Respectful Insolence

How not to achieve respectability

Sometimes I can’t figure anti-vaccine loons out. No, I’m not talking about the pure pseudoscience they lay down on a daily basis. I can sort of get how some of them might cling against all scientific evidence to the idea that somehow vaccines “damaged” their child, along with the blandishments of the army of quacks known as DAN! doctors promising them that, if you just use this diet, this new supplement, this new nostrum, this hyperbaric oxygen, you can have a normal child again. What I can’t get is how individuals who, however misguided they are about science, even to the point of laying down swaths of burning stupid that would melt diamonds, are otherwise pretty savvy in many areas still pull some seriously idiotic moves in areas that they should know about.

Take, for instance, Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted, whose latest anti-vaccine book isn’t exactly burning up the charts are obviously desperate for scientific respectability. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about them, it’s that they crave the validation of science; they want to be taken seriously by scientists, especially Mark “not a doctor, not a scientist” Blaxill. Failing that, at the very least they want the media and government to take them seriously, the former of which will presumably lead to the public taking them seriously. So what do you do if you are a couple of cranks who really, really want to be taken seriously by the media and have a book full of pseudoscience that you’re trying to sell?

I know one thing you don’t do if you want to be taken seriously. You don’t appear on Gary Null’s radio show. Don Imus’s show, I can understand. Imus may be an aging shock jock long past his prime (if he ever had a prime) and anti-vaccine crank, but he does have a mainstream show that covers politics and has a relatively wide listenership. Gary Null, on the other hand, is pure crank, pure quack. If you want to be taken seriously, you stay as far away from Gary Null as you possibly can. He’s right up there, crank-wise, with Mike Adams, Joe Mercola, and John Scudamore.

I have a hard time not concluding that Generation Rescue, at least, no longer cares if it can gain any mainstream respect. And it shouldn’t, because the anti-vaccine movement has been riding the crazy train for so long that even the mainstream media is starting to figure it out. No, I suspect that the anti-vaccine movement is now pandering to its base.

As Blaxill and Olmsted launch their book tour, I do, however, see opportunities for a bit of skeptical activism against the anti-vaccine movement. For instance:

October 23rd
Chicago, IL
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) Chapter
Time & Location: TBA
Jacey Capurso

Paging the Chicago Skeptics!

Then there’s:

October 31st
North Atlanta, GA
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) Chapter
1:00 – 3:00 pm
TBA

Calling the Atlanta Skeptics!

You get the idea. It’s a perfect opportunity to show up, see what Blaxill and Olmsted have to say, and then challenge them firmly but politely. It may not be as hilarious as watching The Refusers, but, then, what is?

Comments

  1. #1 V. infernalis
    September 23, 2010

    It just occurred to me to ask whether anti-vaxxers are as skeptical about vaccines for animals as they are about vaccines for people (autistic dogs and cats?). Judging by the comments on this article, I would say the answer is yes:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/06/2647283.htm

  2. #2 Visitor
    September 23, 2010

    Not sure about this post. Surely it’s obvious that they are appearing on crank outlets because nobody else is interested.

    What do you do when you found a publisher who laid out some money (assuming this isn’t a vanity job with Blaxill paying the print bill), and nobody reviews, and nobody wants to buy, your book?

    Once all the plaintiffs in the omnibus have bought a copy, plus Jake Crosby, where’s the market?

    Even from the snippets I’ve seen from this book, it’s clear the authors have neither a clue about, or an interest in, the causes of autism.

  3. #3 NZ Sceptic
    September 23, 2010

    On the awful off-chance that this book shows up in any of my local bookstores, I shall make a point of moving all or any copies to the Fairytale section alongside Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Or maybe Science Fiction/Fantasy!

    I love Kev’s comparison; sluggish sales of Blaxhill and Olmstead’s volume have the effect of putting Andrew Wakefield Callous Disregard’s pathetic sales (circa 3000 copies, apparently) in the JK Rowling league- relatively, of course!

  4. #4 Broken Link
    September 23, 2010

    I think the reason that Age of Autism, the book, is selling so poorly is that even that fan base already knows what’s in it. With Callous Disregard, the hook was that maybe St. Andy had something revolutionary to say in his own defense. But Age of Autism, the columns, already spilled all the best stuff:

    “Autism never existed before Kanner discovered it, therefore if we look at those cases carefully, we can get a clue to this mysterious disorder!”,

    “Amish don’t vaccinate and have no autism!”,

    “All Kanner’s patient’s parents were exposed to mercury!”,

    “Kanner’s patient #1 cured by biomedical treatments!”.

