Respectful Insolence

SafeMinds swings at Price et al and misses

On the blogging front, I started out this week with a part facetious, part serious, part the highly detailed analysis of a new study of interest that you’ve come to know and love (or hate). The study was Price et al, and it was yet another nail in the coffin of the scientifically discredited notion that mercury in vaccines causes autism, a notion whose coffin already had so many nails in it that Price et al probably had a hard time finding even a tiny area of virgin wood into which to pound even a tiny nail of a study published in an impact factor one journal, much less the spike that their study in Pediatrics represented. Yet, pound it in they did, and, if the thimerosal-autism weren’t dead, dead, dead, at least from a scientific viewpoint, it’s certainly pining for the fjords now.

But like the pet shopkeeper Mr. Praline in that famous Monty Python sketch, the anti-vaccine movement can’t admit that the parrot is not pinding but rather that he’s passed on. Like the parrot in the Monty Python sketch, this hypothesis is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life (not to mention scientific support), it’s pushing up the daisies. Its metabolic processes are now history. It’s off the twig. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

It is an ex-hypothesis.

Of course, cranks like our friends over at that anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism can never let it go. How could they? After all, Generation Rescue, the organization for which AoA is the propaganda blog, once confidently proclaimed that autism is a “misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning” and blamed the mercury in vaccines for it. Even though even AoA has backed away from the mercury-autism ex-hypothesis, it will never, ever, let it go. Oddly enough, though, AoA was not first off the mark with the expected counterattack on Price et al. It did, however, publicize what was the long expected response from Sallie Bernard and SafeMinds. The response itself, predictably, resembles the previously debunked sour grapes response that Sallie Bernard published in response to the precursor study, Thompson et al, a response I discussed extensively when it as released and that was rebutted by the authors themselves quite effectively.

Now it looks like Sallie is back for more. The only thing that surprised me was that it took her nearly four whole days to come up with such a lame response. Given a response so lame, I figured she’d have been ready right off the mark with it on Monday, the day Price et al was published. I mean, come on! Couldn’t Bernard come up with a better way to start off her critique than the pharma shill gambit?

Apparently not:

This study was funded by CDC and conducted by several parties with an interest in protecting vaccine use: CDC staff involved in vaccine research and promotion; Abt Associates, a contract research organization whose largest clients include vaccine manufacturers and the CDC’s National Immunization Program; America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for the health insurance industry; and three HMOs which receive substantial funding from vaccine manufacturers to conduct vaccine licensing research.

Lame, lame, lame, particularly given that the funding and conduct of this study is pretty much transparent. If you can’t attack the design, execution, and conclusions effectively, then attack the funding source. I wondered why Bernard decided to lead with the pharma shill gambit. Then I read the rest of the critique, and I wondered no more.

Remember how I pointed out that in some of the measures, there was a small, statistically significant finding that thimerosal in vaccines appeared to be protective against autism? For instance, for exposure from birth to 7 months, the hazard ratio was 0.60 (95% confidence interval: 0.36 – 0.99) and for exposure from birth to 20 months it was 0.60 (95% confidence interval: 0.32- 0.97). The authors quite properly pointed out that they did not know of any mechanism that could account for such a result, and they most definitely did not state that thimerosal is protective against autism. However, that doesn’t stop SafeMinds from making that result the centerpiece of its criticism.

The stage is set thusly:

There are two primary deficiencies in the study methodology which would lead to the curious finding of a protective, rather than a harmful effect of early thimerosal exposure found in the study. The first deficiency concerns the variables used for stratification and the second concerns the low participation rate leading to sample bias. The stratification scheme would bias the results to the null; the sampling bias would swing the results to show a lower autism rate among those highly exposed. Had these deficiencies been addressed through a better study design, it is equally likely that the results would have in fact shown a harmful effect from early thimerosal exposure.

First off, it is not equally likely that the results would have shown a harmful result from early thimerosal exposure, as, I hope you will soon see. Let’s run through some of SafeMinds’ complaints:

The study sample did not allow an examination of an exposed versus an unexposed group, or even a high versus a low exposed group, but rather the study mostly examined the effect of timing of exposure on autism rates. There were virtually no subjects who were unvaccinated and few who were truly less vaccinated; rather, the low exposed group was mostly just late relative to the higher exposed group, ie, those vaccinating on time.

This criticism is so wrong that it’s not even wrong. Ms. Bernard is, in essence, criticizing a case-control study for not being a different kind of study. Here’s how case-control studies work. Basically, you take a population and identify the cases. Take a random subset of cases if you can’t examine all the cases. Then you look at the rest of the population and randomly select people who do not have the condition that you are studying. You match them for as many relevant demographic parameters as you can that might confound the measurement. Then you look for differences in the group. If the cases, for instance, have a higher exposure to the substance under study, then the conclusion is that exposure to the substance is associated with the condition and therefore the substance might cause or contribute to the studied condition. If the exposure to the substance under study is lower in the case group than in controls, then the conclusion is that that substance might be protective. If the exposure is the same between the groups, then the conclusion is that that substance probably has no relationship to the condition under study, which is what this case-control study more or less concluded (further elaboration later on the somewhat anomalous result of thimerosal seeming protective against autism).

It’s not just the concept of a case-control study, though, that Ms. Bernard fails to comprehend.The concept of dose-response also seems to elude Ms. Bernard, as does the concept of susceptibility windows. By the antivaxers’ own arguments, the idea is that there is a time window of susceptibility. What it is, they rarely say exactly, but they do generally seem to place it below age 2, because that’s when the majority of childhood vaccines are administered. Moreover, if there really were a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, there would be a dose-response curve. This complaint is no different than the complaint against the Italian study that (surprise, surprise!) also found no relationship between vaccines and autism. Bernard’s criticism aside, this is how a case-control study is done. You look at cases and compare them to randomly selected controls matched as well to the cases as you can. The ranges of exposures are what they are. Comparing dose exposures in cases versus controls is how nearly all environmental risk research is done, because for most substances thought to be linked to disease it is impossible to find people who have had zero exposure. For example, all of us have had exposure to environmental mercury. It would not be possible to find anyone with zero exposure. Does that mean case-control studies examining environmental mercury exposure as a risk factor for various conditions should not be undertaken? Of course not.

Besides, the variable being examined was thimerosal, not vaccines themselves. Calling for more completely unvaccinated children is a red herring. For purposes of studying the hypothesis in this study, a child fully vaccinated with all the vaccines on the CDC schedule but with thimerosal-free vaccines would count as zero exposure. Bernard is intentionally confusing the issue by bringing up unvaccinated children. Finaly, this particular criticism of the study depends on the concept that any amount of mercury, no matter how small, will increase the risk of autism so that every exposure is above a dose where the risk attributable to thimerosal plateaus. There’s no evidence that this is so, unless mercury in vaccines somehow magically behaves differently than mercury in the environment when it comes to dose-response, where apparently, when it comes to autism at least, thimerosal is apparently as potent as Botox.

Except that even Botox exhibits a safe dose.

The next complaint is just plain silly. Bernad complains that the matching of controls to cases was done by birth year. This is such an utterly standard manner of doing case-control studies, particularly those involving children, because they minimize the variation between cases and controls that might be due to being raised in different years, going to the same schools in different years, or having different exposures related to different years. In other words, it’s good practice to match based on birth year. Not that that stops Bernard from writing:

Each of the three HMOs would buy in bulk the same vaccines for all its patients and the promotion of a new vaccine would tend to be uniform across an HMO, so that within an HMO, exposure variability is lessened. Additionally, the recommended vaccines, the formulations offered by manufacturers, and the uptake rate of new vaccines varied by year, so that within a given year, exposure variability is further reduced. The effect is that children in a given year in a given HMO would tend to receive the same vaccines.

