Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, in the course of applying a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence to a particularly brain dead exercise by the anti-vaccine movement, in which the International Medical Council on Vaccination (the most deceptively named anti-vaccine organization this side of the National Vaccine Information Center) gathered 80 signatures of “health care professionals” who warn about the danger of vaccines, I pointed out something I have noticed about not just anti-vaccine groups by by may different cranks groups. I’m referring to the “petition” or the statement attacking consensus science signed by an impressive-looking list of people with advanced degrees. As such an exercise, the IMCV list was particularly pathetic at only around 80 signatures, including a significant percentage of naturopaths and chiropractors, as well as some anti-vaccine advocates who can charitably only referred to as being even more off than even a typical Age of Autism (AoA) blogger.

Speaking of AoA bloggers, there was a doozy of a post yesterday on AoA that demonstrated another characteristic of cranks other than a propensity for making lists of fake experts supporting their viewpoints the way that creationists, anthropogenic global warming denialists, 9/11 Truthers, and now antivaccinationists do. That characteristic is an unholy mixture of a persecution complex, in which the crank or cranks believe that they are the target of a conspiracy to silence or oppose them, combined with the absolute certainty that they are right and that one day they will be vindicated. This latter characteristic is particularly well-demonstrated by a post by Kent Heckenlively at AoA entitled Our Time Will Come. Kent, as you might recall, is one of the nicer denizens of AoA, always polite and never nasty, in marked contrast to his leader J.B. Handley. In fact, for that very reason I usually don’t relish writing about some of his more nonsensical posts. However, in this case, it’s hard not to, because his post epitomizes the mindset of not just anti-vaccine activists, but anti-science cranks of all kinds, in which they are utterly convinced that they are right, science is wrong, and they will ultimately be vindicated.

After reading Kent’s post, all I could think was: What planet does Kent live on? You see, apparently to Kent the anti-vaccine movement is just like the oppressed people in Egypt who are currently rising up against an authoritarian ruler after 30 years of being under his thumb. And, just like the Egyptians apparently, it’s not his fault or that of his fellow anti-vaccine propagandists that they are radical. Oh, no. It’s the fault of their oppressors, who are–surprise! surprise!–the “reigning medical establishment”:

I’ve been glued to the television the last couple days watching the situation in Egypt unfold and thinking of our community. Make no doubt about it, we are an opposition group. If there is any radicalism within us it’s because our questions to the reigning medical establishment have been so consistently ignored, and we as a community have been attacked. What have we asked of the medical community which threatens them so greatly? A study on the rates of neurological disorders among vaccinated and unvaccinated children? If that would take too long, how about a similar study with a group of vaccinated and unvaccinated primates?

Because the anti-vaccine movement spreading fear about vaccines is exactly like the Egyptians taking to the streets to demand their freedom and an end to a repressive government.

Far be it from me to point out that the discredited Andrew Wakefield already tried to do just such a study with primates and screwed it up royally, to the point where, in a horrific waste of primates, his results are basically uninterpretable and tell us nothing. Well, not, it’s not far from me at all to do that. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last six years now. Ultimately, the journal retracted Wakefield’s work, and with good reason. As for the “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study that the anti-vaccine movement so pines for, it’s neither scientifically justified, ethical, nor practical. To Heckenlively, merely saying so and refusing to fund such crappy research is the equivalent of oppressing him and those who believe against all science and reason that vaccines cause autism. “Help, help! I’m being repressed!” Heckenlively cries.

Or:

Let me be clear about this. Dr. Wakefield is only the most visible medical person to be attacked. In my discussions over the years with various scientific researchers they have often shared similar stories with me. I expect any medical professional who honestly searches for the cause of autism to run the risk of an attack on his or her professional reputation.

No, I expect that any medical professional who abandons science and ethics to pursue pseudoscience will risk an attack on his or her professional reputation because he or she will have done something to deserve it. The reason Andrew Wakefield is so reviled is not because he is a man speaking Truth to Power. No! It’s because his science was not just shoddy and wrong but outright fraudulent. He deserves the opprobrium that has been piled on him. Similarly, scientific disgrace has come to scientists and physicians who have “gone rogue” as far as vaccines go because their science is crappy. I’m talking about Mark Geier, Boyd Haley, Rashid Buttar, and many others. Some of these disgraced physicians and scientists are laughing all the way to the bank. Rashid Buttar and Mark Geier come to mind. Even worse, the law seems unable to touch such people even when they engage in outright quackery or dubious human subjects research. In the case of Rashid Buttar, he had the power to influence North Carolina lawmakers to change the law in his favor.

