Say it ain’t so, Amy Farrah Fowler!

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Like many geeks, I enjoy The Big Bang Theory. I know, I know, you’re shocked to hear that, but it’s true. I’ve seen nearly every episode since the first season. Over the last couple of seasons, the male-centric show has been considerably improved by its move towards more of an ensemble cast that includes two new female characters: Bernadette Rostenkowski, played by Melissa Rauch, who is Howard’s girlfriend, and Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, who is Sheldon’s girlfriend. Both characters are smart and in many ways as geeky as the guys, but in a different way.

Oddly enough, I still remember Bialik from the 1990s, when she played Blossom in the sitcom called, well, Blossom. A few years ago, before Bialik joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory, I was quite impressed to learn that Bialik had pursued a career in neuroscience and had obtained a PhD. Such an achievement is indeed impressive and bespeaks a keen scientific mind. Or so I thought. I’m not sure why she apparently didn’t do much with her PhD and instead returned to acting, playing a neuroscientist instead of actually working as one, but in general I was glad she did, because she has been hilarious thus far in The Big Bang Theory as a neuroscientist foil to Sheldon’s physicist ego.

Unfortunately (in this case at least), actors aren’t their characters, and even more unfortunately Bialik isn’t anything like Amy Farrah Fowler, at least when it comes to science. Whereas Amy Farrah Fowler is scientific to the point of having difficulty functioning in “normal” society, Bialik, I just learned from commenter yesterday, is heavily into the woo. How heavily? Well, it should tell you a lot that she’s a celebrity spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network. What is the Holistic Moms Network? Actually, the name should say it all to you. Picture the sort of organization that would name itself the Holistic Moms Network, turn it up to 11, and then multiply it by another 11, and you have an idea. The Holistic Moms Network is a cesspit of “natural” parenting, where “natural” apparently means embracing every form of “natural” woo known to humans.

Don’t believe me? Just one look at its advisory board should tell you all you need to know. For instance, there’s Dr. Lauren Feder, who bills herself as specializing in “primary care medicine, pediatrics and homeopathy” and has been a frequent contributor to that bastion of quackery and antivaccine looniness, Mothering Magazine, where she recommended homeopathic remedies to treat whooping cough. It doesn’t get much quackier than that. But Feder is just the beginning. Also on the Holistic Moms advisory board is the grand dame of the antivaccine movement herself, the woman who arguably more than anyone else is responsible for starting the most recent iteration of the antivaccine movement in the U.S. Yes, I’m talking about Barbara Loe Fisher, the founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a bastion of antivaccine propaganda since the 1980s. She’s not the only antivaccine activist on the advisory board, though. There’s also Peggy O’Mara, publisher of Mothering Magazine and Sherri Tenpenny, who is described right on the Holistic Moms website as, “one of America’s most knowledgeable and outspoken physicians, warning against the negative impact of vaccines on health.” Then there’s Dr. Lawrence Rosen, “integrative” pediatrician who appeared at the NVIC “vaccine safety conference” back in 2009 with Barbara Loe Fisher and Andrew Wakefield. In fact, Barbara Loe Fisher, Sherri Tenpenny, and Lauren Feder are featured very prominently on the Holistic Moms Network page on vaccination.

But that’s not all. If there’s one more thing that should tell you all you need to know about the Holistic Moms Network approach to science-based medicine, then take a look at its sponsors: Boiron (manufacturer of the homeopathic remedy for flu known as Oscillococcinum), the Center for Homeopathic Education (and I bet it is homeopathic too), the National Center for Homeopathy, and a whole bunch of other purveyors of woo and quackery.

The other thing about the Holistic Moms Network is that it’s also very, very heavily into “natural” childbirth, otherwise known as home birth, and Bialik is totally down with that, even to the point of thinking that women should have to suffer because it’s more “natural”:

Birth is intense; squeezing a baby out of your body is a challenge, no matter what your “pain tolerance.” However, our culture medicates routinely for a variety of “normal” emotional experiences (encouraging medication for people in the early stages of grief comes to mind), and medicating for the emotions of birth is no exception. The vocalizing and emotional experience that is commonly referred to as “complaining,” “screaming,” or “suffering” is a normal part of labor. Birth is not neat and fast and quiet: it’s gritty and primal. But it’s nothing to fear unless you also think we ought to fear women crying when they are sad or laughing when they are happy. There are numerous effective pain-management techniques to use in labor. I used self-hypnosis for both of my natural labors as well as showers and baths, massage, homeopathy, and the greatest power of all: the power of my mind to force out the notion that pain with purpose – labor — is something to fear.

So, ladies, suffer! It’s “natural.” And, remember, just like The Secret, wishing makes it so! Or, if all else fails, use homeopathy. You’ll get the same results.

Also “natural,” apparently, is not vaccinating her children:

Reader N.S. remembers reading about your contemplating whether or not to vaccinate the kids. What decision did you reach?

We are a non-vaccinating family, but I make no claims about people’s individual decisions. We based ours on research and discussions with our pediatrician, and we’ve been happy with that decision, but obviously there’s a lot of controversy about it.

