questions that I posed to you and are now offering rectally-sourced anecdotes as a red herring. No, there are not ‘hundreds of thousands’ even with the maths that Handley & Co employ. All the foot-stomping in the world isn’t going to bring Wakefield back, nor nullify the Danish studies. I have to admit that it is kind of sad to watch the house of cards come tumbling down, given how emotionally-invested that some parents are and what this is doing to them psychologically. For that, I have pity.

  105. #105 Chris
    March 12, 2010

    Dave Ruddell:

    Who sold you that irony meter? Alanis Morissette?

    Oooooh! Burn! Not sure that it actually makes sense, but it’s a good line. Can’t wait to see what Orac comes back with…

    It is a reference to her song that has the phrase “Isn’t it ironic”, but is often referring to things that are not ironic. She keeps using that word, but it doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. It annoys my teenage daughter (who is a grammar nazi)

  106. #106 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    ” have to admit that it is kind of sad to watch the house of cards come tumbling down, given how emotionally-invested that some parents are and what this is doing to them psychologically. For that, I have pity”.

    Explain what you mean by the house of cards coming tumbling down? Maybe I’m missing something… Where do you think that you are *winning* the argument – so to speak? Are the rates of people vaccinating their children going up? Are people starting to trust in the CDC again? Nope. Sorry. People are waking up everyday… I know that upsets you beyond belief… :)

  107. #107 Joseph
    March 12, 2010

    Explain what you mean by the house of cards coming tumbling down? Maybe I’m missing something… Where do you think that you are *winning* the argument – so to speak? Are the rates of people vaccinating their children going up? Are people starting to trust in the CDC again? Nope. Sorry. People are waking up everyday… I know that upsets you beyond belief… :)

    In the scientific literature, and, I don’t know… maybe in court today.

    BTW, I don’t think you’re even correct about the public perception, Wacko. I have looked at media chatter and VAERS report trends. The peak of the anti-vax movement occurred some time between 2002 and 2005, give or take.

  108. #108 Dave Ruddell
    March 12, 2010

    Chris, I got the reference, I have that album (little known fact; every household in Canada was issued a copy of Jagged Little Pill back in the 90s). What I meant when I said I wasn’t sure if it made sense was this: is Bob saying that Orac is using the word irony incorrectly, a la Ms Morrissette? ’cause to me it looks like Orac is using ther term properly, in which case it’s a backfire burn on Bob. Or something.

  109. #109 Chris
    March 12, 2010

    Oh, okay, I understand. It probably doesn’t help that I was kind of ignoring the Bob/Orac conversation.

    By coincidence (confirmation bias?), I have a browser tab set on Dr. Crislip’s article on ScienceBasedMedicine (Just the Facts), where he includes this sentence: “That should have been an Alanis lyric; she would have had less criticism for a lack of understanding of ironic.”

  110. #110 Science Mom
    March 12, 2010

    Explain what you mean by the house of cards coming tumbling down? Maybe I’m missing something…

    Oh I think it’s quite evident that you are missing a lot.

    Where do you think that you are *winning* the argument – so to speak? Are the rates of people vaccinating their children going up? Are people starting to trust in the CDC again? Nope. Sorry. People are waking up everyday… I know that upsets you beyond belief… :)

    This isn’t about ‘winning’, it’s about the dissemination of accurate, scientifically robust evidence, with sure, a side of snark thrown. It is truly truly morbid that you would, somehow, consider it a coup that vaccination rates would be going down. The only thing that accomplishes is that children (autistic children included) are left vulnerable to diseases and their complications…

    And autism rates continue to climb.

    The only thing that I could possibly be upset about is the sheer number of, supposedly, adults that are so scientifically-illiterate and so desperate that they would allow themselves to be so direly misled and subject their children to appalling medical tests, procedures and ‘treatments’ in the name of curing them.

    Now why don’t you treat yourself to a read of the 3 OAP test cases that were announced today.

  111. #111 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 12, 2010

    “This isn’t about ‘winning’…

    Agreed… Hence, the reason why I made sure that my *winning* comment stuck out… With your point about the house of cards tumbling down… it seemed as if you were insinuating that this is some sort of game… I recognize that it isn’t… It’s about kids being injured by vaccines.

  112. #112 Chris
    March 12, 2010

    Wacko:

    It’s about kids being injured by vaccines.

    Which you have failed to provide any real evidence that this is a common occurrence. Today the ruling of three of the Autism Omnibus cases indicate that there was not enough scientific evidence that the children were injured by the thimerosal in vaccines.

  113. #113 Dangerous Bacon
    March 12, 2010

    Second request for Wackko to explain why antivaxers:

    1) on the one hand believe that thimerosal is so powerful that even the possibility of a minute trace amount in some of today’s vaccines is enough to account for continued high incidence of autism diagnoses, but

    2)simultaneously argue that a much greater amount of thimerosal used as a preservative in Danish vaccines is insignificant, because they want to dismiss findings of a Danish study that showed that autism rates did not decline in Denmark after they stopped using thimerosal as a preservative in their vaccines.