More pertinently, if Kent really wants to talk about being attacked or who’s attacking whom, he really should take a look right in his own back yard, where his partner in crime J.B. Handley, who’s been known to launch misogynistic attacks against female journalists who have the temerity to criticize the anti-vaccine movement, allow AoA to be a home to a clueless wonder like Jake Crosby and his fevered conspiracy dreams, and to launch relentless attacks on scientists like Dr. Paul Offit who dare to stand up to them. It’s not for nothing that I not infrequently compare the anti-vaccine movement to the animal rights movement, particularly after having been on the receiving end of an attempt by AoA readers to get me fired from my job based on a lie spread by Jake.

Be that as it may, perhaps a greater picture of why the anti-vaccine movement tend to attract people who think that the ends justify the means comes from the last quarter of Heckenlively’s piece. After castigating conventional doctors for not being willing or able to interpret the quack tests he gets from DAN! quacks–mainly because they haven’t been scientifically validated and science-based physicians don’t know what to do with the results, in contrast to the quacks, who make it up as they go along with the help of these tests–Heckenlively gets down to it, the inevitable histrionic prediction that he and his movement will be vindicated. I can’t help but cue “We Shall Overcome” as I read:

There are too many injured children. After all of the assaults, after having the Secretary of Health and Human Servies, Kathleen Sebelius say in an interview with Reader’s Digest that she has asked the media not to give equal weight to the arguments of the vaccine-safety community, the simple fact remains they are failing. When a recent study on the question of whether vaccines were related to autism, nearly half of those interviewed believed there was a connection or that they were unsure of the answer. A bare majority, 52% believed there was no connection.

They have tried everything in their power to deny us a voice and still they only draw a bare majority. It will only get worse for them.

Of course, Heckenlively conveniently forgets to point out that, compared to the 52% who don’t think vaccines cause autism, only 18% believe that vaccines cause autism; the other 30% aren’t sure. Even worse, if you break it down more, only 2% believe that the idea that vaccines cause autism (I refuse to dignify it by calling it a “hypothesis”), while 16% think the idea is “probably true.” Heckenlively also neglects to note that the poll also found that 69% of respondents agree that schools should require all children to have “received the required shots” before they can attend school. In other words, this poll is not nearly as good for the anti-vaccine movement as it sounds on the surface. Not only do those who accept science outnumber those who believe that vaccines cause autism by roughly 3:1, but those who believe that the idea that vaccines cause autism is “certainly not true” outnumber those who believe it is “certainly true” by 10:1.

While there is reason to be concerned that only 52% agree with the science showing that vaccines don’t cause autism, judging by the news coverage in the wake of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud having been publicized, the news media appear to be coming around to the side of science. Other than on conspiracy radio shows like Alex Jones’, whenever Wakefield dared to show his face to media stars like Anderson Cooper or George Stephanopoulos, he was pummeled relentlessly, and more and more journalists appear to be accepting the idea that it’s not necessary to represent pseudoscience like the anti-vaccine movement as being a valid alternative to science. In other words, their arguments do not have to be treated as having similar scientific validity. Of course, Heckenlively is living in fantasyland, believing that he is on the side of science, as he flits with his daughter from one quack to another, even going so far as to take her to Costa Rica for a highly dubious stem cell treatment, getting $15,000 from her grandfather to pay for it.

Not that any of this stops him from proclaiming “Your time is gonna come“:

When will we know when the end of the tyrants of the medical community has come? When media interviewers ask hard question of them. When the media turns their skepticism on those who have perpetuated this epidemic. “Okay, Dr. —-, why is it that other countries give fewer vaccines and have less autism?” Maybe Anderson Cooper can shout down some shill for the pharmaceutical company by complaining that, “No studies have shown that vaccinated kids have the same amount of autism as unvaccinated kids!!! Why haven’t you done those studies, sir???”

Our time will come.

We’d better hope not, at least if we don’t want to return to pre-vaccine levels of measles, whooping cough, and other preventable childhood diseases.