    I don’t think even the faithful are going to shell out $ for what they have already read for free.

  5. #5 DrWonderful
    September 23, 2010

    No offense, sir, but I am left to wonder why someone would be qualified to discuss the clinical questions surrounding vaccines and their alleged connection to autism simply because they consider themselves “skeptics.” After perusing this site for some time myself, and many others who do not comment, find that merely calling yourself a “skeptic” does not qualify one for much of anything, let alone discussing clinical issues.

    I mean no disrespect, Orac, but it would seem to me that your call for random skeptics to march in protest reveals a deeper pseudoreligious, or fundamentalist, crusade on the part of yourself and the skeptical movement. A crusade that seems hauntingly familiar to me as a chiropractor. I really feel compelled to point this out. You are a physician, and apparently a damn good one, and I am surprised you would do this.

    Is this a “skeptic” cause or a clinical issue?

  6. #6 Zaxter
    September 23, 2010

    “Is this a “skeptic” cause or a clinical issue?”

    Phony, not-a-real-doctor concern troll.

  7. #7 DrWonderful
    September 23, 2010

    @Zaxter- well, it is?

    You didn’t seem to answer the question but resorted to name calling. How old are you? Wow, what a great example of exactly why snarky fatheads get no respect except in their own underground bunkers.

    Anyway, I believe the question is valid and acting like a total dope does not make it go away. The world just wants to find out why their kids are autistic and could not care less about the crusades waged by either side. How would you answer the question?

  8. #8 DrWonderful
    September 23, 2010

    @Zaxter- well, it is?

    You didn’t seem to answer the question but resorted to name calling. How old are you? Wow, what a great example of exactly why snarky fatheads get no respect except in their own underground bunkers.

    Anyway, I believe the question is valid and acting like a total dope does not make it go away. The world just wants to find out why their kids are autistic and could not care less about the crusades waged by either side. How would you answer the question?

  9. #9 DrWonderful
    September 23, 2010

    @Zaxter- well, it is?

    You didn’t seem to answer the question but resorted to name calling. How old are you? Wow, what a great example of exactly why snarky fatheads get no respect except in their own underground bunkers.

    Anyway, I believe the question is valid and acting like a total dope does not make it go away. The world just wants to find out why their kids are autistic and could not care less about the crusades waged by either side. How would you answer the question?

  10. #10 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @DrWonderful

    After perusing this site for some time myself, and many others who do not comment, find that merely calling yourself a “skeptic” does not qualify one for much of anything, let alone discussing clinical issues.

    True that simply being a skeptic does not make one more or less qualified for any particular topic. Kind of like being the parent of an autistic kid does not, in and of itself, qualify one for much of anything, let alone discussing clinical issues.

    Where skepticism comes in, though, is in the critical questioning of claims and weighing the evidence. And certainly, I would wager that skeptics are, in general, a bit more well-versed in the actual (as opposed to pseudo) science behind the whole vaccine autism thing than many antivaxers, and certainly more than the average Joe off the street. This is just my guess, though.

  11. #11 MikeMa
    September 23, 2010

    @DrWonderful,
    Skepticism is an attitude not a degree. That attitude allows anyone to look at what is being said and find it logically compelling, scientifically supported, and relevant. Or not. It means not accepting opinions without data or evidence. It relies on sound, generally accepted practices and a willingness to examine new evidence critically and dispassionately. It means accepting failure now and again too.

    Anyone can do it. Even you.

  12. #12 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    Just to clarify one thing so I don’t get flamed. Obviously, parents of autistic children can speak to the experience of raising their child and dealing with the challenges involved. Simply being a parent, though, does not qualify them (in the sense implied by DrWonderful) to speak on the clinical etiology of autism, epidemiology, virology, or any other related field of science.

  13. #13 cervantes
    September 23, 2010

    it would seem to me that your call for random skeptics to march in protest reveals a deeper pseudoreligious, or fundamentalist, crusade on the part of yourself and the skeptical movement. A crusade that seems hauntingly familiar to me as a chiropractor.

    Orac is calling for informed, thoughtful people to protest preposterous, harmful lies. Of which chiropractic is an excellent example. You should acquire useful skills and seek honest work.