She writes this as though it were a bad thing for the study! After all, the study variable is thimerosal, not vaccines. If you want to concentrate on thimerosal, then naturally you’d want to eliminate as many of the other variables as possible. Matching by birth year is one way to help accomplish that. She also constructs a rather bizarre “what if” scenario:

The variables of time and place (HMO) are correlated with the exposure variable. Statistically, the correlation would reduce the effect of the exposure variable, as the two matching variables compete with the exposure variable to explain differences in the autism outcome. For example, say for simplicity that HMO A used vaccines in 1994 which exposed all enrolled infants up to 6 months of age with 75 mcg of mercury; the rate of ASD for 1994 births in HMO A was found to be 1 in 150. In 1995, HMO A used vaccines which exposed all enrolled infants up to 6 months of age to 150 mcg of mercury; the rate of ASD for these children rises to 1 in 100. By stratifying by year for this HMO, those children born in 1994, whether or not they had an ASD, would show identical exposures. Those with an ASD born in 1995 in HMO A would also have the same exposures as those born in 1995 in HMO A without an ASD. The association between the increased exposure and the increase in ASD can only be detected by removing the birth year variable, which otherwise masks the effect of exposure on outcomes.

This is one of those claims that sounds superficially plausible–if it weren’t for all the other correlations being tested in the various multivariate models, such as measures of birth weight, household income, maternal education, marital status, maternal and paternal age, birth order, breast feeding duration, child birth conditions including Apgar score, and indicators for birth asphyxia, respiratory distress, and hyperbilirubinemia; measures of maternal tobacco use, alcohol use, fish consumption, exposure to non-vaccine mercury sources, lead, illegal drugs, valproic acid, folic acid, and viral infections during pregnancy were created, and measures of child anemia, encephalitis, lead exposure, and pica. Moreover, when more than one site is used for a study, it is customary to compare the characteristics of the subjects enrolled at each site in order to make sure that they are comparable and can thus be used in the study. Add to that all the other subject characteristics examined, and Bernard’s complaint becomes just another smokescreen, especially since other results not reported in the Pediatrics paper suggest that autism prevalence was stable during the six years covered. In fact, if you look at the technical report, you’ll find that the authors checked the influence of HMO:

Were overall results driven by results from one particular HMO? To address this question we fit models separately to the data from the two largest HMOs and compared the results to the overall results. The exposure estimates from each of the two large HMOs are similar in direction and magnitude to the overall results. However, they were seldom statistically significant due to the smaller sample sizes obtained when modeling separately by HMO. We conclude that the overall results were not primarily driven by the results in one particular HMO.

They also controlled for study area:

Controlling the geographic area within the HMO coverage could increase the comparability of the cases, as well as make the data collection more concentrated and therefore less expensive. During creation of the sampling frame, children that were known to live more than 60 miles from an assessment clinic were excluded from the sampling frame.

Finally, they did several statistical tests to determine if the results were driven primarily by one subgroup:

In order to assess whether the results were sensitive to the influence of one or a few highly influential observations within a single matching stratum, we tried re-fitting the analysis model for the AD outcome to sequential subsets of data where, in each subset, all data from a single stratum were omitted4. For example, if one or a few highly influential observations were in Stratum “2”, then results from a model where the data were omitted from that stratum would be very different from the results when the data from the stratum are included.

Bummer, Sallie. Next time, read the full technical report. I realize that your deluded anti-vaccine fans won’t bother to check these things, but I will.

The next complaint can be dismissed quickly:

The participation rate in the study was quite low: among the cases, it was 48.1% and among the controls, only 31.7%. Controls were more likely than cases to be unable to locate and to refuse participation. The standard for minimal response is 60% and higher. This does not represent a probability sample.

Who says the standard for minimal response is 60% and higher? In any case, the authors responses to this complaint will do quite nicely. Same complaint. Same response. Plus mine, of course. The authors accounted for the lower response rate and, in fact, pointed out that their response rate ended up being higher than they had expected.

Finally, Bernard comes back to the apparent protective effect from thimerosal. Amazingly (well, not so amazingly), she doesn’t note that the authors acknowledged and discussed this result. She then constructs a scenario designed to “demonstrate” that shifts in participation in key groups in such a study can change the results. No kidding. Here’s the problem. Although Bernard does show that differences in the rate of participation in the controls based on whether they are late vaccinators or not could change the ratio of late vaccinators to have a higher percentage of “vaccinators,” this is yet another smokescreen. For one thing, she envisions identical participation rates between late and on time vaccinators in the ASD group, while in the non-ASD group she envisions 40% participation of on-time vaccinators and only 15% participation of late vaccinators. This is, to say the least, a highly artificial and unlikely construct, but that’s what it took for her to make the numbers work. To justify these numbers, she cited a paper in which the response rate for subjects with no thimerosal exposure was 48% and those with “full exposure” was 65%. That is not a nearly three-fold difference.

In other words, Bernard had to make up a highly artificial hypothetical situation in which she came up with differences far beyond what is justified in order to make the numbers in her scenario work. Nowhere does she show that there’s any reason to suspect such a huge difference in response rates. Certainly, I could find no indication that would lead me to suspect such huge reporting differences. If that’s the best she could come up with, Price et al is a better study than I thought the first time around.

When it comes to the notion that thimerosal causes autism (I refuse to dignify it with the term “hypothesis” anymore), it’s clear to me that Sallie Bernard and SafeMinds are getting desperate. This is even thinner than the usual gruel of an attack against Price et al. In fact, I’d say it’s pathetic, particularly given that it apparently took Bernard over three days to come up with it. True, there is an even more pathetic response out there, but demolishing that one is left as an exercise for the reader. (Hint: It involves the bogus claims about mercury excretion in autistic children invoked.)

In the meantime, I don’t know whether to shake my head in embarrassment that Sallie Bernard was ever allowed anywhere near a study like this (the CDC took her on as an external consultant in an ill-advised attempt to coopt her; she turned on them), or unrestrained hilarity that anyone can be so incompetent at analyzing science. Maybe a little of both.

Comments

  1. #1 The Parsimony Police
    September 17, 2010

    Sallie Bernard has been given a citation for multiplying hypothetical entities beyond necessity.

  2. #2 Composer99
    September 17, 2010

    I wish I could say I couldn’t understand the hang-up that keeps Bernard, SafeMinds, and folks who buy into the autism-thimerosal causal relationship gnawing away at it.

  3. #3 squirrelelite
    September 17, 2010

    Your “even more pathetic response” seems to be from the same commenter(s?) who are griping about this study on Science Based Pharmacy.

    http://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/more-evidence-that-mercury-in-vaccines-doesnt-cause-autism/

    Among their less perspicacious comments, they complain that

    The autistic group has a higher prevalence of autistic conditions than the controls.

  4. #4 Dr Aust
    September 17, 2010

    Squirrelite has beating me to it in highlighting the epic failure to understand the study design, and rampant intellectual vanity / arrogance-of-ignorance, of the commenter(s) posting as “ChildHealthSafety” at the discussion of this paper over at Science Based Pharmacy.

    PS The precise identity of the “ChildHealthSafety” commenter is not given, but the style of both writing and of argument seems to make it a good bet that it is well-known UK lawyer and anti-vaccine activist Clifford G Miller.

  5. #5 Todd W.
    September 17, 2010

    @Squirrelelite

    Every time I see that comment, another idiot-detector goes *sproing*.

  6. #6 symball
    September 17, 2010

    I for one, can’t wait to see Clifford G Miller break into a rousing rendition of ‘I’m a lumberjack’, with John Stone (is a etc etc) coming in with the harmonies.

  7. #7 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    Re: the complaint about funding

    I have a question. Who in the hell SHOULD be funding the study, if not the CDC?

    Not only is the CDC funding for this type of study not a problem, it is actually the exact kind of thing the CDC SHOULD BE DOING!!!

    (well, sort of. They shouldn’t be wasting their time beating dead horses, but when there are enough idiots like Jay Gordon in the world who compromise national health, then the CDC needs to step up)

    I swear, I really don’t understand what these people expect. They whine that there aren’t any studies. The CDC supports a study, and they whine about that.

    Who else would fund this? I don’t see any of the pansy-ass anti-vax organizations stepping up to provide funding. Expect their lawyers…

  8. #8 Kristen
    September 17, 2010

    I have also read the comments on Science-Based Pharmacy. I understand how the person commenting could possibly believe their own nonsense. After reading the article Orac linked to from the Child Health Safety above it is plain to see the commentator is mostly copy-pasting from the site.