    Please explain this logical disparity.

    Also, why are you still beating the drum for thimerosal, when so many of your antivax colleagues have moved on to other imagined “toxins” in vaccines?

  114. #114 brian
    March 12, 2010

    @Whacko

    Are the rates of people vaccinating their children going up? Are people starting to trust in the CDC again? Nope. Sorry. People are waking up everyday… I know that upsets you beyond belief… :)

    I suppose the substantial proportion of American adults that believes that the earth was created only a few thousand years ago might suggest that what anti-scientific individuals think about scientific topics isn’t a meaningful comment on the quality of the scientific evidence. Are there more antivaxers than young earth creationists? Does the number of “people who are waking up everyday (sic)” exceed the number who believe that the moon landing was staged on earth? Are there more antivaxers than there are true believers in The Face On Mars? Nothing will convince you, because your argument is not based in fact and does not depend on facts. In the USA, we are generally respectful of the religious beliefs of other citizens, and we recognize that such beliefs are based in untestable faith. Science doesn’t work that way.

  115. #115 Rob
    March 13, 2010

    It is actually about winning. Reason winning out over superstition, hysteria, hype, personal agendas, and bullshit hypotheses about the causes of a disease that are not only wrong, they are dangerous.

    There is a vast amount of research being done on autism, none of it by so-called “anti-vaccinationists,” and this research is beginning to shed light on neurological processes that are actually involved in the disease. @Wackosphere and his ilk believe they have found an answer and will never listen to even the most sound scientific evidence.

    This is very much about winning, just as it has been for thousands of years. Reason.

  116. #116 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 13, 2010

    “Actually, yes, medical records most definitely can be anecdotal. Medical records of a single patient represent a case report, and a case report is in essence the equivalent of a medical anecdote”.

    It’s all one big coincidence when thousands of babies begin getting sick post vaccination. Yeah, I got it Orac.

    Nonsense.

  117. #117 Orac
    March 13, 2010

    It’s all one big coincidence when thousands of babies begin getting sick post vaccination. Yeah, I got it Orac.

    Nonsense.

    Not at all:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/a_tale_of_two_news_stories_the_hpv_and_f.php

    A couple of useful quotes:

    More than 3,000 people a day have a heart attack. If you’re one of them the day after your swine flu shot, will you worry the vaccine was to blame and not the more likely culprit, all those burgers and fries?

    The government is starting an unprecedented system to track possible side effects as mass flu vaccinations begin next month. The idea is to detect any rare but real problems quickly, and explain the inevitable coincidences that are sure to cause some false alarms.

    “Every day, bad things happen to people. When you vaccinate a lot of people in a short period of time, some of those things are going to happen to some people by chance alone,” said Dr. Daniel Salmon, a vaccine safety specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services

    I commented:

    Kudos to Laura Neergaard, the AP reporter who wrote this story! That’s exactly the problem with relying on anecdotal evidence of “vaccine injury.” Given that there are this number of people having heart attacks each and every day, during these few months when so many people are being vaccinated against H1N1, it is inevitable that there will dozens, if not hundreds of coincidences a day in which something bad happens to a person after having the H1N1 vaccine. If you’re one of those people, it will seem all the world as though the vaccine caused the badness to happen. It’s not because these people are stupid or ignorant; it’s because, not knowing the expected rate of these coincidences, most people assume that the rate of coincidence is far lower than it truly is. They assume that the rate is close to zero, that such a coincidence would be rare.

    Consider another example. In 2007, there were 41,059 highway fatalities overall. That’s 112 deaths per day on average. We can expect that there will be a at least few people nearly every day who receive the vaccine and then die in a traffic accident; yet no one’s going to say that the H1N1 vaccine causes traffic fatalities. The lesson is that large numbers make coincidences, if not exactly common then not rare either.

    And from a comment I made:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/andrew_wakefield_destined_for_even_more.php#comment-2305613

    Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey may be blithering idiots, but most parents who believe the vaccine-autism link aren’t stupid. They’re just human, with all the human tendencies to confuse correlation with causation. I know you don’t believe it, but assume for the sake of argument that vaccines are completely unrelated to autism. Yet we have millions of children between the ages of 2 and 3 being vaccinated every year and thousands of children showing symptoms of autism between 2 and 3. By random chance alone, there should be a significant number of children who show their first noticed signs of autism within a week or two of being vaccinated. At the level of the individual, it would appear all the world as though the vaccine caused it, and you don’t have to be stupid to make that mistake.