  14. #14 DrWonderful
    September 23, 2010

    @Todd- I agree. The parent are no more qualified than a self-proclaimed, self-degreed, skeptic. However, their experience rips my heart open and I tend to just let them emote. Victims tend to have that power, don’t they? In the end their opinions are no more valid than many of the people who, for whatever reason, decide they are “skeptics” and therefore have a self righteous obligation to snark the shit out of anyone who opens their mouth.

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    September 23, 2010

    While the aforementioned woo-slingers collectively can hardly garner a modicom of respectability, they can certainly rake in the bucks! Most likely the authors want to ride their coattails and increase book sales. Although it’s difficult to get sales figures on Adams’ and Mercola’s ( oh, secrets wrapped inside riddles and covered by enigmas) enterprises, Null’s sales are estimated at $10.8 million yearly (by manta.com). I can’t imagine Adams having so many greedy fingers in so many ( probably organic, vegan) pies ( see HealthRanger.com/ current projects) if there weren’t sufficient profits.((BTW, for those with a strong enough stomach, B’s & O’s appearance will be “archived” on Null’s websites)).

  16. #16 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @DrWonderful

    See, the problem is when those parents decide to write a book full of nonsense that can have a very real, and very bad, impact on public health. When they go around promoting nonsense that could lead to a resurgence of infectious diseases that can have some really nasty complications, then it is the responsibility of people like those who read RI to ask some rather necessary questions of those parent-authors.

    Your argument seems to be that skeptics, many of whom know a fair amount about the actual science behind the vaccine-autism manufactroversy, should just sit back and let B&O peddle their misinformation without challenge, consequences be damned?

  17. #17 Composer99
    September 23, 2010

    Dr Wonderful:

    (1) If activism against vaccination, based on lack of knowledge (or ignorance) of the current evidence and sloppy reasoning, is acceptable, then why not counter-activism that is informed by the current evidence and sound reasoning?

    (2) Your ‘deeper pseudoreligious’ and ‘fundamentalist crusade’ stuff smells rather badly of straw.

  18. #18 Scott
    September 23, 2010

    @12:

    We’re not discussing “opinions” here. We’re discussing hard facts. The anti-vax brigade’s “opinions” are demonstrably false, and therefore entitled to no deference or respect at all.

  19. #19 Breton
    September 23, 2010

    Sorry to interrupt but I thought this article may be of interest
    http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/article673258.ece/Measles-outbreak-kills-70-in-Zim
    (hopefully inserted correctly)

  20. #20 Breton
    September 23, 2010

    Sorry to interrupt but I thought this article may be of interest
    http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/article673258.ece/Measles-outbreak-kills-70-in-Zim
    (hopefully inserted correctly)

  21. #21 davep
    September 23, 2010

    @DrWonderful: “However, their experience rips my heart open and I tend to just let them emote. Victims tend to have that power, don’t they?”

    Seems kind of one sided.

    What about Blaxill and Olmsted? Why aren’t you complaining about them?

    Which side is correct?

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    September 23, 2010

    DrWonderful — it’s not about a fundamentalist crusade on behalf of “Science”, which would in fact not be science at all. You don’t need credentials to have an opinion, nor to have the right to express it. (c.f. Blaxill and Olmsted) Be wary of the argument from authority; as all skeptics know, credentials are a useful shortcut in deciding whether to listen to a claim, but they do not actually test the claim itself at all.

    What Orac is calling for isn’t a march against unorthodox ideas. What he’s calling for is for skeptics to rise up and challenge those claims which they find lacking. It’s a good thing. An idea which has merit will survive the challenge. That is how science works. At least in theory, anyway; due to finite resources, not every idea will get properly challenged in a timely fashion — but that just means science needs more people to do some challenging, and we can all help with that.

    Granted, we are all constrained by our level of expertise on particular topics, which limits our ability to be effective challengers. I can’t effectively challenge most claims in the area of quantum mechanics; I just don’t understand the material enough. But there are claims in the vaccine-autism controversy that I do feel I understand well enough to adequately challenge. If I am wrong, then the truth will come out; most likely, they’ll survive the challenge.

    If someone has a revolutionary idea and is confident in it, they should not fear challenges. Instead, they should rise to them. A great example of that is Darwin. He knew natural selection would be controversial, so he spent a great deal of time making sure it was bulletproof — rising to the challenge which he had already anticipated. It took years and an enormous amount of work, but the result was that his idea withstood the challenges.

    I understand what you’re saying about victims; it’s hard not to sympathize, and you shouldn’t stop yourself from sympathizing. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t sympathize with them. But you don’t have to let it cloud your reason, or decide that just because they’ve had it bad, they should get some special dispensation in arguments. I think they deserve to be treated a little more kindly than most, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe they have some special status with respect to the truth. Their experience gives you a window and a reason to care about the truth. It doesn’t give you the truth itself, and it’s important to be aware of the distinction.

