Believe it or not, sometimes I rather miss Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey. Although McCarthy is still nominally the head of the anti-vaccine group Generation Rescue, she’s really faded to a rather low profile over the last year or so. Indeed, the last time I even remember her spouting off about vaccines was way back in January when she defended Andrew Wakefield and, even more amazingly, during Autism Awareness Month (April) this year I don’t recall seeing her on the major media anywhere. It used to be an annual thing that she’d show up on Larry King Live! or some other TV show. True, it’s possible that I missed it, but I do have Google Alerts set up for various sets of words to flag the vaccine/autism manufactroversy, and I don’t recall anything popping up. Otherwise, I probably would have blogged about it. As for Jim Carrey, ever since he and Jenny McCarthy broke up as a couple, he’s disappeared completely from the vaccine-autism scene, no doubt because he never had any real interest in it on his own and jumped on the bandwagon because he was dating Jenny McCarthy. It’s a shame in a way, because his sheer idiocy on the issue provided fodder for some of my best material.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view), it appears that there’s someone to step into the breach, someone to lay down the swaths of intensely flaming anti-vaccine stupid in a way that only Jim and Jenny could do, like so many firebombs during World War II, with about the same effect on anything resembling science, reason, critical thinking or intelligence. But who? Who could this new neuronpenic person be willing to jump right into the anti-vaccine fray in such an amusingly brain dead fashion? It turns out that we’ve met him before, believe it or not. In fact, it was only a little more than a month ago, when I used this luminary of right wingnuttery as demonstration that certain forms of anti-science (anti-genetically modified organisms, for instance) thought to be more common on the left are actually quite common on the right as well. Still don’t know who? Click to jump below the fold, and you’ll soon see:

i-4669a9798027e540c64845346e873b52-norris.jpg
(Thanks to my reader, who did the Photoshopping. I stink at Photoshop.)

Yes, indeed. We’re talking about everybody’s favorite martial arts master turned 1980s movie action hero turned 1990s TV action hero turned right wing icon so far to the right that he writes for that repository of conspiracy-mongering nuttiness, WorldNetDaily, otherwise known as WorldNutDaily. I should have known after his anti-GMO anti-global warming denialist screed from five or six weeks ago that it was only a matter of time before Chuck tried to take a roundhouse kick at vaccines as in the picture above. There was no way he could be into so much anti-science nonsense and not be drawn to the ultimate anti-science, the One Anti-science To Rule Them All, anti-vaccine nuttery. And drawn to it he was in two articles that are basically slightly different versions of the same screed. The first was published on Friday and entitled Link between autism, vaccines ‘biological certainty’, and the second version, The venom in feds’ vaccinations, followed on Sunday. I’ll mostly stick with the latest version, as there’s no real substantive difference between the two. Both are a litany of anti-vaccine talking points that were old when Evidence of Harm was just a gleam of money in David Kirby’s eye and Andrew Wakefield hadn’t even been approached by trial lawyers to do his infamous Lancet study. I mean, seriously. You can tell that ol’ Chucky is a total newbie right from early on, when he buys into the myth of the “autism epidemic” and even quotes the National Autism Association on that score.

It doesn’t take Norris long to dive straight into conspiracy central:

According to the CDC’s website, however, “to date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASDs. … The most recent and rigorous scientific research does not support the argument that thimerosal-containing vaccines are harmful. … Is thimerosal in vaccines safe? Yes.”

But PR Newswire reported recently that the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs exposed a federal cover-up between the CDC and vaccine researchers. Despite the fact that the CDC received an email from CoMeD in 2002 that revealed a causal relationship between the removal of thimerosal from vaccines and a decline in the rate of autism, the CDC encouraged the publication of a study in Pediatrics that ignored certain data and misled the medical community and public by insinuating that thimerosal in vaccines does not increase the risk of autism.

Almost inconceivably, the study in Pediatrics actually purported that autism rates increased after thimerosal was removed.

The press release to which Norris is referring is this one, which has been wending its way through the anti-vaccine blogosphere over the last couple of weeks. Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for Norris), I’ve already looked at the e-mails in which, according to Norris and the press release report that one of the investigators wrote “but the incidence and prevalence are still decreasing in 2001.” Check out the original e-mail and you’ll see that there’s nothing there that really tells us much of anything. Indeed, it’s impossible to tell exactly what the correspondents are saying. There are only two brief e-mails, and much of the e-mails are redacted with black marker. They appear to consist of an exchange between Marlene Lauritsen, who’s second author on the paper, and Kreesten Madsen, the first author. It’s cryptically mentioned that the incidence and prevalence are “still decreasing in 2001,” but the sentence immediately following it is redacted. Most of Madsen’s reply to this e-mail is also redacted. What does this mean? Who knows? What I do know is that this is old news. I can’t figure out why the mercury militia has decided to exhume the rotting corpse of this old bit of conspiracy mongering and release it as a press release again.