No, actually, there isn’t. At least, there isn’t a scientific controversy about vaccines. Unfortunately, even with her PhD in neuroscience, Mayim Bialik is apparently incapable of of figuring that out. It just goes to show that understanding in one area of science doesn’t necessarily translate into an understanding in another. Certainly the research skills she learned to obtain her PhD in neuroscience did not translate to doing research about vaccines. One can’t help but note that Bialik is more accurate than she probably knows when she answers a reader question about what she’s doing with her PhD these day by saying, “…for the most part I use my scientific background to be called Dr. Mom in this house.” Obviously.

She’s also a big fan of antivaccine apologist Dr. Jay Gordon and antivaccine pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears. She completely gushes about them on her Facebook page because Dr. Jay apparently wrote the foreword to her book on attachment parenting entitled Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way and Dr. Sears wrote a blurb for her.

Bialik is, not surprisingly, also an extremely crunchy vegan. (I know, not all vegans are woos, but there is a high correlation.) That, however, doesn’t really bug me much, except that her extreme crunchiness and “natural parenting” apparently extend to not providing her children with services from which they could benefit. For instance, about a year ago she wrote a post entitled Why I don’t force my kids to say ‘please’… or walk on schedule in which she almost bragged about her approach to parenting:

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. By current conventional standards both of my sons qualified for speech, occupational and physical therapy and I gave them none. Both walked at a ripe 17 months, my older son did not speak sentences until well after 3, my younger son, age 2, communicates exceedingly well with signs and gestures but has not uttered a two-word phrase or even an “appropriately” formed word. My boys were physically very cautious, shunning jumping, running, and even climbing long after their peers mastered them; and my younger son did not roll over unassisted until, wait for it: the day he turned one. He apparently has a weak set of core muscles that he now compensates for beautifully, without anyone noticing but me and my husband.

So why didn’t I send my children for assessment and therapy? For the same reason that I don’t tell them to say “please” or “thank you.” Confused yet? Don’t be. Barring outstanding medical concerns, I believe in letting children progress in their own way and pace, modeling behavior while respecting the innate development of a child as an autonomous and purposeful creature. I believe that children, like adults (and perhaps better than most adults?), generally know what works for them.

Notice how the naturalistic fallacy that apparently drives Bialik to eschew vaccines for her children and pain relief other than homeopathy and mind games during childbirth for herself is also leading her to impose on her own children her idea that children somehow magically know how to be raised properly and at their own pace when, by her own admission, they could clearly use help and would probably benefit from speech, occupational, and physical therapy. By Bialik’s own admission, her children are developmentally delayed, but she is not willing to give them the extra help they appear to need. (At least she can’t blame vaccines for her children’s developmental delay.) Instead, she views offering that help to them as “forcing” them to develop at some sort of “unnatural” pace for them:

Although the “delays” my sons displayed can be markers for autism, autism-spectrum disorders or developmental delays, I trust my intuition and I trust our pediatrician. My husband and I knew there was nothing wrong with our older son, and I know there is nothing wrong with his little doppelganger. By the standards of whoever decided kids should do what when, my sons are truly “behind,” and I have been accused of being neglectful and selfish for not getting them therapy.

We have no daycare, pre-school or kindergarten standards to meet (we homeschool), no one to impress (we choose friends who support independent thinking or share it themselves) and we have nothing to be ashamed of (our parents have learned to back off and watch the results; thankfully, our boys have not disappointed them yet). My kids are fine. You may not think so, but you get to raise your kids and I get to raise mine.

Because, apparently, her “mommy instinct” tells her her kids are fine even though there are many indications that they are not. She might be right. After all, many children who are developmentally delayed ultimately “catch up.” However, it’s quite probable that she’s wrong and that her children are having problems that they don’t necessarily have to have because she “believes” they are just fine. To her, their developmental delay is nothing more than the dogmatic judgment of pediatricians who apparently just made up these standards out of whole cloth and/or are the results of arbitrary judgments of pre-school, kindergarten, and school officials. Consistent with her desire not to “force” her children to develop “faster” than is “natural,” she also has a whole list of things she doesn’t want to “force” her children to do, including sharing, being polite, or excelling at anything, all of which she disparages as “just creating children who are monkeys, imitating behavior without independently experiencing it or really understanding it.” Or she could be raising two massively spoiled kids. She claims she “sets boundaries” but then denies using many of the most common strategies to enforce those boundaries.

I realize that attachment parenting of the type advocated by Dr. Sears and our very own Dr. Jay Gordon is all the rage these days, but I have a tendency to take the criticisms seriously, particularly the lack of empiric evidence that supports the concept as being superior to other forms of parenting. Attachment parenting might work for some parents, but it’s incredibly demanding and strikes me as going too far, as obsessive even.

While a case for attachment parenting might be made, there is no doubt that Bialik subscribes to a lot of non-science-based ideas in that she is clearly antivaccine, lives a crunchy faux “natural” lifestyle, and believes in homeopathy. How a PhD scientist can believe in homeopathy remains, of course, beyond me. One wonders if they didn’t teach her Avagadro’s number in undergraduate college or even in graduate school. Be that as it may, unfortunately Mayim Bialik is proof positive that even advanced education in science doesn’t always inoculate one from quackery. Even leaving aside the question of whether there is anything to attachment parenting, there’s more than enough evidence that Bialik’s prone to magical thinking, to put it kindly.