    I’ve known doctors who have fallen into that trap, of accepting their patients’ claims at face value because they didn’t want to offend them, and then basically just humoring them. It never ended well. The most dramatic example was not someone I know personally, but made the local papers — a psychiatrist was humoring a seriously delusional patient, to the point where she became heavily involved in the patient’s paranoid delusions, supporting her decision to stop her antipsychotic drugs and assisting her in attempting to hide from nonexistent government kidnappers and sending her family into a panic when she disappeared. The police had to come, and the psychiatrist was arrested for kidnapping and false imprisonment, then later lost her license. That didn’t exactly help the patient.

    That’s the thing. It can *seem* like the respectful thing to do is to never disagree. But it’s not, and the results can be worse than if you’d never gotten involved at all. Just ask most families around the holidays; “keeping the peace” can end up creating more problems than the actual conflict that everybody’s trying to avoid. Humoring people can seem good, and in some circumstances, it’s the only choice you realistically have (especially if the person has dementia — I’m learning that first-hand with my grandmother, who is not in the 21st Century anymore). But in general, honesty is the best policy.

  23. #23 DerelictHat
    September 23, 2010

    After perusing this site for some time myself, and many others who do not comment, find that merely calling yourself a “skeptic” does not qualify one for much of anything, let alone discussing clinical issues.

    Sure, and all my invisible friends support my viewpoint that this site is awesome. Let’s have your invisible friends and mine fight over it.

    Additionally, I find it highly amusing that you claim to have perused this site for some time and draw the conclusion that Orac has no basis for his discussion of clinical matters. Clearly, he has no medical education or experience.

  24. #24 HealthEd
    September 23, 2010

    To break into the troll’s breakfast feeding here …

    I had the debatable good fortune to catch Blaxill and Olmsted on Imus this morning. I made myself listen just to see what kinds of crazy they’d spew. Among the choice bits:

    * How come there aren’t any autistic adults more than 30-40 years old? Because autism didn’t exist before these vaccinations started.

    * Imus, in one of his more rational moments, asked why autism rates haven’t gone down since thimerosal has been taken out of childhood vaccines. It was Blaxill I believe who responded that at the same that has been happening, the flu shot (loaded with mercury, they say) has been increasingly pushed on toddlers and pregnant women.

    * The claim was made that the packaging for the flu shot says safety hasn’t been ascertained in pregnant women. Any truth to this? (And even if that’s the case, isn’t the risk of the flu far greater?)

    * As part of the “treat us like scientists!” schtick Orac mentioned, one of them said the key was sorting out the “good evidence from the bad evidence.” Um, no, evidence is evidence. It’s the interpretations that falter.

    * Lastly, I think it was Olmsted who said there wasn’t anyone who didn’t know someone touched by autism (well, I don’t), and that it was (from memory here, not the transcript) “a childhood public health crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen in this country.” Because of course measles, meningitis, etc., which actually *kill* people, are just peanuts in comparison.

    There was more—including a repeated plea to medical practitioners to essentially take the fight back from the “medical establishment” so that pharma isn’t doing the only studies (huh?)—but I think I started to block it out. Hopefully there’s a transcript somewhere.

  25. #25 Dan Weber
    September 23, 2010

    In a land of free speech (like we have, for now, in the United States), it’s totally appropriate to counter what you feel is improper speech by someone else by making your own speech. It should not stop the original group from talking or being heard, but the audience can be made aware that there is another side to the story.

  26. #26 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @HealthEd

    Here are the approved flu vaccines and their status for pregnant women, based on the package inserts (I didn’t check PubMed):

    Afluria (CSL Ltd) – not tested in pregnant women
    Agriful (Novartis) – not tested in pregnant women
    FluLaval (ID Biomedical Corp) – not tested in pregnant women
    Fluarix (GSK) – not tested in pregnant women
    Fluvirin (Novartis) – not tested in pregnant women
    Fluzone (Sanofi-Pasteur) – not tested in pregnant women

    The vaccines have been tested at significantly higher doses (up to 56x the relative dose in humans) in pregnant animals like rats and rabbits with no observed adverse events.

    Package inserts for these can be found here.

  27. #27 HealthEd
    September 23, 2010

    @Todd W.

    Thanks for the info. I guess they actually got something right.