And Chuck Norris fell hook, line, and sinker for it.

Let’s put it this way. Let’s for the sake of argument assume that the Danish study actually was somehow falsified. It wasn’t, but assume for the moment that it was. (Norris also falls for the conspiracy mongering about Poul Thorsen that nearly every anti-vaccine group was engaging in last year, spurred on by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and company.) Even if it were, that would not show that thimerosal in vaccines cause autism for the simple reason that there have been several other well-designed studies since then with large numbers of subjects that find the same thing that the Danish study did: There is no correlation between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. You could completely eliminate the Danish studies and the scientific and epidemiological evidence would still show that there’s no correlation between vaccines and autism. Not that that stops Norris from not only mentioning Poul Thorsen as though he were evidence of the utter corruption of the CDC but to add this chestnut:

And just last week, Dr. Kimberly Quinlan Lindsey, a top CDC official, was arrested and charged with two counts of child molestation and one count of bestiality.”

What does this have to do with the science failing to find a link between vaccines and autism? Nothing. It’s pure ad hominem, poisoning the well. Even if all the allegations were true, it would have no bearing on whether or not the science is correct. Indeed, it’s so blatantly obvious that it’s even more idiotic than I would have expected from Chuck Norris. On the other hand, he (or his ghostwriter) did write this:

To regress, the latest correlation revelation between vaccines and autism will fly in the face (or at least may cause some confusion) because of a 2011 August report from the Institute of Medicine, the nation’s bastion of authoritative health and medicine advice, just cleared children vaccines as autism culprits.

But the truth is, as the NAA reports, “There are over 1,500 studies and papers documenting the hypoallergenicity and toxicity of thimerosal (ethylmercury) have existed for decades,” with most recent research revealing commonness of speech delays and tics. The NAA added, “Recent studies have confirmed the association between the use of thimerosal and autism has moved from ‘biologically plausible’ [in 2001] to a ‘biological certainty.'”

I wrote about the Institute of Medicine report soon after it came out. It was an excellent summary of the copious evidence looking at vaccine safety as it relates to vaccines and whether they cause chronic health problems or neurodevelopmental disorders. Particularly ignorant is the claim about “most recent research” causing speech delays and tics. This is pure cherry picking of the results of this study from four years ago. Basically, that study was consistent with random findings. There were a few findings, such as tics, that appeared to be associated with thimerosal-containing vaccines, and there were a few findings that appeared to indicate thimerosal improved neurodevelopmental outcomes. As I said a while back, if anti-vaccine activists are going to insist that the correlation, for example, with increasing mercury exposure and poorer performance on the GFTA-2 measure of speech articulation test (the speech delay that Norris talks about) is real, then it must also accept the findings of a beneficial association between mercury and improved scores on the identification of letters and numbers on the WJ-III test (another finding in the study), There is a priori no scientific reason to reject the second finding if you accept the first.

Of course, no one is claiming that thimerosal has beneficial effects on these particular test outcomes; the most reasonable conclusion is that thimerosal has no effect and what the investigators found was simply random noise, noise that goes away when multiple comparisons are corrected for. Norris is just too scientifically unsophisticated to realize that, or he just doesn’t care about how wrong he is. When the authors of the study concluded that their results do not support a causal relationship between thimerosal and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes, that was the correct interpretation, not Norris’ regurgitation of anti-vaccine talking points.

Poor Chuck. Methinks he got so used to being the hero in his many movies and then for several years as Walker, Texas Ranger that he’s built up an inordinate amount of confidence in his ability to come to conclusions about science. Now, he’s the arrogance of ignorance personified. In his twilight years, he’s been reborn as an all-purpose right wing loon, for whom no position is too out there. In retrospect, it was probably inevitable that the siren call of the anti-vaccine would draw him in. One wonders if he takes the term “mercury militia” a little too seriously.

You know, in the end, I think I like this version of Chuck Norris better. At least he’s more amusing than the real thing:

And probably more intelligent, too.