Sadly, I won’t be able to watch Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory in the same way again. Part of the appeal of her character was that, given her PhD in neuroscience, there was the impression that Mayim Bialik was actually a bit like the character she plays. I know that Amy Farrah Fowler is a character that Mayim Bialik happens to be very good at bringing to life in an entertaining fashion and nothing more, but even so it’s going to be hard to forget the woo that lies behind the neuroscientist, both fictional and real.

Comments

  1. #1 LW
    February 23, 2012

    Rachael, you did not answer my question. How does your common sense tell you what vaccination schedule to use in each child that comes before you?

    I suspect your answer is, “common sense tells me never to vaccinate any child for any disease”, but that’s a one-size-fits-all solution, so you can’t say that.

    So what do you say? What does your common sense tell you about children with asthma? Or juvenile diabetes? Or mitochondrial disorders? No fair looking up the research, by the way, as that would be relying on a bunch of nerds with no social skills, not your vaunted common sense.

  2. #2 Bogeymama
    February 23, 2012

    Having errors on this computer submitting comments, so short version:

    Mayim was ambushed on an episode of “What Not To Wear”. She was clearly uncomfortable, only wanted clothes that would accomodate her baby sling. She was a good sport about it though.

  3. #3 eeny
    February 23, 2012

    Sorry your complaints fall on deaf ears.

    ANY celebrity who isn’t a Scientologist these days is ok in my book.

  4. #4 brian
    February 23, 2012

    Why are be vaccinating babies for hepatitis B within 12 hours of birth for a disease that is not highly contagious, except in high risk populations, and is not in epidemic form in the United States? Where’s the common sense in this?

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/120/1/189.full

  5. #5 Shay
    February 23, 2012

    Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease caused by promiscuous homo/heterosexual conduct as well as commonly sex-related IV drug use

    Well, not entirely. An estimated one third of the 1.25 million Americans infected with chronic active HBV acquired their infections before the age of five.

  6. #6 Oops
    February 23, 2012

    Hoping Brian realised the link he posted was for Hepatitis A, much different than HepB schnookums.

    Whoooops. Quick google searches are never anyones friend!

  7. #7 Dangerous Bacon
    February 23, 2012

    Jay Gordon: “If I ran this site, I’d be embarrassed at the persistent ad hominem attacks and the low level of discourse. I’m waiting for someone here to call me a poophead. (Go ahead, make my day.)

    “I remember a time when these posters were the exception rather than the rule.”

    I remember when you routinely made use of ad hominem attacks here (insulting the intelligence of your critics, intimating that they were pharma shills etc.). Nowadays you seem to have mostly cut that out, preferring instead to do random drive-bys to scold, to avoid substantive discussion and to post heavily edited snippets that you think support your antivax beliefs*.

    *for instance, linking to a summary of a newly published Cochrane review on the MMR vaccine to highlight its statements about limited safety studies – while neglecting to mention that the review authors concluded that on both safety and efficacy grounds, continued use of the MMR vaccine is medically justified. It’s in the full report, which should be available to you. I suggest you read it.

  8. #8 Liz Ditz
    February 23, 2012

    Rachael, you are misinformed about Hepatitis B. From the website PKids (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases — a site I highly recommend, by the way), the text Hepatitis B Virus: Kids Can Infect Kids by Eric Mast, M.D., M.P.H

    Many people believe that young kids in the United States don’t become infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) except through perinatal transmission, when HBV infected moms pass it to their newborn children. However, several studies have documented high rates of early childhood HBV transmission among kids born in the United States to moms who are not infected with HBV.

    The data indicate that the highest risk of early childhood transmission is among kids born to moms who immigrated to the United States from countries where HBV infection is highly endemic (e.g., Southeast Asia, China), but in fact the majority of early childhood HBV infections occur among African American and white children.

    It’s estimated that 33,000 kids (10 years of age and younger) born to moms who are not infected with HBV were infected each year prior to implementation of routine childhood hepatitis B vaccination. In addition, an estimated 12,000 kids born to HBV infected moms were infected each year before implementation of immunization programs to prevent perinatal HBV infections.

    In household settings, non-sexual transmission of HBV occurs primarily from child to child, and young kids are at highest risk of infection. We’re not sure exactly how transmission occurs, but frequent contact of non-intact skin or mucous membranes with blood-containing secretions including, perhaps, saliva, are the most likely means of transmission. HBV remains infectious at mild temperatures for extended periods and can be found on and transmitted through sharing of inanimate objects such as wash towels or toothbrushes.

    Without vaccination, kids do infect kids.

    Dr. Mast is Chief of the Prevention Branch, Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (proposed), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    You may also be interested in reading Joseph Albietz, MD’s essay on why the US instituted the birth dose of hepatitis B. You might learn someting.

    I think it may be most helpful to examine why we vaccinate against Hepatitis B the way we do in the US, how most countries in the world approach the problem, and finally examine the reason why eight European countries do not universally vaccinate against HBV.

    [big snip, but I urge you to read the whole thing]

    Since its launch in 1991, we have seen a steady decrease in Hepatitis B infections. Hep B incidence in the US fell from 10.7/100,000 in 1983 to 2.1 per 100,000 in 2004. (25,916 total cases down to 6212 cases). Though it’s true other factors have been contributing to HBV’s decline, most notably the public education campaign aimed at curbing the spread of HIV, this doesn’t account for the pattern of HBV decline across age groups. There has been a 95% drop in HBV in people under 15 years of age, 87% in ages 15-24, 71% from 25-44, and 51% decrease in people over 45 years old. This is precisely what you would expect from a pediatric vaccination campaign.