Comments

  1. #1 MikeMa
    February 4, 2011

    Sounds like Kent would prefer a prayer meeting over a controlled experiment. He throws 50 years of progress down the drain without even a nod for all the good that vaccines have achieved. Poor Kent’s delusions are deep and not likely to be overcome by more evidence.

  2. #2 Todd W.
    February 4, 2011

    why is it that other countries give fewer vaccines and have less autism?

    Perhaps, Mr. Heckenlively, for the same reason that other countries give BCG, Rabies or OPV, when we don’t. Different places, different needs, different contexts.

  3. #3 MikeMa
    February 4, 2011

    Todd,
    You are correct of course about context but another major difference is in the diagnostic criteria used in different regions isn’t it? We have shifted a large number of ADD, ADHD and other conditions and call them ASD now. Kent fails science again.

  4. #4 MI Dawn
    February 4, 2011

    I want to know these other countries that have less autism. IIRC, most “first world” countries have about equivalent levels of autism (Canada, the UK, Japan, France, etc) no matter what their number of vaccinations. I think Kent confuses areas with the ability/desire to diagnose autism with the rates it actually exists.

  5. #5 Poodle Stomper
    February 4, 2011

    I expect any medical professional who honestly searches for the cause of autism to run the risk of an attack on his or her professional reputation.

    Actually, Mr. Kent, I work at a university where there are several labs collaborating with other labs around the world to deduce possible causes of autism (their focus is on the genetics). The problem isn’t people looking for a cause, it’s HOW they go about it. Real science, done properly, is accepted. Fraudulent manufacturing of data, ect… is frowned upon. Rest assured, though, that the cause(s) of autism is in fact being researched.

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    February 4, 2011

    Similarly, Mike Adams continues his defense of Wakefield ( NaturalNews, today) and sliming of Mssrs. Cooper, Stephanopoulos, and Deer. He likens Andy to those who have brought about “scientific revolutions” and cites John Adams ( no relation). “There will be an investigation!” of the investigation. More conspiratorial hypothesizing continues. Like Null ( and AoA), he must feel that Andy is a figurehead who must be supported.

    re: petitions as an alternative to SBM- my favorite is that which lists those who oppose “Orthodox” medicine on HIV/AIDS. The list includes over 2000 scientists and other
    dissidents ( or denialists- choose one) and has shown up at several internet *rendez-vous* for pseudo-science.

  7. #7 Mojo
    February 4, 2011

    When a recent study on the question of whether vaccines were related to autism, nearly half of those interviewed believed there was a connection or that they were unsure of the answer. A bare majority, 52% believed there was no connection.

    Yeah, and a couple of years back a poll found that only about 40% of Americans beleived in evolution. All this shows is that, if you want meaningful answers about this sort of subject, you should ask the people who actually know about it rathe rthan the general public.

  8. #8 Scott Cunningham
    February 4, 2011

    Yes, AoA’s use of those poll results is a case of a well known rule.

    Wikipedia is accurate, Wikipedia says. [citation needed.]

    Circular argumentum ad populum bad.

  9. #9 Gray Falcon
    February 4, 2011

    Not to mention the “Baghdad Bob” rule: Bragging about one’s coming victory is often a sign of desperation. One usually waits until after they cross the finish line to celebrate.

  10. #10 peter
    February 4, 2011

    “Rest assured, though, that the cause(s) of autism is in fact being researched.”

    That might be so, but since you neglect the connection vaccines/autism your research is simply not acceptable.

    Easy, isn’t it? It all depends how bad you want science to corroborate your preconceived notions or fit in with your system of belief.

  11. #11 Composer99
    February 4, 2011

    Notice the distortion Kent uses:

    When a recent study [Emphasis mine.] on the question of whether vaccines were related to autism, nearly half of those interviewed believed there was a connection or that they were unsure of the answer. A bare majority, 52% believed there was no connection.

    A survey documenting people’s beliefs regarding causal factors of autism, however well-designed, is not a study documenting actual causal factors of autism.

  12. #12 René F. Najera
    February 4, 2011

    Kenneth Cole got in trouble for using the Egyptian unrest for their own promotion of their spring line.

    AoA is doing the same, except that their spring line is their usual line.

    Yes, AoA, I’m comparing you to Kenneth Cole.