Comments

  1. #1 Pinkamena, Panic Pony
    November 11, 2011

    Morphing to avoid killfiles, Sillysauce? And still no answers? Come now, you’re better than that. (Well no, actually everypony knows you’re not, but you can change that.)

    Still waiting for those answers…

  2. #2 Chris
    November 11, 2011

    Common Sue on the Sicky Sauce:

    TBruce, well thanks to your buddies we’re paying out a lot of money in vaccine damages and special needs education/rehab

    Citations, please. Similar to the following:

    Impact of Vaccines Universally Recommended for Children—United States, 1900-1998

    From that article:

    Before the first vaccine was licensed, an estimated 20,000 cases of Hib invasive disease occurred each year, and Hib was the leading cause of childhood bacterial meningitis and postnatal mental retardation.

    Again, Common Sue, do you really want haemophilus influenzae type b to return? Why?

  3. #3 Chris
    November 11, 2011

    Lawrence:

    But this is a very tangible result of the success of the measles vaccine.

  4. #4 Chris
    November 11, 2011

    Oops, failed to close blackquote. Only the first line should be in a quote.

  5. #5 ken
    November 12, 2011

    Thanks for the info..

  6. #6 agent
    November 15, 2011

    Man how did people ever live hundreds of years ago without pumping children full of chemicals… I have lived an overly healthy life along with my 12 and 15 year olds without any chemicals put in our bodies. Parents that force chemicals into childrens bodies should be put to death. There is a correct way to be healthy and stabbing children with chemicals is not it….

  7. #7 Chris
    November 15, 2011

    agent:

    Man how did people ever live hundreds of years ago without pumping children full of chemicals…

    They had a dozen children hoping that a couple would live to adulthood. Mary Shelly, who wrote “Frankenstein”, had five children and only one lived to adulthood.

    How come you don’t know this?

  8. #8 lilady
    November 15, 2011

    @ agent: My cousin contracted measles before a vaccine was developed; he had lifelong lasting disabilities due to measles encephalopathy. My early childhood friend died of polio, before the Salk vaccine was developed.

    You have been fortunate so far that your children haven’t contracted a serious, sometimes deadly, vaccine-preventable disease.

    Did you mistakenly wander over here…where “intelligent” and “educated” people post? Perhaps you would feel more comfortable posting on another site where unintelligent and uneducated people post.

  9. #9 Vuffy
    November 18, 2011

    @agent

    So you live in a vacuum without eating, drinking, or breathing, and manage to survive? This is an incredible breakthrough. Why aren’t you sharing this miraculous chemical-free lifestyle with the rest of humanity? You’ve performed a feat contrary to everything we know about physics and violated entropy! Please share your secrets to chemical-free life.

  10. #10 Sauceress
    November 18, 2011

    I have lived an overly healthy life along with my 12 and 15 year olds without any chemicals put in our bodies.

    Define “chemicals”?

    How about chlorophyll?
    How about the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, silicon, boron, chlorine, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum ,nickel, selenium, and sodium present in plants?

    I won’t even mention those found in air and water.

    Idjit!

  11. #11 Calli Arcale
    November 18, 2011

    Oh come now, Sauceress. We all know how to tell the sorts of chemicals she means. It’s all in the names! Pure lemon juice — 100% natural, organic, and healthy*, right? But what about these things? You don’t want to touch them**!

    2-[3-[(4-Amino-2-methyl-pyrimidin-5-yl)methyl]-4-methyl-thiazol-5-yl] ethanol

    7,8-Dimethyl-10-[2,3,4,5-tetrahydroxypentyl]benzo[g]pteridine-2,4(3H,10H)-dione

    Nicotinic acid

    3-[(2,4-dihydroxy-3,3-dimethylbutanoyl)amino]propanoic acid

    (2S)-2-[(4-{[(2-amino-4-hydroxypteridin-6-yl)methyl]amino}phenyl)formamido]pentanedioic acid

    * Well, unless, like me, you’re allergic to it.
    ** They are, respectively, the IUPAC names for thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid, all B vitamins, and all found in lemon juice.

  12. #12 Bryan
    December 1, 2011

    If you’re going to pontificate about someone blabbering nonsense outside his specialty, at the very least do not make brain-dead spelling errors. Norris has studied “martial arts”. Otherwise, this blog entry was fairly good. It was just glaring for someone who makes a point of defending scientific accuracy to make such a simple terminological error.