    Dr. Aust; if that is indeed Clifford Miller, he rants about the MMR on his website. So if he believes both Thimerosol and MMR cause autism wouldn’t that also mean two types of vaccines would (presumably coincidentally) be causing autism in two completely different ways?

    If I am not missing something here (and I think I recall Orac talking about this); the real issue would have to be any injection; I.E. needles+injection=very, very bad.

  9. #9 Ruth
    September 17, 2010

    The Hg Militia remind me of the creationists taking kids through natural history museums, explaining about how all the fossils prove evolution didn’t happen.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    September 17, 2010

    The vaccines-autism link is dead? Balderdash! Mere nails won’t suffice when you’re dealing with the *truely* undead. And this one has as many sequels as do vampire novels.E.g. yesterday, Gary Null(see progressiveradionetwork.com) announced that he will launch a website Tuesday next devoted solely to vaccines featuring “research”, “white papers”, and “documentaries”(sic,sic,sic) he has produced. He predicts (political “expert” that he is ) that the information will lead to an angry, massive uprising and coalescence of the “constitutionalist, libertarian, green, peace,and ‘true’ progressive” parties. Needless to say, he already has a “stimulus package” and “flat tax” plan written. The *real* _Truth_ about vaccines will bring down Obama, the “corporatist government”, Wall St., and PharmaShillNation itself!!! Seriously folks, you can’t make up stuff like this, I only report.

  11. #11 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    If I am not missing something here (and I think I recall Orac talking about this); the real issue would have to be any injection; I.E. needles+injection=very, very bad.

    I’m with Kristen on this to a large extent, except I’m not willing to ascribe anything as “the real issue.” Mainly, because I don’t really have a clue what the anti-vaxers think, outside of “vaccination bad.”

    If I wanted to lose the rest of my hair, I would ask the question of what the anti-vaxers really think is the cause of autism. We’ve heard mercury, we’ve heard MMR, and Jay Gordon tells us that it was something that he gave to an 8 mo old child, which would neither be mercury containing or MMR. These are three completely unrelated agents in all ways, yet they ALL are able to cause autism?

    What is it? Indeed, it SEEMS that anything with a needle must be a potential cause, although they are also opposed to the rotovirus vaccine, which is oral.

    So what do anti-vaxxers REALLY think cause autism?

  12. #12 dt
    September 17, 2010

    I see from the comments at science based pharmacy that Mr Clifford “I’m a vaccine damages lawyer” Miller insinuates that another poster is a pedophile.

    Charming man. Utterly, utterly charming.

    I also suggest that childhealthsafety is added to the list of citations that qualify under Scopie’s Law, and that we create a new construct called the Miller-Stone Phenomenon -The deliberate distortion, falsification, misrepresentation and debasement of scientific studies for malign purposes.

  13. #13 Scott
    September 17, 2010

    @ Pable:

    I’d wager that, if the study HAD been done without any CDC or pharma funding at all, they would then proceed to complain that the burden was being unfairly shifted since obviously the people “responsible” should be paying for it…

  14. #14 superdave
    September 17, 2010

    @Pablo

    This always and forever will be tied to the initial hypothesis that the cause of autism was bad parenting. I think the anti vaccine nonsense is an over reaction to that discredited hypothesis. After all, giving your kids vaccines is GOOD parenting. So you see, it’s not bad parenting at all that gives kids autism, its GOOD parenting! This also explains why they are so against the notion that there is a genetic cause for autism, as that would also put some degree of blame on parents in their eyes.

  15. #15 Enkidu
    September 17, 2010

    Pablo: Since autism is a condition defined by a set of symptoms, they use this to claim that multiple (wildly) different things cause it. And to them, anything that affects brain function is grouped together, which is why they like to lump ADD, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s in with autism for added umph.

    On a related note, I once had an argument with an anti-vaxer claiming you could get the flu from the flu shot (even more ridiculous was her claim that you could get it within minutes!). In trying to explain reactions to the shot being consistent with flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle ache usually at site of injection) but NOT being the flu, she said to me, “But what is the flu really but a set of symptoms?” I was like, “Uh, infection with influenza virus, which you aren’t getting from the shot.” It seems they are always trying to redefine things to fit with their “evil vaccine” belief.

  16. #16 Liz Ditz
    September 17, 2010

    JeninTexas writes at AOA:

    You are all ignoring the elephant in the room…acetaminophen.

    In 1987, the ACIP recommended prophylactic acetaminophen before DPT immunizations:

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000917.htm

    Interestingly, a recent study places the beginning of the autism epidemic at 1988-1989, one year after that recommendation was made…

    http://www.all.org/pdf/McDonaldPaul2010.pdf

    All of you here know about the problems with acetaminophen and autism, yes?

    Now… once you admit that acetaminophen use with vaccines is a problem, why is it so hard to imagine that acetaminophen overuse + (insert painful and/or infectious, high fever-inducing agent of your choice) might also = autism?

    Personally, I’m sick of hearing about vaccines and autism.

    Wow. I wonder what they’ll come up with next? Chemtrails?

  17. #17 Vicki
    September 17, 2010

    Even if there was some (their hypothesis) baseline amount of mercury exposure that was causing a problem, it would be relevant that thimerosal in a range above that amount seems to have a protective effect. Especially since, as Orac notes, there is no population with absolutely zero mercury exposure.

    Counterintuitive, perhaps, but still interesting.

  18. #18 Todd W.
    September 17, 2010

    I was the pleasant recipient today of an e-mail from MercuryJustice.org claiming that mercury in vaccines and fillings cause all autoimmune disorders, which includes, of course, autism. The evidence presented, a Natural News article on Vioxx and the infamous video from David Ayoub discussing his population control conspiracies and black helicopters.

    Maybe Orac will write something up, if he’s feeling like taking on some lighter fare.

  19. #19 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    It seems they are always trying to redefine things to fit with their “evil vaccine” belief.

    Shifting the goalpost, yes.

    I’ve brought this up before, why should AoA be concerned about the flu vaccine? The flu vaccine has never been associated with autism in any way. The same is true for most of the other vaccinations on the schedule.

    The usual vaccine-autism story is “he got the shot and BOOM, suddenly everything changed.” DTaP is first given at 2 months, long before autism becomes apparent. So clearly that does not happen with DTaP. (wait for some idiot to come in and claim that it was caused by the third DTaP booster…)

  20. #20 Todd W.
    September 17, 2010

    @Pablo

    I’ve been doing some research on some of the vaccine-preventable diseases, starting with pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus, since they’re grouped together in the DTaP and because pertussis is such a big issue right now. While I was pretty aware that pertussis is no walk in the park and tetanus isn’t all that pretty, I didn’t know much about diphtheria. That is one nasty disease. I also learned a lot more about tetanus. Although they’re pretty rare (thanks to vaccines), infection is seriously scary. Oh, and rather pricey to treat, too.

  21. #21 Kristen
    September 17, 2010

    You have a good point. Antivaxers do think the rotavirus vaccine is bad. I have wondered about this myself.

    Anivaxers have often talked about it being “injected right into the bloodstream” (which IIRC no vaccines are injected into a vein much less the rotovirus vaccine). But being precise doesn’t seem to be their strongpoint.

    I am also curious just what it could be. I wonder, do they also think the nasal vaccine for flu causes autism; it neither contains thimerosal nor is it injected.

    It is all so contradictory.

  22. #22 DaveD
    September 17, 2010

    I didn’t know much about diphtheria. That is one nasty disease.

    Yep. And it’s not gone, either, even though you don’t hear much about it these days. I seem to recall that after the fall of the Soviet Union, many aspects of public health were not taken care of, including diphtheria vaccines. Sure enough, a few years later, there were outbreaks of diphtheria in Russia.

  23. #23 Todd W.
    September 17, 2010

    @DaveD

    Also rather disconcerting is the fact that diphtheria antitoxin is rather hard to come by. Apparently, it is only available in the U.S., but it isn’t made by any U.S. companies any more. CDC has to import it.

  24. #24 Enkidu
    September 17, 2010

    Kristin: FluMist contains MSG, which is another evil ingredient they have no tolerance for.

    Someone once summed up how some many different vaccines could band together to cause autism (among other disorders) as the “toxic tipping point.” So, they think that all the different “toxins” in the vaccines (formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, etc.) accumulate in the brain with each shot and for each child there is one vaccine that puts them over the edge, so to speak.