    Using a cost effective and exceptionally low-risk intervention of universal Hep B vaccination the US is well on its way to control, if not elimination, of HBV.

    I live in an area of the US with an exceptionally high incidence of HepB, because of population demographics. I fully support the birth dose strategy.

  9. #9 Chris
    February 23, 2012

    Rachael:

    * Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease caused by promiscuous homo/heterosexual conduct as well as commonly sex-related IV drug use and

    Where did you get this information? Perhaps this might help: Hepatitis B Virus: Kids Can Infect Kids

    It says:

    In household settings, non-sexual transmission of HBV occurs primarily from child to child, and young kids are at highest risk of infection. We’re not sure exactly how transmission occurs, but frequent contact of non-intact skin or mucous membranes with blood-containing secretions including, perhaps, saliva, are the most likely means of transmission. HBV remains infectious at mild temperatures for extended periods and can be found on and transmitted through sharing of inanimate objects such as wash towels or toothbrushes.

    From the About page of that site:

    PKIDs (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases) started in 1996 when some parents couldn’t find babysitters, playmates, or even many relatives willing to spend time with their children. Fear and ignorance of hepatitis B and C and HIV make people do such things.

  10. #10 Rachael
    February 23, 2012

    Brand new one day old babies are routinely injected with the hepatitis B vaccine in US hospitals, yet it can be very dangerous and is completely unnecessary. Hepatitis B is a disease spread most often by unprotected sex and infected drug needles neither of which the average newborn will participate in. The disease is about as hard to catch as the HIV virus yet no where near as dangerous. 90-95% of all hepatitis B cases completely recover after a few weeks of symptoms such as headache, nausea and fatigue. The disease is far from deadly and the people who are at risk of getting hepatitis B are IV drug users, prostitutes and other adults with multiple unprotected sexual encounter, prisoners, and babies born to infected mothers. Pregnant women are tested during pregnancy and unless they are positive carriers of the hepatitis B virus, their newborn should not have to receive this vaccination. Yet since 2002 this shot has been added to the recommended immunization schedule and many US hospitals give it to newborn babies before they even leave go home. Common reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine among those who can communicate include headache, nausea, fever and fatigue oddly the same symptoms as the hard to catch disease. As for more serious side effects, the Hepatitis B vaccine has also been reported to cause a variety of immune and neurological health problems. There have been persistent reports of the vaccine being related to sudden infant death syndrome which is most likely to occur at 2 months, 4 month and 6 months exactly the same time as the hepatitis B vaccine series is often given. Other reports indicate such adverse reactions such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), transverse myelitis, optic neuritis, and multiple sclerosis as well as immune system dysfunction including chronic arthritis. Some speculations have also come about insisting on a connecting with Autism and the hepatitis B vaccine as well as several more on the recommended immunization schedule.

  11. #11 Phoenix Woman
    February 23, 2012

    Does anyone else here read Bialik’s inane comments and is forcibly reminded of Jenny McCarthy’s “indigo child” phase, when she tried to pretend her child’s developmental issues were in fact a sign of his Christlike greatness?

    Think about it. In both Bialik’s and McCarthy’s cases, we’re seeing a parent who, when first confronted with obvious developmental problems in their child, tries to do a dipsy-doodle of a rationalization, pretending that the problems are in fact good things.

    Eventually, McCarthy was no longer able to pretend that her child had issues, but instead of addressing those issues rationally and actually getting her child treatment and training of the kinds that made commenter Michelle’s daughter grow up to be a wonderful young lady, she wasted precious months and years of her son’s childhood trying to “cure” him of autism. What will Bialik do when she’s no longer able to pretend that her children are “Indigo Kids”? Or has she given up her brain to Jay Gordon so completely that she’d feed her kids arsenic on his say-so?

  12. #12 brian
    February 23, 2012

    @203

    Just so. However, that wasn’t a failure of Google-fu, but simply the result of clicking on the wrong link from my list of hepatitis references. This is better:

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5416a1.htm

  13. #13 KathyH
    February 24, 2012

    Good grief, what Mayim Bialik is doing is not Attachment Parenting. It is just bad parenting, pure and simple. I am a strong advocate and practitioner of Attachment Parenting and, I can assure you, my parenting is nothing like hers.

  14. #14 Militant Agnostic
    February 24, 2012

    Phoenix Woman @209

    Does anyone else here read Bialik’s inane comments and is forcibly reminded of Jenny McCarthy’s “indigo child” phase, when she tried to pretend her child’s developmental issues were in fact a sign of his Christlike greatness?

    Yes, see Karlwithakay @74

    Phoenix Woman @209

    Or has she given up her brain to Jay Gordon so completely that she’d feed her kids arsenic on his say-so?

    I think it goes in the other direction – more a case Jay Gordon pandering to her whackaloonity. I am wondering if malnutrition is playing a role in her kids problems. Although it is very unnatural, a vegan diet can be healthy if done rationally, but veganism combined with whackaloonity could easily result in deficiencies. Whether this is the case with her prenatally or for her kids or not, she may have a nagging suspicion that she is responsible for their developmental delays, especially given the altie tendency to blame everything on diet and “toxins”. This would be a strong incentive for denial.