  13. #13 Chris
    December 1, 2011

    Bryan, who is the “you” in your first sentence? If you mean Orac, I think you will find he does not tolerate grammar/spelling pedants.

  14. #14 Orac
    December 1, 2011

    Spelling and grammar Nazis are the most tiresome form of troll. I’d like to see them write 2,000 words a day and not make the occasional typing fart.

  15. #15 PeripheralPerspective
    December 3, 2011

    If the Thompson study showed both positive and negative impacts of Thimerosal… then why just assume that that means it had “no impact” as you do (which would be a large assumtive leap to me, to see impacts and assume no impact?) So why would you not instead consider and further explore hormetic or non-monotonic dose responses to delineate the issues? Something it seems neither side considers.

    aka…that the impact can be positive or negative depending on the system, timing, dose or the state of the system it is put into? Those to me seem equally if not more scientifically plausible than “no impact”. Yes? Since that is not what the evidence suggests..

  16. #16 Bo Diro
    January 25, 2012

    @215 demonstrating hormesis is extremely difficult to the point where it is difficult to reliably show that it Is even a real thing. In any case, the study referenced is not set up to show dose-response the uneven raw data which appear to conflict just underline the inability of the study to refute the null hypothesis. The variance is far more likely explainable by chance than some contrived nonmonotonic model. Do the study again. Show me the U curve. Then we can talk.

  17. #17 Carrie
    February 5, 2012

    All it takes for someone to really become educated about vaccine’s permanent neurological side effects is to have one of their own children completely lose all their language and social skills directly after a round of vaccinations. It is then and only then that the determination to get to the facts is extreme. On the surface….Yes, of course if you could choose for your child to either develop rotavirus or not, you would choose the latter. But if there is even a greater risk of them developing neurological damage from the combined effects of multiple vaccines at one time (the effects of which have never been studied), it leads to a very tough decision of whether or not to vaccinate your child fully.

  18. #18 Carrie
    February 5, 2012

    There are so many vaccines in the works right now. Who knows what the CDC and AAP will be recommending in 10 years. Our children may get 85 vaccinations before they turn one year old. At what point is it too much? There is definitely a toxic/immune threshold. No one has even studied combined effects of vaccinations. The studies that are done on the vaccinations are done by the drug companies themselves. There is a federal vaccine court that reimburses families of the vaccine-injured. Billions of dollars have been paid to these families. The drug companies are not liable for any damaging effects of vaccinations. It is corruption at the highest possible level.

  19. #19 Narad
    February 5, 2012

    Our children may get 85 vaccinations before they turn one year old.

    Well, there’s a new one.

  20. #20 Chris
    February 5, 2012

    Carrie:

    Yes, of course if you could choose for your child to either develop rotavirus or not, you would choose the latter.

    My son did get rotavirus as a toddler. It was over a week with rivers of diarrhea, even with multiple diapers (cloth plus plastic), it escaped. He also became dehydrated, and then had a seizure which prompted an ambulance trip to the hospital.

    But if there is even a greater risk of them developing neurological damage from the combined effects of multiple vaccines at one time (the effects of which have never been studied), it leads to a very tough decision of whether or not to vaccinate your child fully.

    Actually it has been studied. Now you need to tell us exactly what the rate of neurological damage comes from the vaccines versus the diseases. Here is a paper on the effects of measles (it is free online from PubMed):
    J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S4-16.
    The clinical significance of measles: a review.

    It says: “Postinfectious encephalomyelitis (PIE) occurs in 13 per 1000 infected persons,”. Be sure to tell us which vaccine causes encephalomyelitis one out of a hundred doses. Be sure to document your answer from the standard scientific literature.

    And do please tell us why it would be more cost effective to treat measles instead of preventing it. Because, how do we know you are not from “Big Hospital Supply.”

    Oh, and do list those 85 vaccines before age one. We’d love to see that, especially since that is before the MMR is given.

  21. #21 Chris
    February 5, 2012

    By the way, here is an interesting blog post on the two billion dollars spent on vaccine injury compensation over the last twenty-plus years: OH NO! The US has paid out $2 BILLION in vaccine injury compensation! That must mean vaccines are dangerous!.

    Also, it is bad form to post on an old blog article when there are newer ones on the same subject being actively discussed. Go to the left side of this page and click on one of the links under the words “Recent Posts.” You will see one that is cryptically titled “The annals of “I’m not anti-vaccine,” part 9 (The first volley of 2012).”