    In fact, one person even told me that the side effect of fever from vaccines was due to chemicals processing through the brain (???).

  25. #25 Denice Walter
    September 17, 2010

    I speculate that the fear of vaccines is based on a primitive aversion to foreign substances/ contamination/ destruction of bodily integrity ( broken skin) that *probably* had important evolutionary significance and which we might understand better if we consulted the anthropologists’ accounts of “taboo” and similar concepts. It’s not rational. It’s “primary process” thought. Most of us have been encultured/ educated beyond these fears.

  26. #26 Jen in TX
    September 17, 2010

    @Liz Ditz:

    Actually, yes, someone from AoA’s facebook page is a chemtrails believer.

    The acetaminophen hypothesis really isn’t all that outlandish, by the way, although it may seem so at first glance.

  27. #27 Andreas Johansson
    September 17, 2010

    @Denice Walter: While there’s likely something to that, it doesn’t explain opposition to oral vaccines. I suspect a lot of these people have concluded that all vaccines are essentially (in some more-or-less Platonic sense) the same, therefore if one is bad, all must be bad.

  28. #28 MI Dawn
    September 17, 2010

    @Liz Ditz: we have tilted with Jen in Tx before (Hi,Jen! Hope all is well.) At least she has the courtesy to back up what she is saying with some research. We may not believe it is the best research, and we may not agree with her, but at least she, like daedelus2u, has something behind her beliefs over “mommy instinct”.

  29. #29 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    Actually, yes, someone from AoA’s facebook page is a chemtrails believer.

    But really, is belief in chemtrails really any sillier than Kim Stagliano’s belief that vaccines she got (before she was pregnant) caused her unvaccinated child’s autism via breastmilk?

  30. #30 OleanderTea
    September 17, 2010

    It is an ex-hypothesis.

    So, at this point (at least in my world) the “ex-hypothesis” equates to “delusional thinking”. It’s been a while since my abnormal psych courseworkd, but IIRC it is a symptom of psychiatric “issues” when a person clings to beliefs that have been proven false.

    The earth ain’t flat, and vaccines don’t cause autism. Get over it.

  31. #31 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    OleanderTea – this goes back to a comment someone made the other day. Why in the world is it SO important to the vaccine-autism crowd that thimerasol be a cause of autism?

    It’s not like any childhood vaccines contain thimerasol anymore, except the flu vaccine, which has never been associated with autism. Thimerasol was taken out already, despite there being no good reason (as this study shows), so even if it WERE shown that thimerasol caused autism when used in childhood vaccines, it wouldn’t bloody matter! The CDC has already addressed that.

    Similarly, truth be told the finding that thimerasol does not cause vaccines isn’t all that significant, either, because it’s not like the CDC is going to go back and start putting it back in again. It is only significant to the extent that the anti-vaxxers are so insistent on being anti-everything to do with vaccine that they can’t deal with the fact that some component of a vaccine is not causing autism.

    As the poster in the other thread, you almost start to think that some anti-vaxxers would go on the defensive if you said that the water in vaccines does not cause autism.

    (in fact, they’ve come close – remember, anti-vaxxers have complained about the presence of sodium chloride – apparently, a saline IV is toxic!)

    Why can’t they accept that, even if vaccines DID cause autism (for which there is no evidence), it’s not mercury? This has been a dead idea for almost a decade already.

  32. #32 Liz Ditz
    September 17, 2010

    Thanks to a tweet from Squillo

    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2010/09/16/toddlers-for-the-most-part-are-getting-vaccinated/

    A survey finds that for most routine vaccines — those against polio, measles/mumps/rubella, hepatitis B and chicken pox — coverage rates are close to or above the public health goal of 90% among children aged 19-35 months. And fewer than 1% of kids in that age group have received no vaccines at all.

    If you want all the data

    National, State, and Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19–35 Months — United States, 2009

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5936a2.htm?s_cid=mm5936a2_w

  33. #33 MikeMa
    September 17, 2010

    The funding issue is really one of results. If the results match their position, the funding is fine.

    Espousing a chemtrails conspiracy indicates a severe lack of critical thinking. (Obviously.) That alone makes anything else you say suspect. Sort of a self-poisoning of the well argument.

    At some point money spent on chasing this mercury red herring must be channeled to more productive use. The anti-vaxers are not only harming public health but are placing roadblocks on productive research that could shed light (at least) on autism, its causes and treatments. Shame on them.

  34. #34 Dave Ruddell
    September 17, 2010

    I speculate that the fear of vaccines is based on a primitive aversion to foreign substances/ contamination/ destruction of bodily integrity ( broken skin) that *probably* had important evolutionary significance and which we might understand better if we consulted the anthropologists’ accounts of “taboo” and similar concepts. It’s not rational. It’s “primary process” thought. Most of us have been encultured/ educated beyond these fears.

    I’m always amazed at how lonog anti-vaxxers have been around and that they’ve managed to not fade away. For example, you can look up the National Anti-Vaccination League.

  35. #35 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    September 17, 2010

    The ferocity with which the anti-vax crowd clings to their delusions reminds me of the Mencken quote about getting a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

    Some of that crowd have invested so much of themselves into this proposition that their psyches would truly be in jeapordy if they ever let reality slip in. I pity them in a way. If only their delusions were not dangerous to themselves and others.

    @Liz Ditz

    The chemtrails subject was broached on another thread. That would be a fun one to debate with the wackaloons. At least with thimerosal and vaccines they had an actual thing to blame on their imaginary epidemic. But with chemtrails, you have an imaginary problem creating an imaginary epidemic.

  36. #36 Dangerous Bacon
    September 17, 2010

    Liz Ditz: “I wonder what they’ll come up with next? Chemtrails?”

    Your Pharma Masters are way ahead of you. Since they were forced to stop poisoning us with mercury-containing vaccines, they’ve resorted to chemtrail spraying to keep up our mercury dosage. It’s all explained here.

    I learned about this site through a broadcast which came over my (non-mercury containing) fillings.

  37. #37 trrll
    September 17, 2010

    I wish I could say I couldn’t understand the hang-up that keeps Bernard, SafeMinds, and folks who buy into the autism-thimerosal causal relationship gnawing away at it.

    Because the “autism recovery” lobby has a huge vested interest in the mercury notion. It is the rationale the chelation therapy employed by quack doctors from DAN to the Geiers. Many parents have spent huge amounts of money on this kind of therapy, and have managed to convince themselves that it helped their children, at least a little bit. They do not welcome being told that in fact they were wasting their money and subjecting their children to dangerous, ineffective treatments. They would not forgive SafeMinds from admitting that they were wrong about mercury. So while SafeMinds and other lobbying groups that depend upon antivax sentiment for their survival and funding have been busily digging up the goalposts and moving them to the “unspecified ‘toxins’ in vaccines” side of the field (they’ve learned their lesson about getting to specific; don’t expect them ever again to insist that a single ingredient is primarily at fault), they still have to continue to give lip service to the mercury notion, or risk losing an important part of their funding base. They aren’t giving up on mercury–now it’s “mercury and other stuff.”

  38. #38 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    Some of that crowd have invested so much of themselves into this proposition that their psyches would truly be in jeapordy if they ever let reality slip in.

    Oh, I didn’t want to say it straight out, but, yeah.

    I suspect the biggest problem with accepting the results about mercury is that they would have to admit that they have been wrong. They can’t have that, because they need to have that card left up their sleeve. The “science has been wrong before…” gambit.

    They know that “science has been wrong before” is not going to do them any good if they can’t assert that they are right. But if they have been wrong before, too, then their house of cards tumbles.

    They already took a massive hit with St. Wakefield. They lose mercury, too, and so what are they left with? They have to resort to the desperation like that of Kim Stagliano.

  39. #39 ebohlman
    September 17, 2010

    Denice: An interesting way to test your hypothesis would be to correlate anti-vaccine attitudes with homophobia and anti-semitism, both of which are known to have a fear-of-contamination component (in fact, I suspect that many general anti-medical attitudes may have anti-semitic roots).