  15. #15 Julian Frost
    February 24, 2012

    Rachael @208:

    Brand new one day old babies are routinely injected with the hepatitis B vaccine in US hospitals, yet it can be very dangerous and is completely unnecessary. Hepatitis B is a disease spread most often by unprotected sex and infected drug needles neither of which the average newborn will participate in. The disease is about as hard to catch as the HIV virus yet no where near as dangerous.

    Please Read Liz Ditz’s comments @206 and Chris’s comments @207. You are wrong.

    90-95% of all hepatitis B cases completely recover after a few weeks of symptoms such as headache, nausea and fatigue. The disease is far from deadly…

    So there’s a 5-10% chance that a hepB infection will end with serious consequences like liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure needing a transplant? I’ll take my chances with the vaxx, thanks.

    As for more serious side effects, the Hepatitis B vaccine has also been reported to cause a variety of immune and neurological health problems. There have been persistent reports of the vaccine being related to sudden infant death syndrome which is most likely to occur at 2 months, 4 month and 6 months exactly the same time as the hepatitis B vaccine series is often given. Other reports indicate such adverse reactions such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), transverse myelitis, optic neuritis, and multiple sclerosis as well as immune system dysfunction including chronic arthritis. Some speculations have also come about insisting on a connecting with Autism and the hepatitis B vaccine as well as several more on the recommended immunization schedule.

    Citations please. And not from whale.to.

  16. #16 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 24, 2012

    Brand new one day old babies are routinely injected with the hepatitis B vaccine in US hospitals, yet it can be very dangerous and is completely unnecessary. Hepatitis B is a disease spread most often by unprotected sex and infected drug needles neither of which the average newborn will participate in.

    See, when people present their beliefs, and their beliefs turn out to be wrong, smart people learn from that. They don’t just repeat their false beliefs over again with even fewer paragraph breaks, as you have done here.

  17. #17 LW
    February 24, 2012

    Rachael, when copying and pasting an entire block from another source, it is customary to credit the original source. So, “your” paragraph @208 is copied from here.

  18. #18 Giliell
    February 24, 2012

    I’m not going to beat around the bush here. By current conventional standards both of my sons qualified for speech, occupational and physical therapy and I gave them none.

    Holy shit that’s child abuse.
    I’m the last person who wants to stuff children into boxes. I had three years of “fight” with my ped until she agreed to stuff the weight-growth chart where the sun doesn’t shine because my daughter is just skinny as hell.
    And why did she agree to do that?
    Because I have a normally developed child in every other aspect who isn’t sick more than other children and who isn’t lagging behind other children.
    Yes, children are different, and they develop at different speeds. As a casual observer you pretty soon find out that most children don’t develop all their skills at the same constant speed.
    Most kids develop one set of skills early and lag behind in another set. The early talker who can’t be bothered to move their butt, the wild rascal who’ll just get along shouting “eehhhh” in different voices.
    That’s ok and they mostly catch up by the time they’re 3-4.
    But if children are lagging behind in every single aspect of development that’s a reason to worry.
    I pity those children. They are raised as little princes who’ll have their shoes tied by mummy at age 20.
    And one day they’ll go out into a world that just treats them like people, and what’s worse, like the mal-adjusted, impolite, self-centred, thoroughly unlikable little assholes their parents raised them to be.

  19. #19 Liz Ditz
    February 24, 2012

    Rachael at 208’s source was a hysterical, unsourced article from Dec. 2006. That’s right, 5 years and two months ago.

    From PubMed:

    A 2006 report found There is no evidence of an association between hepatitis B vaccines and the sudden infant death syndrome. A 2009 report on demonstrated benefit of universal infant vaccination program.

  20. #20 Liz Ditz
    February 24, 2012

    Hepatitis B vaccine as a causal autism factor was run up the flagpole by the “autism is too vaccine injury” crowd. It didn’t fly. Discussion in the comments at Science-Based Medicine (with links).

  21. #21 TBruce
    February 24, 2012

    There have been persistent reports of the vaccine being related to sudden infant death syndrome which is most likely to occur at 2 months, 4 month and 6 months exactly the same time as the hepatitis B vaccine series is often given.

    SIDS most commonly occurs between the ages of 2 weeks to 12 months, not “at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months”. It also occured over this age range long before the Hep B vaccine was ever invented or used. BTW, the incidence of SIDS has plummeted in the past few years. It’s thought to be due to the practice of discouraging placing babies on their stomachs to sleep, however, maybe it’s because Hep B vaccines are now routinely given to newborns. Just sayin’.

    I have some working professional knowledge of this area, so It was easy for me to see how much hogwash was in that single sentence. I expect the rest of that cut’n’paste will be just as truthful.

  22. #22 lilady
    February 24, 2012

    ***Can anyone explain this from Dr. Jay’s website:

    Dr. Jay Gordon’s Twitter Updates
    No public Twitter messages.

    I went to Jay’s Twitter page and he has no “public Twitter messages” since February 20th.

    ***I need to know because Jay’s twitter updates are one of my sources for Jay-Woo.

  23. #23 Todd W.
    February 25, 2012

    @lilady

    He’s tweeting again. This time engaging in ad hominem against the author of an article on Esquire blogs, saying that “Pierce is a non-medical author writing about medicine. Not impressive at all.”