    So does that constitute an off-label use then? Would the shots be considered Pregnancy Category B?

    All I know is, if I’m ever lucky enough to get knocked up, I’d much rather take my chances with a vaccine rather than with a microbe.

  28. #28 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @HealthEd

    Giving the flu vaccine to pregnant women would be off-label, since none of the approved vaccines have been tested and approved to be marketed specifically to pregnant women. As to the pregnancy category, I don’t work for FDA, but based on their criteria I would say that yes, it probably is category B.

  29. #29 triskelethecat
    September 23, 2010

    @Todd W and HealthEd: to be perfectly honest, there is NO drug that has been tested on pregnant women. There are a good number of drugs that fall under “well, we’ve used them for years and haven’t found any problems”, or “well, we haven’t seen any bad effects and you really need treatment for this disease, but we can’t guarantee this drug is safe in pregnant women” but there is no drug, anywhere in the world, that has had clinical trials performed in pregnant women. In fact, for many years, almost all clinical drug trials excluded ALL women of childbearing age, just in case she might become pregnant during the trial.

    So, yeah. Basically, all drugs used in pregnancy – antibiotics, vaccines, NSAIDS, whatever – are off-label uses because the safety of the drug has not been tested for pregnant women. (Actually, the same thing pretty much applies, except for vaccines, for children. I don’t believe clinical drug trials generally allow children to be used either).

  30. #30 triskelethecat
    September 23, 2010

    Guess I should have added: this does NOT mean I think women should go untreated or unvaccinated. I was just agreeing with Todd that almost all drugs fall under Category B as far as pregnant women go. (I don’t have my drug book here at work so can’t double check all the categories. I just remember B and X!)

  31. #31 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @MI Dawn (triskelethecat)

    Well, I’m not sure that absolutely no drugs have been studied in pregnant women. For market approval, I would say that’s probably true.

    For instance, I decided to check clinicaltrials.gov and found a completed study by NIAID looking at Fluarix and Fluzone in pregnant women.

    So, drugs have been studied in pregnant women, just not, perhaps, by the drug companies looking for market approval. Which is kind of understandable, given the potential for serious harm and bad publicity if something happens to the mother or fetus, like what happened predominantly in Europe with thalidomide.

  32. #32 Orange Lantern
    September 23, 2010

    Agriflu, Flulaval, and Fluarix are category B
    Afluria, Fluvirin, Fluzone are category C.

    I’m curious as to whether you need animal studies each year to get a category B with flu vaccines, or if previous years’ research counts even though you have a vaccine with different strains each year.

  33. #33 triskelethecat
    September 23, 2010

    @Todd W: You are right, and I should have been more specific. I did mean initial market approval trials (clinical trials for new drugs), not studies that review the use of drugs in pregnanct women. Thanks for the correction. :)

    P.S. and I’m glad you know it’s me, no matter WHAT darn name Sciblogs uses for me…

  34. #34 HealthEd
    September 23, 2010

    @triskelethecat

    Au contraire. The feds are making a big push for more info about how drugs act/interact in the pediatric population so more trials are starting to include kids. I just wrote a story about 3 teens offered the choice to participate in trials for cancer Rxs; one of the pediatric cancer docs said probably half of her patients enter trials. I can understand how scary it might be for parents/children, but overall it’s better to have more reliable data.

  35. #35 gaiainc
    September 23, 2010

    Two drugs that are category A (known to be safe in pregnancy with human and animal studies) are levothyroxine and acetaminophen (jen in TX not withstanding). Other drugs that have been studied specifically in pregnant women are misoprostol and oxytocin since we use them in studies to figure out how best to get pregnant women into labor.

    My understanding from when I was working at an university hospital is that all the pediatric cancer patients are offered participation in a clinical trial. Most parents and kids accept, something about 75% or higher (this is my faulty memory from my last conversation with one of the pediatric oncologist). I don’t know if that was because that was the least expensive way to get the kids the treatment they needed or that my former university was really, really, really good about getting people signed up. If my little one ended up with cancer, I’d probably have little one in a trial, assuming the trial was reasonable.

    Orange Lantern, I don’t know the answer to the question, but given that the constiuents of the flu vaccine are the same and what is changing is the protein coats from the viruses, my gut tells that previous data is OK to use.

  36. #36 brian
    September 23, 2010

    Imus, in one of his more rational moments, asked why autism rates haven’t gone down since thimerosal has been taken out of childhood vaccines. It was Blaxill I believe who responded that at the same that has been happening, the flu shot (loaded with mercury, they say) has been increasingly pushed on toddlers and pregnant women.