    (I didn’t mean for this comment to make sense.)

  13. #13 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    Yesterday I came across a graphic of internet arguments posted by the StopAVN folks. It seems to be appropriate for Kent’s latest.

    Though I would add, because certain anti-vax bad arguments keep popping up, this to the flow chart:

    “Has your question been answered?”–> Yes. Who cares? Ask again!
    |
    \/
    No. Then badger them until they do!

    Repeat and turn into an infinite loop.

  14. #14 Mu
    February 4, 2011

    C99, for Kent there is nothing more important than the public perception of their claims, as such he doesn’t see a difference between causality and public opinion. The logic goes like this “we know that vaccines cause autism, when the rest of the public becomes convinced, the studies to prove it will be done”. As always, as it’s not their fault that their kids developed autism, it’s also not their fault that science isn’t backing them up on this. It’s repression by the medical establishment, and they are the revolutionaries. So maybe Kent could read up on the fate of most revolutionaries.

  15. #15 prn
    February 4, 2011

    These vaccine squabbles sound so redundant when real scientists have developed a real virus zapper that operates on quantum principles.

  16. #16 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    prn, it is not a “zapper” but a way to get images! It is like a very teeny tiny camera.

  17. #17 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 4, 2011

    Chris – the article says it does, in fact, blow the targets to smithereens (hotter than the sun, I believe the phrase is). So it does seem to be a virus zapper, though one with limited therapeutic value (“OK, you viruses, single file through the machine!”)

  18. #18 Roadstergal
    February 4, 2011

    “OK, you viruses, single file through the machine!”

    Best mental image I’ve had all morning.

    I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that Egyptian uprising seems to be temporarily replacing the civil rights movement as the comparison of choice for the faux-oppressed. On the one hand, ridiculously invalid comparisons are ridiculously invalid no matter what they are, but I was getting pretty sick of affluent, privileged white people comparing themselves to Rosa Parks.

  19. #19 Roadstergal
    February 4, 2011

    …fauxpressed?

  20. #20 Composer99
    February 4, 2011

    Roadstergal @ 19 FTW

  21. #21 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    Okay, I stand corrected, Mephistopheles O’Brien. I only read the first couple of paragraphs. It does sound like “Use bleach instead of antibiotics because it kills bacteria in a petri dish!”

  22. #22 Poodle Stomper
    February 4, 2011

    Peter,
    That might be so, but since you neglect the connection vaccines/autism your research is simply not acceptable. Easy, isn’t it? It all depends how bad you want science to corroborate your preconceived notions or fit in with your system of belief.

    Well since a good deal of studies have been done and found no link between vaccines and autism science, as it does when a hypothesis fails, moves on. After all, why waste money, time, and resources on something bound to simply continue giving you a “no link found” result? This is how science works. Otherwise we’d still be trying to find evidence to support the idea that the earth is flat, even though everything says otherwise.

  23. #23 Jud
    February 4, 2011

    Poodle Stomper, dunno if you caught the distinct whiff of sarcasm around peter’s post.

  24. #24 Poodle Stomper
    February 4, 2011

    I did not. If it was meant sarcastically then “my bad”. =P

  25. #25 Anne
    February 4, 2011

    Go Bill Go. In this clip he says not vaccinating kills kids and that Wakefield lied:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/02/03/gupta.gates.vaccines.world.health/

  26. #26 Dangerous Bacon
    February 4, 2011

    Remember, they laughed at Galileo.

    And if it wasn’t for the Inquisition, the autism-vaccine linke would be proved a million times over.

    You can’t prove that quantum theory isn’t confirmatory, and besides, if you saw Andy Wakefield in person all your doubts would be removed.

  27. #27 MikeMa
    February 4, 2011

    Dangerous Bacon
    Keep that up and there will be need of an intervention!

  28. #28 Forbidden Snowflake
    February 4, 2011

    When the media turns their skepticism on those who have perpetuated this epidemic.

    Spoing!, goes the irony meter.