  24. #24 lilady
    February 25, 2012

    Well, I’m impressed with Pierce’s article and totally unimpressed with Jay’s tweet.

    I think Jay’s constant tweets are preemptive strikes against any study, any doctor and any journalist, that describes the impact of anti-vax doctors, anti-vax bloggers and anti-vax parents who do not immunize their children.

  25. #25 Medivh
    February 26, 2012

    @124/125:

    The only way you can make these numbers comparable is if you assume that the extent of high risk deliveries in birthing centers and homebirths is just the same as it is in the hospital, which indicates that they are not restricted to low-risk births, as you insist they should be.

    What is your problem with reading comp? I said that home births are safer in low-risk situations. Then I said that for some reason, Dr. Tuteur thinks that home births should be compared to only low-risk hospital births. I do assume that there are idiots who home birth when it’s contrary to survival – i.e. in high-risk situations. It’s Dr. Tuteur who seems to think that comparing apples to apples is bad.

    Medivh – btw, the de Jonge study had some apparent methodology problems, which were addressed in a subsequent article (van der Kooy). You know what was found? Homebirth in the Netherlands is more dangerous than the hospital.

    Here’s a summary

    http://skepticalob.blogspot.com/2011/10/new-dutch-study-raises-troubling.html

    Here’s a key quote from the paper: “Our conclusions apparently contradict those of De Jonge et al …

    Bypassing Dr. Tuteur as being counterskeptical, I went for the paper in question. I got no further than the abstract of van der Kooy(2011) when I found this:

    CONCLUSION: Home birth, under routine conditions, is generally not associated with increased intrapartum and early neonatal death, yet in subgroups, additional risk cannot be excluded.

    Did you bother to read the paper, or are you just reading Dr. Tuteur’s unskeptical summary? I’d like to know so I know where the cherry picking came from.

  26. #26 Giliell
    February 26, 2012

    What is your problem with reading comp? I said that home births are safer in low-risk situations. Then I said that for some reason, Dr. Tuteur thinks that home births should be compared to only low-risk hospital births. I do assume that there are idiots who home birth when it’s contrary to survival – i.e. in high-risk situations. It’s Dr. Tuteur who seems to think that comparing apples to apples is bad.

    No, she said she was surprised that they excluded a group of patients where the midwife-home-birth-patients probably got sub-standard care.
    Because that kind of is important: Not only to see if low-risk births are safe at home, but also to find out if caregivers actually place patients in the right group.
    It’s all fine and dandy to say that a woman who turned out to be a high-risk patient should never have tried home-birth, but if that woman never knew, she couldn’t make the right decision.
    Great to see that if results seem to shed a bad light on home-birth you are absolutely willing to throw the women under the bus and blankly assume that they were the ones who made the bad decission

    Most pregnant women are neither OB/Gyns nor midwives. They can’t evaluate their risk correctly, so they rely on their midwives and OB/Gyns.
    Therefore I find the question how often they missjudge whether a pregnancy is low or high risk to be very relevant.
    Obviously, the consequences of such an error are going to be much bigger in a home-birth where you can’t just cut the woman open and get that baby out there in 10 min than in a hospital.
    BTW, I have a friend who gave birth under the “wonderfull Dutch system of homebirths” (Note that women in the Netherlands seem to come to the conclusion that it is a bad idea, the numbers are decreasing). She was young, a foreigner, so she just trusted what people told her.
    Well, due to unprevisited complications and lack of monitoring during the home-birth she now has a special needs child. She would have much preferred a shitty hospital experience and a healthy baby.

  27. #27 Kathy with a K
    February 26, 2012

    That is so disappointing. 🙁

    (PS- You rock!)

  28. #28 Medivh
    February 27, 2012

    @224, Giliel:

    No, she said she was surprised that they excluded a group of patients where the midwife-home-birth-patients probably got sub-standard care.

    You’re reading the vague analysis of the second study. I didn’t get that far – she says, in her vague analysis of the first study:

    This study actually substantially underestimates the risk of these serious complications at homebirth because it compares homebirth to all risk hospital birth instead of low risk hospital birth.

    It’s all fine and dandy to say that a woman who turned out to be a high-risk patient should never have tried home-birth, but if that woman never knew, she couldn’t make the right decision. Great to see that if results seem to shed a bad light on home-birth you are absolutely willing to throw the women under the bus and blankly assume that they were the ones who made the bad decission

    Nice to see you grant the assumption of good faith in an argument. But at least you’ve got good reading comp and have a valid interpretation of what I wrote. I assure you, however, that I do believe that bad decisions about medical situations made in ignorance, like those of your friend, are not the fault of the patient.

    That said, my anecdotes tell me that women who home birth in countries where this is not the norm tend, like all people who go against norms, to know more about those norms than other laypeople. And indeed some professionals. I acknowledge taht anecdotes are not evidence, however – which is why I’m sticking with van der Kooy(2011) and de Jonge(2009).

  29. #29 Calli Arcale
    February 27, 2012

    That said, my anecdotes tell me that women who home birth in countries where this is not the norm tend, like all people who go against norms, to know more about those norms than other laypeople.

    I dunno; listening to antivaxxers lately, and listening to Dr Jay, I’m not so sure that people going against the norm generally know more about the norm than other laypeople. They might, but my anecdotes tell me that the predictive value of this is poor at best.