  40. #40 ebohlman
    September 17, 2010

    Why in the world is it SO important to the vaccine-autism crowd that thimerasol be a cause of autism?

    Remember the tobacco litigation of the 1990s? Some lawyers are dreaming about doing the same thing to the pharmaceutical industry.

  41. #41 jay.sweet
    September 17, 2010

    Still, the idea that mercury causes autism has lovely plumage.

  42. #42 dt
    September 17, 2010

    @MikeMa

    “At some point money spent on chasing this mercury red herring must be channeled to more productive use. The anti-vaxers are not only harming public health but are placing roadblocks on productive research that could shed light (at least) on autism, its causes and treatments. Shame on them.”

    Ain’t it the truth. It’s something I have been trying to tell the UK antivaxers for years – stop diverting resources in the pursuit of the impossible and help science get on and find the real factors that trigger autism. They aren’t interested.

    If one looks at this study alone, and reads the associated Thimerosal and Autism technological report, one can imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent and thousands of scientific manhours effectively wasted on this single enterprise.

    Shame on the antivaxers – you bet.

  43. #43 Pablo
    September 17, 2010

    Because the “autism recovery” lobby has a huge vested interest in the mercury notion.

    Actually, this does make some sense. Not just in the ways you describe, but I can also imagine the attitude of parents that IF it is due to mercury, it can be fixed by getting rid of it.

    Of course, the scam artists prey on this, but I don’t know that they necessarily have to work hard to promote it. It is a position of some hope. False hope, of course, but hope nonetheless.

  44. #44 Kristen
    September 17, 2010

    trrll,

    It is the rationale the chelation therapy employed by quack doctors from DAN to the Geiers…[Parents] do not welcome being told that in fact they were wasting their money and subjecting their children to dangerous, ineffective treatments. They would not forgive SafeMinds from admitting that they were wrong about mercury.

    I never thought of this possibility before but it makes sense. There might in fact be many angry parents figuratively knocking down their doors.

    Embarrassment and fear?

  45. #45 Vicki, pouring my tea from Russell's teapot
    September 17, 2010

    It seems that no form of nonsense ever goes away. Anti-fluoridation, for example, which I’m surprised the autism-must-have-a-chemical-cause people haven’t latched onto yet: their grandparents’ drinking water wasn’t fluoridated (unless they lived in a place with naturally high fluoride) and now the government is making sure everyone gets fluoride in the drinking water, and it’s in almost all toothpaste.

    There’s money in bottled water and distilling equipment too, you know.

    I am mostly making this up: but the tea party movement is throwing up candidates who campaign against fluoridation.

  46. #46 sirhcton
    September 17, 2010

    Wait, this idea that needles plus an injection of some substance causes autism is interesting. It’s just the needles: Acupuncture causes autism! Those parents treating their children with it and claiming improvements are fooling themselves and just making matters worse.

    I’ll stop, now.

  47. #47 Ktesibios
    September 17, 2010

    Denice: An interesting way to test your hypothesis would be to correlate anti-vaccine attitudes with homophobia and anti-semitism, both of which are known to have a fear-of-contamination component (in fact, I suspect that many general anti-medical attitudes may have anti-semitic roots).

    Posted by: ebohlman | September 17, 2010 1:09 PM

    I think that you would have problems with a confounding effect: crank magnetism, or as I call it, “syndromism” or the “betcha can’t eat just one” effect.

    As a general fule, people who adhere to one paranoid conspiracy theory are highly likely to believe a whole range of them- it seems to be a bit like bundled software. Since anti-Semitism has been an efficient generator of PCTs for quite a long time you’re likely to find it flavoring the stew no matter what specific PCT you’re investigating. “Teh eevil Zionists” (dog-whistle for “Jews”) occupy a prominent place in the Boogeyman Pantheon of the patrons of the Alcoa Haberdashery Shoppe in general, so rotsa ruck sorting out the causal relationships.

  48. #48 Anonymous
    September 17, 2010

    @Vicki

    That would be Sharron Angle, Scientology enabler. That woman is seriously dangerous.

  49. #49 Brian Deer
    September 17, 2010

    The so-called “Childhealthsafety” is incontrovertibly Clifford Miller. I have absolute proof – including the necessary electronic records – and if it’s true that he’s now defaming individuals in the way Dr Aust suggests, I’m available to have the proof required of me by subpoena.

  50. #50 brian
    September 17, 2010

    The study’s first author, Cristofer Price, wrote this:

    The study protocol was developed by a design group led by Abt Associates, Inc. working in close consultation with Principal Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Principal Investigators, Data Managers, and Study Managers from the each of the three HMOs, and with the study’s External Expert Consultants. . . . By agreement among the members of the design group, data analysis for the study was to be completed in two phases. In the first analysis phase, analysts at Abt Associates were to carry out as closely as possible the analyses specified in the plan and to do only the analyses specified in the plan. At the end of this phase, all members of the design group were invited to a meeting in Washington, DC where the first round, preliminary results were presented to the group. The meeting in DC . . .took place in May of 2008.

    Does that mean that Sallie Bernard, like the rest of the “External Expert Consultants”, was told the preliminary results over two years ago, or was Bernhard no longer a consultant for the study by 2008? If she was no longer in the loop, did she resign, did she refuse to attend the meeting, or was she excluded?

    I suppose it would be tough to be in Bernard’s position: president of “Sensible Action for Ending Mercury Induced Neurological Disorders” now that it is clear that SafeMinds has been utterly wrong and the mercury-causes-autism notion is dead.

  51. #51 RTContracting
    September 17, 2010

    Brian wrote:

    I suppose it would be tough to be in Bernard’s position: president of “Sensible Action for Ending Mercury Induced Neurological Disorders” now that it is clear that SafeMinds has been utterly wrong and the mercury-causes-autism notion is dead.

    She is also on the Board of Directors for Autism Speaks.

    http://www.autismspeaks.org/board.php#bernard

    I wonder how she feels about their policy statement about vaccines? It starts:

    Many studies have been conducted on large populations of individuals to determine if a link exists between vaccination–specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and thimerosal-containing vaccines–and increases in the prevalence of autism. These epidemiologic studies provide evidence against the hypothesis that either the MMR vaccine or thimerosal is linked to the increased prevalence of autism. Thus, given the present state of the science, the proven benefits of vaccinating a child to protect them against serious diseases outweigh the hypothesized risk that vaccinations might cause autism.

  52. #52 Chris
    September 17, 2010

    Brian Deer:

    I’m available to have the proof required of me by subpoena.

    Would that include the comments he spammed on blogs over a year ago that claimed you made everything up?

    Things he wrote included:

    It turns our Brian Deer made it up:- Sunday Times Journalist Made Up Wakefield MMR Data Fixing Allegation: (dead link to tinyurl)

    and…

    And he was helping the US Justice Dept sink 4500 US kids claims for vaccine damage compensation – what kind of normal journalist does that?

  53. #53 Brian Deer
    September 17, 2010

    Yes, indeed, Chris. As you appear to have spotted, Mr Miller has seen the wisdom of taking down those defamations. And, in return, he can keep what little his wife has left him.

  54. #54 Chris
    September 17, 2010

    Oh, goody!

    Of course he is unable to take down those blog comments.

  55. #55 Karl Withakay
    September 17, 2010

    “I refuse to dignify it with the term “hypothesis” anymore”

    It’s pretty much moved beyond even conjecture or speculation now and become pure assertion.

    At some point in the face of a mountain range of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, doesn’t something finally become a lie, even if you believe it?

  56. #56 brian
    September 17, 2010

    When Patricia Rodier (one of the few scientists with particular expertise in both autism research and mercury toxicology) testified at the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, she destroyed the argument promoted by SafeMinds that autism is mercury poisoning:

    http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/autism/Expert%20Reports/Mead_03-215V/ExEE_Rodier_Report_03-215.pdf

    Sallie Bernard does have one possible face-saving response:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3FnpaWQJO0

  57. #57 Roger Kulp
    September 17, 2010

    Denice: An interesting way to test your hypothesis would be to correlate anti-vaccine attitudes with homophobia and anti-semitism, both of which are known to have a fear-of-contamination component (in fact, I suspect that many general anti-medical attitudes may have anti-semitic roots).