    Imus (who, like his wife, utterly failed to follow up on Blaxill’s disingenuous reply) could have asked something like this: “Well, including those darned flu shots, how much thimerosal do kids receive by age six compared to how much they received by the same age in 1988, before the start of the “epidemic?”

    Blaxill would then have had an opportunity to crow that ASD prevalence has plummeted since 2002 to well below the 1988 levels, because six years of the post-1999 schedule plus yearly flu shots would lead to a small fraction of the pre-1999 exposure and only about HALF of the exposure to thimerosal that was mandated by the “pre-epidemic” vaccine schedule. Oh, wait:

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

  37. #37 nlgirl
    September 23, 2010

    @Todd- I agree. The parent are no more qualified than a self-proclaimed, self-degreed, skeptic. However, their experience rips my heart open and I tend to just let them emote. Victims tend to have that power, don’t they?

    Victim?

    That is why I hate the anti-vax sheeple. According to them, my son would be better off dead than autistic and according to their spokes-”dr.” he has also sucked the soul from our family. When they consider their children to be so completely damaged, it is no wonder that they submit those children to stressful, painful, and fruitless interventions.

    It was a lucky day indeed when I was introduced to this blog and the thoughtful, intelligent, and skeptical thinkers who respond to it. I have learned so much from many of you and am reassured often that I am making the right choices for my own son.

  38. #38 Liz Ditz
    September 23, 2010

    HealthEd @22:

    Thanks for listening to Imus — I just can’t stomach him on anything, let alone B&O

    Among the choice bits:

    * How come there aren’t any autistic adults more than 30-40 years old? Because autism didn’t exist before these vaccinations started.

    B&O are flat-out lying here (if you reproduced their words accurately). For example, on the ground-breaking Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults living in households throughout England – report from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 fully 34% of study participants (male and female) were over 55.

    There was more—including a repeated plea to medical practitioners to essentially take the fight back from the “medical establishment” so that pharma isn’t doing the only studies (huh?)—but I think I started to block it out. Hopefully there’s a transcript somewhere.

    You can get transcripts but you have to pay for Inside Imus — $6.97 a month.

  39. #39 Liz Ditz
    September 23, 2010

    DrWonderful @12 wrote

    The parent are no more qualified than a self-proclaimed, self-degreed, skeptic. However, their experience rips my heart open and I tend to just let them emote. Victims tend to have that power, don’t they? In the end their opinions are no more valid than many of the people who, for whatever reason, decide they are “skeptics” and therefore have a self righteous obligation to snark the shit out of anyone who opens their mouth.

    Sir, your condescending, ignorant comment disgusts me.

    Let’s start at the top:
    “Emote” means To express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner:.

    How dare you label all autism parents as “victims”? They aren’t. Oh, sure, some do pull out the victim card — especially the “autism is vaccine injury” set. But there are many many more strong parents who do not blame vaccines for their children’s path. Many of these have accepted that their children will have a more complicated path through childhood and adulthood. Those parents celebrate their children’s growth and gifts, while working hard to provide their children with educational and other approaches that will help mitigate their limitations.

    Some of those parents publish their views, like Kristina Chew or Shannon Rosa or Dad of Cameron or Emily Willingham or Joseph…that’s a short and extremely limited list, and it doesn’t include adults with autism who do not view themselves as victims.

    For every one of those blogging parents, there are hundreds, if not thousands more non-victim parents, who are just getting on with the process of raising their children as best they can.

    In the end their opinions are no more valid than many of the people

    You are correct…partially, in that many parents do in fact back up their opinions with evidence. I would direct you to Roy Richard Grinker’s “opinions” on autism, specifically his book Unstrange Minds, or perhaps Michael Fitzpatrick’s Defeating Autism..

    who, for whatever reason, decide they are “skeptics” and therefore have a self righteous obligation to snark the shit out of anyone who opens their mouth.

    That last is more than a straw man — it’s a straw mountain.

    One question, DrWonderful: where and in what context do you see these parents? Are you treating them for musculoskeletal conditions (as you’ve previously stated):

    My practice is limited to musculoskeletal conditions by choice.

    Or have you broadened your scope of practice?

    If you have not, why are you discussing personal matters with parents in your practice?

  40. #40 Jen in TX
    September 23, 2010

    @ gaiainc:

    Acetaminophen is category B.