    It takes science and epidemiology to determine whether such associations are consistent with random chance or occur at a much higher rate than would be expected by random chance. Thus far, evidence overwhelmingly favors the former explanation, that vaccines are not associated with autism at a rate that is more than what would be expected by random chance alone.

    Now getting parents who see their child regress in close temporal proximity to having been vaccinated will have a hard time believing that, because we are hard-wired to assume that correlation equals causation. In evaluating such cases, science goes counter to what our brains want to tell us. Again, it’s not a matter of being “stupid.”

    There are some blitheringly stupid parents in the autism-biomed movement, in particular Jenny McCarthy, but the vast majority of them simply don’t understand that, when millions of children are vaccinated every year, coincidences are not nearly as uncommon as we humans think. We’re hard-wired to attribute causation to correlation.

  118. #118 MikeMa
    March 13, 2010

    Wacko @116,
    Down from hundreds of thousands to thousands. Very good. With a little effort you might be able to see the pattern of anecdotal evidence.

    Now if you and the other medical non-experts could let up on the vaccine dead-end, advances could be made more quickly in discovering the real cause(s).

  119. #119 a-non
    March 13, 2010

    @Wacko:

    It’s all one big coincidence when thousands of babies begin getting sick post vaccination. Yeah, I got it Orac.

    Show me the mainstream medical journal case reports or studies that illustrate that vaccines make kids sick.

    Hint – you can’t.

    All you have are vague claims of “thousands of vaccine injuries” and a bunch of your cronies trying to scam the Vaccine Court through the Omnibus.

  120. #120 Catherina
    March 14, 2010

    Prometheus,

    If anyone has an actual number – not a guess – of parents who claim that their child became autistic after or because of a vaccination, I haven’t seen it yet. If someone has that number, I would be interested in seeing it – and its documentation.

    2165 VAERS result for autism, Asperger’s, ASD http://bit.ly/aj36Qx

    2087 for just autism http://bit.ly/9mtQ8a

    The reports make an interesting read – there are lots of duplicates (or septuplicated entries) and beauties like onset 3000+ days after vaccination.

  121. #121 Orac's Wackosphere
    March 14, 2010

    “Show me the mainstream medical journal case reports or studies that illustrate that vaccines make kids sick”.

    Oh my… Are you denying the fact that babies get sick and/or have seizures, etc. post vaccinations… (due to vaccinations)? You need medical journal case reports for that? Are you high?

    “All you have are vague claims of “thousands of vaccine injuries” and a bunch of your cronies trying to scam the Vaccine Court through the Omnibus”.

    Sadly, only a teeny tiny percentage of babies who were vaccine injured even make it to court. A good reason why people should stagger the vaccines that they give and/or not take a few (after researching the topic). When your child is injured… it’s not as if you’ll be getting any help from anyone… so definitely stay away from the vaccine schedule as it is recommended – Way too dangerous…

  122. #122 Chris
    March 14, 2010

    Wacko, measles is known to cause injuries at a level of about one out of a thousand. There are known injuries from the diseases.

    There are real data that show injuries from vaccines to be in about one in over a million doses. No one has ever denied this.

    Now show the real data that vaccines cause injuries at rates greater than the vaccines. This is what you have been asked to provide several times over several of your morphing troll names. And the only thing you come with is idiotic responses like the above.

    Put up or shut up.

  123. #123 Prometheus
    March 14, 2010

    Chris,

    Recent studies of contemporary measles outbreaks suggest that the case-fatality rate (number of deaths per measles case) ranges from 1-2 per thousand in young children to 5 per thousand in adults.

    The incidence of measles encephalopathy – which almost always leaves residual disability – is about 1 per thousand cases.

    So, the risk of “injury” (if you consider death to be an injury) is at least 2-3 per thousand and may run as high as 6 per thousand, depending on the age of the victim.

    One interesting point coming out of recent outbreaks is that the risk of death is higher in older children and young adults than it is in younger children.

    Prometheus

  124. #124 Chris
    March 14, 2010

    So even when I am being conservative, the risk from measles is still much much higher than the MMR.

    Of course, I did not even mention tetanus or pertussis. There is no such thing as herd immunity to tetanus, and it has a very high risk of injury. Also deaths from pertussis in infants is increasing due to reduction of herd immunity. Still the risk from DTaP is tiny compared to those two diseases.

    Something Wacko keeps neglecting is that the diseases are not benign.

  125. #125 dedicated lurker
    March 14, 2010
  126. #126 Rob
    March 14, 2010

    “Sadly, only a teeny tiny percentage of babies who were vaccine injured even make it to court.”

    “Court.” Is that a peer-reviewed medical journal? Never heard of it.

    I don’t know about you, but I always trust the U.S. justice system to provide accurate medical diagnoses.