  22. #22 ken
    February 5, 2012

    Chris lies about the diseases her children got-caught a lie in one of her posts.

  23. #23 Chris
    February 5, 2012

    ken, please prove where I lied. List the article, comment number and date.

    What on earth are you talking about? My son got a now vaccine preventable disease that sent him to the hospital.

    Was there a vaccine for rotavirus in 1990? Yes or no?

  24. #24 Chris
    February 5, 2012

    Here is an exercise for you, ken. Put the words “chris rotavirus ambulance” in the search box on the left hand side of this page. Tell us what you find, preferably with full sentences.

    (Seriously, what grade are you in? You are acting like a child.)

  25. #25 Anton P. Nym
    February 5, 2012

    Our children may get 85 vaccinations before they turn one year old.

    Hunh. Normally, when I pull numbers out of thin air I just use the Heinz “57”… So there’s a shred of creativity there, at least.

    — Steve

  26. #26 sparks
    February 6, 2012

    @225 Anton: It’s really not creative, it’s a steal from The Manchurian Candidate, but a good one since it’s a fabricated number there, too.

  27. #27 lilady
    February 6, 2012

    @ken: I have been following all of Chris’ posts, including the topic of he child’s dreadful episode of rotavirus…I don’t think she ever lied.

    Why don’t you look for yourself and report back here. (I also expect that you will apologize to Chris if, following your investigation, you find you maligned Chris).

  28. #28 OracIsAQuack
    February 6, 2012

    “Oh, and do list those 85 vaccines before age one. We’d love to see that, especially since that is before the MMR is given.”

    Ah, alas…reading comprehension fail. That, or you only see what you want to see.

    Let’s look at the relevant quote in full context, yes?

    “There are so many vaccines in the works right now. *Who knows what the CDC and AAP will be recommending in 10 years*. Our children *may* get 85 vaccinations before they turn one year old.”

    Essentially, what is being said here is that in 10 years, our children MIGHT BE GETTING 85 vaccinations before they turn a year old.

    Please, if you’re going to nitpick and berate a commentor, at least try to comprehend what they are saying instead of accusing them of saying something else entirely.

    Oh, wait…I forget. It’s the bread and butter of you sycophants to attack strawmen.

  29. #29 Chris
    February 6, 2012

    OIAQ:

    Please, if you’re going to nitpick and berate a commentor, at least try to comprehend what they are saying instead of accusing them of saying something else entirely.

    That was only one of the silly things she said. Now what about the rest of what she said?

    If you are going to continue to nitpick how respond to silly comments, perhaps you should try to answer the questions the questions our responses. So please do tell us with actual evidence which vaccines cause severe issues more often than the diseases. Plus exactly how is treating a disease more cost effective than preventing a disease?

    If you don’t answer those questions you are a hypocrite.

  30. #30 Cynical Pediatrician
    February 6, 2012

    “Our children may get 85 vaccinations before they turn one year old.”
    Extremely unlikely.
    The current schedule calls for vaccination against 8 diseases before 1 year old (DTaP, Hib, PCV, HepB, rota, IPV), each given in 3 doses, plus another 2 for the flu. Add them all up and you get 26 vaccine doses (of course, the actual number of vaccines is less, since D,T, and P are not given separately, and usually Pentacel or Pediarix 5-in-1 cut the numbers down even more, but we’ll allow 26 for the sake of argument).
    So to reach 85 vaccinations, we would need to add another 59 vaccines to the current schedule. Even assuming each vaccine requires 3 doses, that still leaves 20 separate vaccines.
    I don’t know exactly what’s in the pipeline, but I’d be highly skeptical that there are 20 different vaccines currently being developed that would be standard and given to all children routinely. In any case, 20 different and new routine vaccines would certainly be a record, as that number has not been introduced in any previous decade. And then we’d need to figure out how to give them, since logistically it’s hard to give more than 4 vaccines at a time; the manufacturers would have to make some impressive combination vaccines. Since it took years and years just to come up with two 5-in-1 vaccines, based on all existing “components,” this also seems very unlikely.
    But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good scary story.
    “At what point is it too much? There is definitely a toxic/immune threshold.”
    You sound very confident about this. You also imply that we might be near it. Could you provide some evidence to back up your assertions? And please point to specific toxic thresholds, or evidence of antigenic overload, in your reply. Because Paul Offit has already written very convincingly why he believes we are nowhere close to such a hypothetical threshold.

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