    Posted by: ebohlman | September 17, 2010 1:09 PM

    Close,but no cigar.Replace “anti-semetic”,with anti-Islamic.s in Terry Jones.It all goes back to fact so many vaxers come from a far right religious fundamentalist background.They equate vaccines with a satanic One World Government™ agenda to “dumb us down”,and kill us for fun an profit.

  58. #58 Dangerous Bacon
    September 17, 2010

    “I suspect that many general anti-medical attitudes may have anti-semitic roots).”

    There’s certainly a good deal of overlap. Rense.com, which has a considerable amount of alt med/antivax nuttiness, features lots of similarly crazy anti-Semitic rants. Such bigotry also applies to the fervent antivax site whale.to, and is a common theme on CureZone. (And don’t forget the Islamic cleric awhile back who declared vaccination was a Jewish conspiracy).

    The common feature is a conspiracy-minded outlook – and once you’re deeply into this paranoid mindset, the Usual Suspects almost always include Jews at some point.

    These attitudes can’t be conveniently pigeonhold as right-wing, either. The nexus is somewhere close to where far right and far left meet in crazyland.

  59. #59 Purenoiz
    September 17, 2010

    “…unless mercury in vaccines somehow magically behaves differently than mercury in the environment when it comes to dose-response,…”

    Homeopathic Mercury from the time in which thimerosal was stored in the same building. Teh water never forgets!

    Oh and where are the trolls today? The amount of agreement here is not very exiting, educational yes, but it lacks the drama I need.

  60. #60 MikeMa
    September 17, 2010

    The trolls have realized that if they fail to engage us, we don’t get those pharma shill checks.

  61. #61 DaveD
    September 17, 2010

    The trolls have realized that if they fail to engage us, we don’t get those pharma shill checks.

    Does this mean they won’t engage us any more? Damn. I was counting on those checks to pay for my next couple of yachts. And, of course, what I get is peanuts compared to the pile of dough Orac pulls down.

  62. #62 DW
    September 17, 2010

    @ MikeMa & DaveD : Never fear, we get paid *independently* of any troll’s behavior- in fact, some are paid *by the word*, some by number of posts, and some by measurement of several arcane qualities which I cannot discuss.

  63. #63 Roger Kulp
    September 18, 2010

    Could somebody please tell me where I sign up either to be a Pharma Shill,or a member of the Angry Science Mob? I can always use the money.It might help if you had some diagnosed autistics on your side.

  64. #64 Jake Crosby
    September 18, 2010

    Roger, they already do, it’s called the neurodiversity sideshow – people who want to normalize autism spectrum disorders, which last I checked was not something you were too keene on…

  65. #65 Dedj
    September 18, 2010

    Not everyone who self-identifies as neurodiverse is pro-Pharma (not by a loooooong shot in a number of cases), Jake, nor is every pro-pharma adult with autism also pro-neurodiverse.

  66. #66 Dedj
    September 18, 2010

    Roger – the sciences, especially the research and development aspects, have long been considered very apt environements for people with autism and ‘shiny aspies’.

    I would be very suprised if there aren’t already several hundred formal-diagnosed people working in pharma.

  67. #67 Aspie biologist
    September 18, 2010

    @Dedj,

    Do you know anyone who’s hiring entry-level biotech Aspies? The employers in Biotech Bay seem to be recruiting laid-off workers with experience from competitors (neurodiversity status not specified).

  68. #68 Dedj
    September 18, 2010

    Sorry, not my field of employment.

    Personally, I’m a working class male Aspie working in a middle class female profession that is for ‘people persons’. I’ve a feeling I shot myself in the foot somewhere along the line…….

  69. #69 Drivebyposter
    September 18, 2010

    I have a question, if answering it isn’t too much of a hassle. Is being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD held against you in the work place? Or at least seen as something particularly negative?
    The reason why I ask is that I am fairly sure (so is my mother that works with children with learning disabilities) that I have ADD. I’ve never been formally diagnosed because my parents didn’t want me on medication and because my dad feels like this sort of thing is held against you in employment. I haven’t been diagnosed more recently because I frankly haven’t really thought about it much (Dedj’s post about his job made me think of this) and wouldn’t know where to have that done.
    I’m not sure where else I could ask this and get reliable answers. Thanks for any responses.

  70. #70 Roger Kulp
    September 18, 2010

    Jake,maybe you ought to do what I have.Wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as mercury/vaccine damage,as far as autism is concerned.There is no “big pharma conspiracy” to make millions off vaccines.Vaccines are a proven loss leader for drug companies.They prevent epidemics.It’s all a lie,you’ve been brainwashed.I don’t know,maybe you had a mother who told you from an early age you would have been normal if it weren’t for the vaccines.It’s all a lie,you’ve fallen in with a cult.

    You’re a bright guy,you ought to have a better future ahead of you than wasting your life on this silly antivax crap.

    The neurodiversity people are right about one thing,it’s all genetic.There is a reason blogs like leftbrainrightbrain cover all these genetic mutations as they are discovered.The “joy of autism” crap we saw a few years ago seems to be dying out.I only hope the equally silly,and far more dangerous,antivaccine stuff follows it into the great beyond.

    In the last fourteen months,I have had a lot of genetic tests.I have been found to have a de novo folate metabolism disorder,polymorphisms of 22q13,I’m being tested for Phelan-Mcdermid,Vitamin D Receptor gene,and Mel1b melatonin receptor mutations,and I’m not done.

    You once said yourself,that I have an unbelievable amount of medical and developmental problems.It’s been scary to find all these genetic mutations,but it makes a lot more sense than mercury.I think a lot of the parents we see at AoA,writing about all of the problems their “vaccine damaged” children have,have equally complex syndromes, involving multiple chromosomes.They are causing them all sorts of unnecessary additional problems with quackery like chelation.They are no better than Christian Scientists,who believe God,and prayer will heal their child.

    Children who have serious genetic medical problems,that can be made sicker,and more disabled,by exposure to other unvaccinated children.I have a couple of very serious autoimmune conditions,that could have been avoided had a chicken pox,or streptococcus A (Rheumatic Fever) vaccine been available when I was a child.

    Step away from the dark side,Jake.

  71. #71 Orac
    September 18, 2010

    You’re a bright guy,you ought to have a better future ahead of you than wasting your life on this silly antivax crap.

    I used to think that, but, given Jake’s obstinacy, I’m no longer as sure as I once was that Jake is actually a bright guy. He’s demonstrating that he is perhaps not as bright as I once gave him credit for.

  72. #72 brian
    September 18, 2010

    I think that Jake’s already a couple of weeks into the intro epidemiology and biostatistics course that’s required for his major. Given his experience, perhaps Jake already knows more than most Ph.D. epidemiologists, and by his semester break he should be an internationally-recognized authority on experimental design. I can hardly wait for his response to Price et al.

  73. #73 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 19, 2010

    I used to think that, but, given Jake’s obstinacy, I’m no longer as sure as I once was that Jake is actually a bright guy. He’s demonstrating that he is perhaps not as bright as I once gave him credit for.

    It seems to be a matter of semantics. Suppose there was a tract of land that was covered with good, rich soil, irrigated by good regular rains and receiving lots of warm sunshine. And this tract of land is owned by a psychotic who goes out every day and yanks out anything he thinks is a “weed”, and because he was educated in gardening by psychotics, he thinks any plant except a palm tree (which won’t actually grow in the climate he’s in) is a weed. As a result, every plant in his field is uprooted just about as soon as it pokes through the soil.

    So the ground is “fertile” in the sense that it could grow plants. It’s not fertile, in the sense that it will never be allowed to grow plants. Jake’s mind is “bright” in that it could process the evidence about vaccines. It is not bright, in that as soon as Jake sees that the evidence isn’t supporting what he wants his conclusion to be, he rejects the evidence and refuses to deal with it.

  74. #74 Pompous Latinistic Nickname
    September 19, 2010

    “So the ground is “fertile” in the sense that it could grow plants. It’s not fertile, in the sense that it will never be allowed to grow plants.”

    Land is fertile or it isn’t. You seem confused on this point. Perhaps more study is required.

    “Jake’s mind is “bright” in that it could process the evidence about vaccines. It is not bright, in that as soon as Jake sees that the evidence isn’t supporting what he wants his conclusion to be, he rejects the evidence and refuses to deal with it.”