  41. #41 Todd W.
    September 23, 2010

    @Liz Ditz

    Perhaps B&O were getting argumentation tips from Tony Bateson.

  42. #42 brian
    September 23, 2010

    In the first response in this thread, V. infernalis wrote: “It just occurred to me to ask whether anti-vaxxers are as skeptical about vaccines for animals as they are about vaccines for people (autistic dogs and cats?).”
    Well, just as you’d expect, AoA is all over this. Kent Heckenlively, AoA’s legal editor (well, he’s a high school teacher) wrote:

    “I thought of all the pet ailments I’ve heard over the past few years that I never recall hearing during my youth. In addition to pet cancers, there are pet seizures, pet diabetes, and my in-laws recently had to euthanize their dog because of a brain tumor. Something is amiss in our pets as surely as it’s amiss in our children.”

    Oh, no! Diabetes! Brain tumors! Just like in our children, the problem in our pets is the VACCINES! Fortunately, now that the very first person in history has been saved from active rabies, there’s little reason to vaccinate pets to prevent transmission to humans:

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/08/bugzy-and-the-rabies-shot.html

  43. #43 gaiainc
    September 23, 2010

    Jen in TX, that’s a change from the last time I looked… which was probably about 5-10 years which was the last time I was curious as to what meds were category A. I stand corrected. Then again, I’ve been known to use category C drugs in pregnancy with some regular frequency. Promethazine is easier to pry out of the hands of the insurance companies than a lot of other anti-emetics.

  44. #44 Calli Arcale
    September 23, 2010

    brian — not at all surprising, but I wonder how they’ll explain it to their kids when the dog bites someone and the authorities take it away to be decapitated and tested for rabies.

    Some jurisdictions will, if there is no proof of vaccination, allow the bite victim to decide the dog’s fate — if the victim is willing to begin prophylactic rabies shots without knowing the dog’s status, they can put the dog in quarantine instead and just watch for rabies symptoms. But if the victim would rather be sure first, the dog has to be killed in order to determine rabies status.

    I wonder how they feel about Heartguard? It’s not strictly a vaccine; it’s an antiparasitic. But it costs money, and it’s not “natural”. (Which is true. It’s more natural for a certain percentage of dogs and cats to die of heartworm infestations.)

  45. #45 triskelethecat
    September 24, 2010

    Thanks to all those who pointed out my errors yesterday. Meant to comment yesterday after I got home from work but it was one of those evenings where if it COULD go wrong it DID go wrong and so spent the evening moping up messes (literally and figuratively).

  46. #46 Paul
    September 24, 2010

    Orac, you forgot Alex Jones among the list of radio hosts to avoid if you want to be taken seriously. You can’t leave him off the list of antivax cranks.

  47. #47 Hah!!
    September 24, 2010

    Name yourself after an obscure sci-fi character and expound ad nauseum about your own greatness?

  48. #48 julie
    September 24, 2010

    I thought about attending the closest CA session and writing about it for Science Based Parenting. But I just don’t know if I could actually stomach it.

  49. #49 Prometheus
    September 24, 2010

    “Dr. Wonderful” (#12) comments:

    “The parent are no more qualified than a self-proclaimed, self-degreed, skeptic. However, their experience rips my heart open and I tend to just let them emote.”

    Emoting is one thing, claiming to know the cause or treatment of autism is quite another. If parents want to cry or rage about how miserable their lives are or how difficult it is to raise an autistic child, I think that is fine – to a point. However, their pain and grief give them no license to expound on scientific or technical matters which they know little or nothing about.

    Being a parent of a disabled child is difficult – as I know only too well – but it doesn’t make a Playboy bunny or a business school grad into a scientist or a doctor. It also doesn’t magically open the door into a realm of “revealed wisdom” that scientists and doctors can’t access. If anything, it makes it doubly difficult to avoid the traps of wishful thinking and false hope.

    “Dr. W.” continues:

    “Victims tend to have that power, don’t they?”

    The term “victim” seems to imply that there is another character in this drama: the “victimiser”. Who, exactly, caused the autism in their children and made these parents “victims”? The scientific data to date suggest that autism is caused primarily by genetic mutation, so the “victimiser” would be….who?

    If you’re an “Intelligent Design” believer, I suppose you could blame “The Designer”, but otherwise you’re left blaming your own DNA replication machinery. Not very satifying.