  29. #29 jre
    February 4, 2011

    Next time someone claims there has never been a comparison between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, cite this:

    Lack of Association Between Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination and Autism in Children: A Case-Control Study
    Budzyn D, et al. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Vol. 29, No. 5, May 2010
    Researchers in Poland compared vaccination history and autism diagnosis in 96 children with autism, ages 2 to 15, as well as 192 children in a control group. For children diagnosed before a diagnosis of autism, the autism risk was lower in children who received MMR vaccine than in nonvaccinated children. A similar result was achieved for the single-antigen measles vaccine.
    AUTHOR CONCLUSION: The study provides evidence against the association of autism with either MMR or a single measles vaccine.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19952979

    A couple of footnotes may help:

    fn1: Poland came later than the rest of Europe in vaccinating against measles, and introduced the monovalent and MMR vaccines separately; hence, there were three groups available for statistical comparison. There are other, equally valid and meaningful comparisons that may be made among groups in countries without Poland’s unique history. This study is worth pointing out simply because it knocks the props out from under one more silly anti-vaccination argument.

    fn2: This study found autism rates to be lower among vaccinated children, and lowest in the MMR group. There is ongoing discussion about just what this means, but it is kind of cool.

  30. #30 jre
    February 4, 2011

    Oh, and that first “diagnosed” above is obviously supposed to be “vaccinated.” Let he who has never cut-and-pasted cast the first stone. Just to show that I can read an abstract, here are the results:

    RESULTS: For children vaccinated before diagnosis, autism risk was lower in children vaccinated with MMR than in the nonvaccinated (OR: 0.17, 95% CI: 0.06-0.52) as well as to vaccinated with single measles vaccine (OR: 0.44, 95% CI: 0.22-0.91). The risk for vaccinated versus nonvaccinated (independent of vaccine type) was 0.28 (95% CI: 0.10-0.76). The risk connected with being vaccinated before onset of first symptoms was significantly lower only for MMR versus single vaccine (OR: 0.47, 95% CI: 0.22-0.99).

  31. #31 Jolo5309
    February 4, 2011

    If they undercame, then they wouldn’t be telling anyone…

    /martinmull

  32. #32 Kitto
    February 4, 2011

    @27 Remember, they laughed at Galileo.

    “They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Newton. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan

    A good quote :)

  33. #33 Knightly
    February 4, 2011

    If they want to sing, let them sing. Keeps them from doing any actual damage.

  34. #34 Aaron
    February 4, 2011

    It’s amazing how the conspiracy theorists can use the investigation of Wakefield and the evidence resulting from it as proof that there’s an elitist plan to silence the truth.

    They really are a bunch of brilliant morons.

  35. #35 Mooloo
    February 4, 2011

    ” the way that creationists, … do. That characteristic is an unholy mixture of a persecution complex, in which the crank or cranks believe that they are the target of a conspiracy to silence or oppose them,

    Sometimes Orac, in your desire to be right, forget that sometimes the opposition is too.

    There is a profound, organised opposition to creationism. It’s not a “conspiracy” only in the sense that it is open and completely transparent. But the evolutionists of the world have organised a campaign to shut out creationism wherever they see it.

    Where I live – NZ – we don’t have the issues the US has, because the evolutionists have utterly crushed the creationists. We did it without mercy, and we continue to give them no room to speak in positions of power. In particular the only schools that teach it a private religious ones (public religious schools must teach evolution and do not teach creationism).

    Because creationism is nonsense I have no problem with that. But it is wrong to blame those who believe in it as holding false views that they are up against an organised and solid opposition. They have no “persecution complex” because they are being persecuted. I am happy to be part of the group that strives to keep them down, but I don’t think I am doing otherwise than I am doing.

    Some people are cranks. Some people have persecution complexes. But not everyone who disagrees with you on something you feel strongly about must automatically fall into those categories. Sometimes they are just plain wrong.

  36. #36 Raincitygirl
    February 4, 2011

    Evolutionists, Mooloo? Seriously? That’s only one step above calling people Darwinists.

    Yes, there’s a conspiracy. A conspiracy of people laughing at you.

  37. #37 Adam_Y
    February 4, 2011

    Mooloo when most people think of conspiracies they are referring to the type involving the pharmaceutical industries, big oil, the government, or whatever other crazy entity organized against them to bring them down.

  38. #38 Pablo
    February 4, 2011

    Creationists are being “persecuted”? Because they aren’t. Allowed to pass off their religious beliefs as science9v

    In the US creationists are having persecution issues, too. Like not being allowed to use government positions as a means to promote creationism in science class.

    So persecuted.