    Since you felt the need to laboriously explain your analogy, even you recognized its lameness.

  75. #75 Calli Arcale
    September 20, 2010

    Drivebyposter:

    I have a question, if answering it isn’t too much of a hassle. Is being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD held against you in the work place? Or at least seen as something particularly negative?

    I was diagnosed with ADD as a child, and my boss knows about it, so I’ll offer my perspective.

    Legally speaking, it cannot be held against you. Like any disability, your employer is barred from discriminating against you as long as accommodating your disability would not cause them undue hardship. On the other hand, that’s just legalities. What employers are legally permitted to do and what they actually do are not always the same thing, and it’s quite possible for someone to unconsciously discount your contributions without realizing what they’re doing.

    My advice: your employer likely does not need to know that you have ADD. Really, unless it’s going to affect your performance, it’s none of their business anyway. Which also means that getting diagnosed with ADD doesn’t have to hurt you in the workplace at all — you have no obligation to disclose the disability unless you think you’ll need special accommodations for it, and it sounds like you want to avoid that anyway.

    My advice:

    * Get evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in ADD. If you get diagnosed, you can then get treatment if needed. Don’t be scared of taking medications for it either; many patients only need them for a while until they have learned how to cope without them. That was the case for me. I took Ritalin through school, but by college was able to manage without it, and I am not on any psychoactive medications today — except of course my morning Mountain Dew :-D.

  76. #76 Drivebyposter
    September 20, 2010

    Calli

    Thank you for your response. It hadn’t occurred to me that any employer really wouldn’t have some way of knowing. I figured they could find out if they wanted. I am not afraid of taking medication for it, and in fact in many instances I would prefer if I had it as an option. I am in college now (Junior year) and it is kind of a pain in the ass to secretly have to keep myself mostly amused while sitting through lectures on Mencius.
    The only drug I currently use is tea blacker than most coffees and more sugar than will really dissolve. ;-)

  77. #77 kittywhumpus
    September 20, 2010

    There are a couple of comments from AoA editors on the Washington Post health blog I just read (
    Another study discounts autism/thimerosal link
    ).

    It’s these little niggling comments that bug me. The ones they pepper across the Internet whenever reputable media outlets post vaccination articles or editorials, because these are often the ones that plant seeds of doubt in otherwise reasonable people.

  78. #78 Sauceress
    September 21, 2010

    Oh this should be fun too..

    Flu shot could reduce heart attack risk, study suggests

    No! No!
    Not possible! Vaxxeens iz eevil!

    10…9…8…7…

  79. #79 Complicated Potatoes
    September 21, 2010

    “Flu shot could reduce heart attack risk, study suggests”

    I hear the flu shot cures male pattern baldness too. Many of the men that got the flu shot aren’t bald.

  80. #80 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 22, 2010

    CP, if men who got the flu shot went bald less often than men who didn’t get the flu shot, then yeah, we would have some reason* to hypothesize the flu shot cured male pattern baldness.

    The study, as you should know if you read the article, doesn’t say “many of the people that got the flu shot didn’t get heart attacks.” They said that in the population they studied, those who got the flu shot were 19% less likely to have their first heart attack than those who didn’t. With a sample population in the thousands, that’s not something you can just write off as a coincidence. And

    * Of course correlation is not causation; the alternate hypothesis that suggests itself immediately is that the kind of people who are smart enough about their health to get their flu shots also take other health-related measures that reduce their heart attack risks. In truth, it’s most likely that both factors are at work; health-conscious people do many things that reduce their heart attack risks and one of those is protecting themselves against the flu and the stress that puts on the body.

  81. #81 Complicated Potatoes
    September 22, 2010

    “the alternate hypothesis that suggests itself immediately is that the kind of people who are smart enough about their health to get their flu shots also take other health-related measures that reduce their heart attack risks. In truth, it’s most likely that both factors are at work; health-conscious people do many things that reduce their heart attack risks and one of those is protecting themselves against the flu and the stress that puts on the body.”

    That’s some bad science you got there Antaeus. Making up an assumption like that may be self satisfying but its most likely completely wrong. It could just as well be that the people that get flu shots get them because they aren’t health-conscious, and rather than avoiding the flu by washing their hands and other effective preventative measures would rather just continue their poor hygiene practices and get a flu shot.

  82. #82 Chris
    September 22, 2010

    rather than avoiding the flu by washing their hands and other effective preventative measures would rather just continue their poor hygiene practices and get a flu shot.

    Are there really people who are that stupid?

  83. #83 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 22, 2010

    Yeah, if I’m getting that opinion from someone who doesn’t know the difference between “We found people in group X who didn’t have outcome Z happen to them” and “People whose behavior put them in group X rather than control group Y were 19% less likely to have outcome Z happen to them,” I don’t think it really has much weight. I’ll be concerned when there’s a protest about ‘bad science’ from someone who shows an understanding of basic science.

  84. #84 Complicated Potatotes
    September 22, 2010

    “Are there really people who are that stupid?”

    I think ‘stupid’ might be a little harsh. These people may not have been taught good hygiene or have to live or work with people that are careless about spreading illness. Perhaps ‘unfortunate’ would be a better word.

  85. #85 Chris
    September 22, 2010

    But, really, do they do what you say… don’t wash hands because they got a flu vaccine? What about bacterial infections? Or other things?

  86. #86 Dedj
    September 23, 2010

    “It could just as well be that the people that get flu shots get them because they aren’t health-conscious,”

    If I remember correctly, people who get flushots are more likely to have conditions that require elevated health-awareness, or are more likely to be employed in the health and medical professions.

  87. #87 Scott
    September 23, 2010

    That’s some bad science you got there Antaeus. Making up an assumption like that may be self satisfying but its most likely completely wrong. It could just as well be that the people that get flu shots get them because they aren’t health-conscious, and rather than avoiding the flu by washing their hands and other effective preventative measures would rather just continue their poor hygiene practices and get a flu shot.

    First off, Antaeus didn’t “make up an assumption,” he presented a hypothesis. One that is consistent with the observed data. Yours, on the other hand, does NOT provide an alternative explanation for why those who got the flu shot were less likely to have heart attacks. Ergo, the evidence here favors the former hypothesis over the latter.

    Is it possible that the effect you suggest might exist? Certainly. Is there any reason to suspect it based on these results? No. Is the hypothesis Antaeus advanced capable of explaining these results? Yes. Might that hypothesis therefore be worth looking at to see if there might be something to it? Yes.

  88. #88 Complicated Potatotes
    September 23, 2010

    “First off, Antaeus didn’t “make up an assumption,” he presented a hypothesis.”

    Comprehension fail.

    Definition of HYPOTHESIS
    1

    a : an [b]assumption[/b] or concession made for the sake of argument

    b : an interpretation of a practical situation or condition taken as the ground for action

    2 : a tentative [b]assumption[/b] made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences

    3 : the antecedent clause of a conditional statement

  89. #89 Scott
    September 23, 2010

    Science fail. “Hypothesis” has a very specific scientific definition; “assumption” is not part of it.

  90. #90 Vicki
    September 23, 2010

    Yes, some people are more health-conscious than others. But I don’t think many are thinking “I know I should wash my hands, but I don’t, so I’ll get a flu shot.”

    I recall reading (don’t know where, could google if it matters) that the rate of food poisoning was significantly lower last winter than most winters, and that this may be because, along with getting flu shots, a lot of people were being more careful about washing their hands.

    That’s interesting but doesn’t get us very far, unfortunately: the data aren’t going to show whether people who (still) got food poisoning are more, less, or equally likely to have had the flu as those who didn’t. Or whether they got flu shots, especially given how many of those shots were done at offices and drug store walk-in clinics: even if you go to the doctor for food poisoning, they’re unlikely to ask “by the way, did you have a flu shot this year?”

  91. #91 Complicated Potatotes
    September 23, 2010

    “Science fail. “Hypothesis” has a very specific scientific definition; “assumption” is not part of it.”

    Science, comprehension and basic reading skills fail.

    Please see definition 2 above.