    If nobody (real or unreal) is responsible for their child’s autism, then they are “victims” only in the sense that we sometimes use for people who are “victims” of purely random events beyond anyone’s control, like being struck by a meteor. Yet we rarely ask meteor “victims” to tell us about orbital mechanics or the composition of the solar system. Why would it be different with parents of autistic children?

    “Dr. W.” isn’t finished, though:

    “In the end their opinions are no more valid than many of the people who, for whatever reason, decide they are “skeptics” and therefore have a self righteous obligation to snark the shit out of anyone who opens their mouth.”

    If we were talking about “opinions” like whether vanilla is a superior flavour to chocolate or Beethoven was a better composer than Mozart, then I could agree. However, in the question of what causes and, more to the point, what doesn’t cause autism, there happen to be data that should inform people’s “opinions”.

    For whatever reason, Messrs. Blaxill and Olmsted have chosen to ignore the mountains of data that show no correlation between thimerosal/mercury and autism. This is not a matter of opinion – it is a matter of data.

    Of course, people are allowed to have opinions that are contradicted by data – it happens all the time – but that doesn’t mean that we need to respect their opinion. If people speak (or print) nonsense, they should expect to be contradicted. If they can’t support their position with data, they should expect to be ridiculed.

    If people who hold nonsensical opinions want to be shielded from humiliation, they would be best advised to keep their opinions to themselves.

    That said, most people – even those on this ‘blog – will first respond to nonsensical opinions with gentle (if firm) attempts at education. Admittedly, the hundredth or so time someone pops up on this ‘blog claiming that vaccines cause autism or that homeopathy is more than water, the responses can be a bit testy. Everyone’s patience has a limit.

    But letting someone persist in ignorance or error out of politeness doesn’t do them any good. Even if their erroneous beliefs don’t cause harm to anyone but themselves (definitely not the case here), the truly polite act is to gently show them their error. If someone shows repeatedly that they aren’t yet receptive to reality, I favor encouraging them to remain open-minded and leaving them alone. However, if a person keeps coming back over and over again, trying to convince me – by assertion alone; no data – that their nonsense is “The Truth”, I feel that there is no choice but public ridicule. Otherwise, people listening in (or reading along) may misconstrue silence as acceptance.

    What I can’t quite figure about “Dr. Wonderful” is his/her belief that the skeptics on this and other skeptical ‘blogs have no experience or education in the fields in question. There are scientists, physicians and even a few parents of autistic children who have commented on this post alone. One might ask “Dr. Wonderful” what his qualifications are to join in this discussion.

    In the end, everyone is entitled to their own opinion – in fact, it would be impossible to prohibit people from having their own opinion. However, the ability to form an opinion is no guarantee that it is correct.

    Prometheus

  50. #50 pablo
    September 24, 2010

    Of course, people are allowed to have opinions that are contradicted by data – it happens all the time – but that doesn’t mean that we need to respect their opinion. If people speak (or print) nonsense, they should expect to be contradicted. If they can’t support their position with data, they should expect to be ridiculed.

    If people who hold nonsensical opinions want to be shielded from humiliation, they would be best advised to keep their opinions to themselves.

    Damn, I wish we could post this at the top of every thread on every discussion forum. The internet would be so much easier.

  51. #51 squirrelelite
    September 24, 2010

    Not directly related to autism, but I happened to catch a rerun last night of the Nova episode from last December called What Darwin Never Knew.

    The transcript is here.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/darwin-never-knew.html

    I watched the last part about the research of Hansell Stedman, Chris Walsh, and Katie Pollard.

    What struck me was how so much of the difference in our brain development from our nearest genetic cousin, the chimpanzee, come from just a few mutations in the DNA switches that control gene expression. And, how several of those mutations involve a missing half of one of the nucleotide pairs.

    These researchers were studying muscular dystrophy, microcephaly, and the development of the cerebral cortex.

  52. #52 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 26, 2010

    Name yourself after an obscure sci-fi character and expound ad nauseum about your own greatness?

    You mean “Andrew Wakefield” is the name of an obscure sci-fi character? I never knew that! Or is it “Gary Null”? That must be it: Gary Null, Space Cadet!

  53. #53 Paul Murray
    September 27, 2010

    “Gary Null, on the other hand, is pure crank, pure quack.”

    The cranks themselves wouldn’t see him that way.

  54. #54 Paul Murray
    September 27, 2010

    “I wonder how they feel about Heartguard? It’s not strictly a vaccine; it’s an antiparasitic. But it costs money, and it’s not “natural”.”

    Nonsense! Arsenic is a naturally-occuring mineral that has been used in medicine for thousands of years!