  39. #39 Forbidden Snowflake
    February 4, 2011

    Mooloo, you’re confusing two different things. The existence of a “conspiracy” to keep falsehood from being taught in schools is trivially true, and not very interesting. The conspiracy theories that denialists, creationists, etc., engage in say something different: they allege that the establishment (big pharma/government/scientists/whatever)secretly knows the truth (by which they mean their own brand of “truth”) and purposely keeps it down for economic/political benefit.

    So no, the “sperm+egg” theorists aren’t conspiring against the stork theorists. Saying that they are is diluting the term down to nothing and rendering it useless.

  40. #40 CJF
    February 4, 2011

    Mu @ 14
    I was wondering about your comment. When you say, “As always, as it’s not their fault that their kids developed autism”, I think I’m confused as to your meaning. Could you explain? Thanks.

  41. #41 Broken Link
    February 4, 2011

    It appears that the Age of Autism Facebook page has been removed, at least according to AoA itself (refuse to link).

    I wonder if Bill Gates is responsible ;)

  42. #42 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 4, 2011

    Mooloo, there’s a very big difference between “opposition” and “oppression.” It’s not very helpful to blur the lines.

    People can truthfully say that they are being oppressed if they are being deprived of something they are legitimately entitled to. If they are completely mistaken about what they are entitled to, however, they are completely mistaken about being oppressed. This is what we see over and over again with both creationists and antivaccinationists. They believe that they are entitled to have their beliefs treated as The Truth before they have even come close to demonstrating any truth to it. (And all too often, they even believe they are entitled to spread what they know to be untruths, if it serves to promote their interests.)

  43. #43 Zoey
    February 4, 2011

    hi everyone it seems the reason the aoa site is down because i had a little event going on to legimately flag and report aoa,and now they are blaming me for the whole thing and crucifying me and my friends on facebook.They should blame facebook for taking it down not me.Thank you Zoey
    here is the event:
    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=196713683675961

    here is the reform page of aoa where crucifying me and holding me responsible for what faceobook did ty Z
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_187071754661003
    it shows the antivax true colors

  44. #44 Matthew Cline
    February 5, 2011

    Mooloo, there’s a very big difference between “opposition” and “oppression.” It’s not very helpful to blur the lines.

    People can truthfully say that they are being oppressed if they are being deprived of something they are legitimately entitled to. If they are completely mistaken about what they are entitled to, however, they are completely mistaken about being oppressed.

    This happens a lot with people who think that “Freedom of Speech” means “Freedom From Criticism”.

  45. #45 pqr
    February 5, 2011

    Not if our man Bill Gates has anything to say about it:
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/02/03/gupta.gates.vaccines.world.health/index.html?hpt=C2

    Another reason why PC is better than Mac (no offense, Orac)

  46. #46 DW
    February 5, 2011

    @ pqr : Despite the reality of Mr. Gates’ intent, anti-vaxxers have already spun his work in an *interesting* fashion : ” Bill Gates says vaccines can help reduce world population” ( NaturalNews; 10/1/10) and ” Bill Gates funds covert vaccine nanotechnology” ( NaturalNews,5/28/10). I’m sure that they’ll catch hold of this as well.

  47. #47 ArtK
    February 5, 2011

    CJF @41

    I was wondering about your comment. When you say, “As always, as it’s not their fault that their kids developed autism”, I think I’m confused as to your meaning. Could you explain? Thanks.

    One of the many motivators for the autism-vaccine link is a desire for some parents of autistic children to find someone to blame for the problem. Their child is “broken” and therefore “someone” has to be responsible. We see this in many other areas, too.

    The problem is that one of the most likely causes of autism is in genetics. For a parent to face up to the fact that they may be responsible for their child’s “damage” is more then many of them can handle. It takes a brave person to accept that. It takes a brave and rational person to accept that “stuff happens” and there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent it.

    With the current generation of parents (and I include myself in that), there is a strong myth that we are responsible for, and somehow capable of, protecting our children from any and all unpleasantness. Not just harm, but even minor discomfort. The result is the “helicopter parent” phenomenon. “Blame the vaccines” is just another aspect of that.

    As a personal anecdote, my 15yo is showing signs of depression. Something that I have and something that has a very strong genetic link. Coming to the realization that I’ve contributed to his problems was very painful.