  30. #30 Giliell
    February 28, 2012

    That said, my anecdotes tell me that women who home birth in countries where this is not the norm tend, like all people who go against norms, to know more about those norms than other laypeople. And indeed some professionals.

    Ah, well, but my annecdotes say…
    In that case it would seem to be better to be ignorant and trust in people who actually have an education in such matters than to play Dr. Google who graduated from Wikipedia University with a PhD from Natural News.
    Problem is your source. If all you know about vaccines comes from Andrew Wakefield, you’re doing it wrong.
    And no, 9 months of reading desperately whatever you can find on the subject don’t make you an expert.
    Many people have no clue how to interprete statistics, risks, statistical revalence, confunders and so on. Many people don’t understand that if you have a 1 in a million chance of a dead baby that if it hits you, you have, indeed, a dead baby.

  31. #31 Medivh
    February 28, 2012

    @227, Calli Arcale:

    I dunno; listening to antivaxxers lately, and listening to Dr Jay, I’m not so sure that people going against the norm generally know more about the norm than other laypeople.

    A fair point, but only one. Feminists tend to be arguing against the status quo and generally know more about social theory and group psych than other laypeople. Atheists and religion. Childless couples and the pros/cons of child raising. I can go on. Finding a decent divider between the woos and actually knowledgable people is hard, admittedly. Not even the search for knowledge divides the woos from the groups on this list – all of them search, it’s just that the woos find the wrong things.

    I guess the defining factor is proper skepticism – meaning the willingness to be wrong.

    @228, Giliell: Nice appeal to consequences. Want to actually bother with an argument next time? By the way, who’s claiming patients are to blame for failures of home births now? “9 months of reading desperately” indeed… you don’t perhaps think that there are women who make sure they know what they’re getting into before they get pregnant?

  32. #32 Calli Arcale
    February 28, 2012

    Medivh — it may depend on who one happens to meet in life. You may have run into a better class of mold-breaker than I have. 😉 It doesn’t take many run-ins with Apollo hoax proponents to reassess one’s opinion of people with unconventional ideas….

    I like what you say about proper skepticism. That is probably the main difference.

  33. #33 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 28, 2012

    @228, Giliell: Nice appeal to consequences. Want to actually bother with an argument next time?

    You don’t actually understand what the appeal to consequences fallacy is, do you? I’ll give you a hint: saying “We should not do X, because the consequences are bad” is not an example. An example would be “if it were true that X, that would be bad for us; therefore X isn’t true.” I don’t have a dog in this fight, and I wasn’t in it before, but now I’m just disgusted with you. Don’t try to illuminate someone else’s “fallacies” if you haven’t taken the time to learn what fallacies are or even five seconds to think it through yourself.

  34. #34 Composer99
    February 28, 2012

    It doesn’t take many run-ins with Apollo hoax proponents to reassess one’s opinion of people with unconventional ideas

  35. #35 Giliell
    February 28, 2012

    By the way, who’s claiming patients are to blame for failures of home births now?

    Well, I don’t know, still you?

    “9 months of reading desperately” indeed… you don’t perhaps think that there are women who make sure they know what they’re getting into before they get pregnant?

    You mean they study medicine and specialize in gynaecology just for that?
    Those women rely on “experts” the same way those ordinary lesser women do, only that they believe the wrong people.
    Cause and effect aren’t that easy to tell apart.
    But clearly there’s one side who tells them that they can “empower” themselves, that they’ve got “intuition”, that the risks are small, when their target audience actually understands very little about the things discussed.
    And yeah, most people prefer to think of themselves as rather intelligent and capable.
    Understanding and admitting that you’re not the expert isn’t something that comes easy to most people so the NCB crowd has a good appeal to them.

  36. #36 Krebiozen
    February 28, 2012

    Many people don’t understand that if you have a 1 in a million chance of a dead baby that if it hits you, you have, indeed, a dead baby.

    Unfortunately, and I have no wish to worry any parents-to-be unnecessarily, the odds are considerably worse than that. In the UK in 2008 there were 8.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 7.6 perinatal deaths per thousand births. I make that a 1 in 12,000 chance of the mother dying and a 1 in 130 chance of the baby dying. I think other developed countries have similar stats. I find it hard to understand why anyone would do something that risky without taking every possible precaution. I think we should make greater efforts to make hospital births as comfortable and pleasant a process as possible so that home births cease to be an attractive option.

  37. #37 Krebiozen
    February 28, 2012

    Relative risk is somewhat of an obsession of mine, so I can’t help but mention that compared to a parachute jump, giving birth is about 6 times more dangerous for the mother, and about 800 times more dangerous for the baby. Obviously a newborn baby is unlikely to be making a parachute jump, but this does support the old saying that being born is by far the most dangerous thing that ever happens to most of us.

  38. #38 Giliell
    February 28, 2012

    @Krebiozen
    I didn’t want to imply that the odds were actually one in a million.
    It was, I admit, just a number I threw out because people simply don’t understand that whatever the probability of an event is, it hits you with 1 or 0, not with 0,000001.
    I once tried to explain that, if antibiotics reduce the risk of a baby contracting strep B during birth from 2% to 0,5% it is a decrease by 75%. The other woman kept arguing that it’s only 1,5% and therefore not worth it *sigh*

  39. #39 Marry Me, Mindy
    February 28, 2012

    Kreb – here’s what I call Pablo’s Scenario

    An expectant couple goes to a party on her due date. She isn’t drinking, but he is, and drinks enough to make him legally drunk. She goes into labor, and they jump in the car to drive 8 miles to the hospital. She is in labor, so he drives.