  92. #92 squirrelelite
    September 23, 2010

    Vicki,

    I remember seeing that same article online somewhere about a month or two ago, but I couldn’t find it from digging through several pages of google listings. If anyone has the link, please post it.

    As I recall, the data had just come in and hadn’t been properly analyzed to see if this was a real effect or just a coincidence.

    However, since improper hand washing is one of the most common vectors for spreading foodborne illness, it certainly seems plausible that all the publicity about washing your hands and other surfaces to inhibit spreading the flu could have had this benefit as well.

  93. #93 Scott
    September 23, 2010

    Seriously, it’s like arguing with the dining room table.

  94. #94 squirrelelite
    September 23, 2010

    Scott,

    At least at the dining room table, you can eat the potatoes.

    :)

  95. #95 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    For the scientifically illiterate pedant, in science, a hypothesis is generally defined as: “A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.”

  96. #96 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    For the scientifically illiterate pedant, in science, a hypothesis is generally defined as: “A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.”

  97. #97 Calli Arcale
    September 23, 2010

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that not all dictionaries list the formal scientific or technical usages of various words, but instead confine themselves to the more common colloquial usages. I can’t really fault the dictionaries for this; they have only so much space, and the colloquial usage is more common and will thus be more important to list (from the perspective of formally documenting a natural language).

  98. #98 Complicated Potatoes
    September 23, 2010

    Scientifically illiterate? You are splitting hairs over a definition of a word in a pedantic exercise to try and make yourself look intellectually superior because you have no point to make. Being a science poseur doesn’t make you superior to anyone I’m afraid.

    A hypothesis is based on assumptions and initial conditions etc, otherwise it wouldn’t need scientific confirmation. Please refer to your textbooks if you feel you need to brush up on this topic without sounding silly.

  99. #99 Calli Arcale
    September 23, 2010

    Well, grammar flames do tend to make people look silly, often on both sides. I think the point that was intended was that assumption carries certain connotations, and the way you were using it, Complicated Potatoes, did not seem consistent with your later equating of it with “hypothesis”. You were disparaging his hypothesis by calling it an assumption, which makes your attempt to equate the two via a dictionary definition a little jarring.

  100. #100 Scott
    September 23, 2010

    Scientifically illiterate? You are splitting hairs over a definition of a word in a pedantic exercise to try and make yourself look intellectually superior because you have no point to make. Being a science poseur doesn’t make you superior to anyone I’m afraid.

    Look back at the posts. YOU blasted Antaeus for “making up assumptions” as representing bad science. He did NOT make up such an assumption. Then you decided to try to claim that a scientific hypothesis IS an “assumption” (which wouldn’t track with your original use of the term anyway).

    You’re the one trying to split grammatical hairs trying to save yourself from having been egregiously wrong in your unfounded attacks.

  101. #101 Chemmomo
    September 23, 2010

    As someone who teaches science, I am compelled to continue the pedantic argument.

    Your dictionary definition (Merriam Webster?) is wrong. Most other dictionaries carry the correct (and scientific) definition.

    A quick sampling of other dictionaries:
    Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, print edition, 2001:
    hypothesis
    1. A provisional theory set forth to explain some class of phenomenon, either accepted or as guide for future investigation or assumed for the sake of argument or testing
    2. a proposition assumed as a premise in an argument
    3. the antecedent of a conditional proposition
    4. a mere assumption or guess

    The Google dictionary (Sorry I don’t know how to do links)
    1. A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation
    2. A proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth

    From Cambridge Dictionary Online:
    an idea or explanation for something that is based on known facts but has not yet been proved

    From Your Dictionary dot com:
    an unproved theory, proposition, supposition, etc. tentatively accepted to explain certain facts or (working hypothesis) to provide a basis for further investigation, argument, etc.

    From the Free Dictionary dot com
    1. A tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.
    2. Something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation; an assumption.
    3. The antecedent of a conditional statement.

    As you can see, most sources provide the scientific definition (an idea to be testing) first, and add the colloquial “assumption” definitions as secondary.

    Insisting that the most important meaning of hypothesis is an assumption just makes you look foolish. This isn’t splitting hairs. This is basic understanding of scientific method. I guess these potatoes are too complicated for you.

  102. #102 squirrelelite
    September 23, 2010

    Complicated Potatoes,

    If you wish to be considered scientifically literate, try showing it in your writing instead of just tossing out general purpose dictionary definitions.

    Sauceress pointed out an interesting recent study suggesting there might be a side benefit to flu immunization by reducing heart attacks as a side of effect of suffering the disease (which seems independent of getting pneumonia as a secondary illness). That may just be a statistical fluke or it may be real and important, but it certainly is worth further research.

    Your response was to make a silly analogy with male pattern baldness.

    Your words do speak for themselves.

  103. #103 Seb30
    September 23, 2010

    From Squirrelite

    At least at the dining room table, you can eat the potatoes.

    I think I’m in awe. Please keep coming with sentences like this.

  104. #104 Joseph
    September 23, 2010

    That’s some bad science you got there Antaeus. Making up an assumption like that may be self satisfying but its most likely completely wrong. It could just as well be that the people that get flu shots get them because they aren’t health-conscious, and rather than avoiding the flu by washing their hands and other effective preventative measures would rather just continue their poor hygiene practices and get a flu shot.

    Ok, let me get this straight. Potatoes slams Anateus for coming up with a very reasonable hypothesis, calling it an “assumption,” and then Potatoes come back around with a hypothesis of his own, one that makes no sense whatsoever, i.e. people who get the flu shot are really not health-conscious, despite what reality-based thinking might lead us to believe.

  105. #105 Complicated Potatoes
    September 23, 2010

    “As you can see, most sources provide the scientific definition (an idea to be testing) first, and add the colloquial “assumption” definitions as secondary. ”

    Do you feel really important and smart now? That really does seems to be your goal. I am glad I am not as insecure about my intelligence as many here seem to be.

  106. #106 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 23, 2010

    Guys, why are we feeding the troll? This guy isn’t even a Goofus; to be that he’d have to be actually trying to discuss the science, instead of just playing word games.

  107. #107 Sauceress
    September 25, 2010

    why are we feeding the troll?

    Sniny coats?

    This guy isn’t even a Goofus; to be that he’d have to be actually trying to discuss the science

    Yes, not surprising but disappointing all the same. Nothing to bite into ‘cept stale air. My coat is looking rather dull lately. :(

  108. #108 Dedj
    September 25, 2010

    “You are splitting hairs over a definition of a word”

    No, it’s not commonly used the way you use it in this context.

    You are using the wrong contextual definition. You are wrong. You do not know you are wrong. You do not have the understanding or experience to know you are wrong.

    Regardless of why you are wrong, you are still wrong. When you were corrected, you resorted to an attack on the person that corrected you.

    You have shown more about yourself by the attitude of your response than you perhaps wanted to reveal.

  109. #109 triskelethecat
    September 25, 2010

    @Sauceress: yeah, the quality of trolls around here lately has been poor and it is reflecting in our pelts and teeth. Even with the expensive products, my pelt is no longer sniny and my fangs are dull. What’s a girl to do?

  110. #110 Complicated Potatoes
    September 25, 2010

    “You are wrong. You do not know you are wrong. You do not have the understanding or experience to know you are wrong…..blah, blah, blah”

    Wow, your intellectual insecurity seems to have no lower bound.

  111. #111 tresmal
    September 25, 2010

    Wow, your intellectual insecurity seems to have no lower bound.

    Wow, it took you 2 days to come up with that?

  112. #112 Sauceress
    September 25, 2010

    #110 Complicated Potatoes

    Wow, your intellectual insecurity seems to have no lower bound.

    Translation: “I haven’t even bothered to read the Study?!

    It’s free and you can even use a dictionary and/or Google for the words and concepts you don’t understand.

    If you’re going to troll, please at least attempt to make an some appearance of effort.
    Thank You.

  113. #113 Sauceress
    September 26, 2010

    @triskelethecat

    What’s a girl to do?

    Beats me! Perhaps a dull pelt is just a step down the road of evolution to complete hairlessness…a time when the willfully ignorant have ceased to exist?

    Oh well…at least day dreams are free.

    p.s. Every time I see “triskelethecat”, I think of Felix :)

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