  48. #48 Julian Frost
    February 5, 2011

    Hi ArtK,
    I always think it weird, and a little silly, when parents blame themselves for their children’s genetic disorders. To me, it’s as foolish as blaming yourself for the fact that your child has green eyes and not blue ones. As you say, “Stuff happens.” Sometimes children get the Aces, sometimes the Deuces.

  49. #49 ArtK
    February 6, 2011

    Julian,

    I don’t find it strange at all. I think it comes from a number of places. First off, we’re hard-wired to protect our children. Going against eons of evolution is a tough battle. Second, there’s an overall societal pressure. I know that when my sons were born, we were bombarded with ads for products that would protect them from bumps and bruises and worse. That “worse” was always lingering behind the ad copy. “If something bad happens, you’ll be at fault because you didn’t do the most to protect your child.”

    Fortunately, there are a few voices against the growing trend. Look for “A Nation of Wimps,” (Hara Estroff Marano) or “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” (Wendy Mogel) for example. (“Wimps” isn’t a great book — more of an extended article — but it lays out the issues well.)

  50. #50 skeptifem
    February 6, 2011

    I dunno what they are talking about regarding threats to people investigating autism causes- there are lots of ongoing studies about it, right now. Jeez. I would think the sex distribution would be enough of a clue about the cause being genetic though, eh?

  51. #51 Prometheus
    February 6, 2011

    Holy inversion Orac! Kent has it completely backwards!

    The “vaccines-cause-autism” (VCA) promoters have gotten a free pass from the media for over a decade and now that the media have finally dug out the truth, they are crying “oppression”?

    The VCA apologists have been trying to pin the “autism epidemic” on vaccines for over fifteen years – first it was thimerosal (mercury), then it was the MMR, then it was “toxins” NOS (not otherwise specified) and (unless I’ve missed something”) most recently the delightfully vague “too many, too soon”. They seem to grasp the concept that it’s a million times easier to propose a hypothesis than it is to test one, which is why they never bother to do any studies. It’s the “Gish gallop” of autism.

    Now that the research is finally catching up to their earlier hypotheses, the VCA groups are apoplectic – they feel that their ability to keep coming up with “Just So Stories” about how vacines cause autism should count for more than the researchers’ ability to show that those hypotheses are incorrect.

    Fortunately for reason (and public health), the media are finally catching on and this make the VCA folks – like Mr. Heckenlively – furious. The VCA proponents have managed to keep their lack of supporting data suppressed (in the media, anyway) and now that they’re being exposed, they start singing “We shall overcome!”??? And comparing themselves to the Egyptian people?!?

    Let’s be honest for a minute – the VCA folks have had a good fifteen year run, keeping the media distracted with how tough it is to be the parent of an autistic child (true) to the point that the media didn’t notice that the VCA hypotheses were supported by only the weakest of temporal associations. It seems to me that if anyone is to be compared to the long-suffering and brutally oppressed Egyptian people, it should not be the VCA groups. To me, they are a better fit for the Mubarak role.

    Sing all you like folks, but the media have finally awoken to the fact that they’ve been played like a cheap guitar and they are not likely to forgive that.

    Wait ’til they’re the punchline on Leno.

    Prometheus

  52. #52 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 12, 2011

    Matthew Cline –

    Since the other thread was (probably 100% correctly) locked, I couldn’t answer your request for a cite there. However, in the course of looking up the cite I found that it wasn’t as clear as I’d thought.

    This timeline says the first child was admitted in July 1996 and that the work was commissioned and paid for by the Legal Aid Board, but it doesn’t say outright that the application to the Legal Aid Board was made before July 1996, even though it’s implied. Meanwhile, this document from the GMC establishes that Wakefield agreed to be an anti-MMR expert for Barr as of February 1996, and in the very next sentence that Wakefield accepted 50,000 pounds from the Legal Aid Board through Barr, but it does not specify when.

    Given the facts, there is absolutely no doubt that Wakefield falsely represented to the world “Whoa, I happened to see these twelve children at the Royal Free and from my observations of them I formed my hypothesis that MMR was dangerous and bad!” when the truth was that he was planning to push that hypothesis (and already taking money to push it) before any of those children was admitted to the Royal Free. But when in relation to those events the application to the Legal Aid Board happened is less clear.

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