  127. #127 Prometheus
    March 16, 2010

    Catherina,

    I checked the VAERS reports, but they are such a mess that no interpretation is possible. There is even a record of someone who claims they were turned into “The Incredible Hulk” by a vaccine. Actually, I’m surprised that you only found 2,165 cases of autism in VAERS, since I would have thought that all of the parents filing claims in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings (at one point, a little over 5,000) would have made a VAERS report.

    A Gallup poll found that about a third of US adults believe that extraterrestrial aliens have visited the Earth. That there are “thousands” of people who believe vaccines caused their child’s autism doesn’t strain the imagination.

    Prometheus

  128. #128 Schwartz
    March 16, 2010

    ***Potentially controversial papers should receive especially careful scrutiny, the publisher said, and some topics–including “hypotheses that could be interpreted as supporting racism” should be off limits.***

    So potential biological causes of group disparities can’t be discussed? If governments are concerned about inequality then shouldn’t all potential causes be looked at?

  129. #129 Toxicology Kat
    March 19, 2010

    I’m wondering if “Disease Models & Mechanisms” is a legitimate journal? It’s published by The Company of Biologists, and I believe they have some good journals. The reason I’m asking is that I came across an article purporting to have a C. elegans (nematode) model of autism. The neurobehavioral observations seem legitimate, but then they claimed the neuroligin mutant also displayed the autistic symptom of oxidative stress intolerance. They backed up their claim that high oxidative stress is a symptom of autism with a paper by the Geiers! I don’t know if the other references in that paragraph are just as bogus; I didn’t recognize them by name, but perhaps others would.

    http://dmm.biologists.org/content/early/2010/01/13/dmm.003442.full.pdf

    There is a body of literature documenting the presence of biomarkers associated with oxidative stress in individuals with autism. These biomarkers include a significant decrease in the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione in plasma (James et al., 2006; Geier
    et al., 2009
    ), an increase in 3-nitrotyrosine in cerebellar extracts (Sajdel-Sulkowska et al., 2008), increased urinary excretion of 8-isoprostane-F2 (a non-enzymatic oxidation product of arachidonic
    acid) (Ming et al., 2005), and increased plasma levels of
    malonyldialdehyde (an end product of peroxidation of
    polyunsaturated fatty acids and related esters) (Chauhan et al., 2004). Although it is unclear how the absence of neuroligin leads to oxidative stress in C. elegans, it is plausible that a comparable mechanism might link autism-associated mutations in humans to the autism-associated oxidative phenotypes that have been reported.

    As a researcher in metal toxicology using C. elegans as a model, I can see the value of studying methylmercury; it’s long-lasting and persistent in the food chain. But studying thimerosal says to me that someone is still trying to link vaccines with autism. I checked to see if they had funding from the mercury militia, but they claimed no competing financial interests… oddly enough, I couldn’t find any information about their funding. (Unless I missed it reading a PDF on-screen).

    They admit there is no obvious reason why a neuroligin mutant would also have elevated oxidative stress. Something the C. elegans community tends to overlook is that transgenic strains often have unrelated problems because you never know where in the genome the transgene is going to integrate. If it just happened to insert in, say, superoxide dismutase or its promoter region, this would cause sensitivity to oxidative stress. I use strains expressing GFP in various neurons, and some are more robust than others, some breed faster or more prolifically, and one seems to be male-sterile. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope there’s nothing going on that interferes with what you’re studying.

    Anyhow, I call shenanigans on citing the Geiers. Makes me doubt the rest of the paper because I wonder what bias the authors had while conducting the experiments and analyzing the results.

    –Kathryn

  130. #130 Aly
    January 7, 2011

    I am a student of Bruce Charlton’s and I have just accidently stumbled across this article. The criticism of Duesberg’s paper etc. all seems very valid, but I am interested in the comments regarding Charlton’s teaching subject in general. E.g.:

    ‘Perhaps Charlton is used to making shit up in light of the following.

    Charlton, who teaches evolutionary psychology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne’.

    Why is this so? I am not criticising, just as a newby to the study of psychology at Newcastle I was just wondering what it is that makes this subject disreputable, I personaly have always found the school to emphasise scientific rigour…
    Sorry to digress from the topic i was just wondering.

  131. #131 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 7, 2011

    I am not criticising, just as a newby to the study of psychology at Newcastle I was just wondering what it is that makes this subject disreputable, I personaly have always found the school to emphasise scientific rigour…

    I can’t say for sure as I’m not the one who said the quote you referred to, but I suspect it was the reference to evolutionary psychology specifically that spurred the derision.

    The field of evolutionary psychology comes in for a lot of criticism (and not just here, but in the larger world) because the lines (if any) are very blurry between testable hypotheses, hypotheses that aren’t truly testable but are well-grounded in observation, and hypotheses that seem superficially plausible but are actually represent the subconscious biases of the hypothesizer.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!