    Two things:
    1) She is more than 50 times more likely to die while giving birth to the child than she is to die in a car accident, and
    2) The baby is more than 10 times more likely to die during childbirth than the father is to get in an accident OR even get a DUI (assuming he would be arrested for DUI).

    As you said, being born is the most dangerous thing that happens to us – and that even applies to drunk drivers (the ultimate cost of drunk driving comes not because it is so dangerous, but because it is SO FRIGGIN PREVALENT – the US DOT estimates that there are 27000 drunken miles driven for every DUI, and there are 3 times as many DUIs are there are accidents)

  40. #40 Krebiozen
    February 28, 2012

    Giliell,

    I didn’t want to imply that the odds were actually one in a million.

    I know, I got your point, just wanted to add mine too 🙂

    Marry Me Mindy,
    Good point. Humans are lousy at estimating relative risks without using some stats and math. Even lousier when drunk though.

  41. #41 hmblview
    February 28, 2012

    The incredibly tiny subset of parents who have unlimited resources will inevitably have the most whacked-out views about things. Educated or not.

    Those of us who work in the regular world and raise our kids in the mainstream can little afford to cope with a preventable disease or handle the emotional and financial burden of a child who can’t/won’t function by society’s quirky and yes, restrictive rules.

    Mayim Bialik will likely have the resources to fix any of the problems that might arise from her ankle-biters’ not being vaccinated, or developing a nutrient deficiency, or being diagnosed with a developmental delay. That isn’t true for the vast majority of moms. And yet, every day another holistic-mom-wanna-be will buy into whatever arrogance the Celebrity of the Week is selling.

  42. #42 furtivezoog
    March 6, 2012

    Orac, In this article, Bialik states that Dr Jay Gordon is, indeed, her family’s pediatrician.

    http://attachmentparenting.org/blog/2012/03/05/a-mother-to-mother-conversation-with-mayim-bialik/

    *Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?*

    I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their
    functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment
    parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for
    us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn
    Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert
    extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it
    happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

    *What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?*

    What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been
    the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from
    Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that
    we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to
    make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think
    that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack
    of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of
    the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.
    < \blockquote>

  43. #43 Moonpie Nobot
    March 16, 2012

    I am dyslexic. It was caught early and now I only struggle on days when I am super tired or terribly sick. Because my mom took the time to work with me early on and get me the help I needed I am a happier adult than I would be had I been allowed to advance at my own pace.

  44. #44 KathyH
    May 5, 2012

    The kind of parenting Mayin is preaching, the not teaching your children to say please and not worrying about developmental delays, has nothing to do with attachment parenting. Neither does vaccination. I practice attachment parenting and my children are vaccinated. The first Dr Sears, William, the one who coined the phrase attachment parenting, is pro vax. I am an educator and I understand child development and would never allow my children to fall behind without seeking help. My first child has gone thru a number of therapies for minor issues. What Mayin practices is extreme unconditional parenting, not attachment parenting. She may also practice attachment parenting in there somewhere, but everything you wrote about above has nothing to do with attachment parenting.

    Please visit the attachment parenting international website to learn more.

    http://www.attachmentparenting.org/

    Please stop being disrespectful to attachment parenting just because a few crazies have taken it overboard.

  45. #45 Narad
    May 5, 2012

    I don’t know that laying claim to purity of historical usage is really going to go that far. (Bialik was on “Science Friday” yesterday, by the by; I didn’t follow it particularly closely, as it seemed to be filler, but the assertion that vaccination is unrelated to “attachment parenting” was also made. Along with “once a scientist, always a scientist.”)

  46. #46 Lawrence
    May 5, 2012

    @Kathy H – I would take issue with Dr. Sears being “pro-vax” since he actively counsels his patients to keep their vax-status from their neighbors & mooch off of “herd immunity” as much as possible.

  47. #47 Chris
    May 5, 2012

    Lawrence, wrong Dr. Sears.

  48. #48 Creatrix
    May 7, 2012

    I can accept her choice to experience the pain of childbirth. When done correctly, I admire vegans. The choice of cloth over pampers is an ecologically responsible choice, IMO. Although her I attention to what seems like signs that her children need therapy on earns me, I am neither a parent nor a pediatrician, so I’ll leave the commentary on that to wiser commentators. I do wonder how attachment parenting might keep children from learning self-reliance and problem solving skills: mommy is always there to fix everything. I have no problem with extended breastfeeding. While I get that she chooses not to teach her children basic manners and recognize that is her decision, I hope she isn’t surprised other parents choose not to be burdened by her little miscreants at birthday parties and the like. Basically, all of these are choices that I can accept, if not agree with. (I secretly suspect, though, that she is raising little Amy Farrah Fowler boys, destined for lives of awkward loneliness.)

    Failure to vaccinate, however, is not. How anyone with a PhD in any kind of science can fail to understand herd immunity is beyond me, and it’s simply morally reprehensible that a highly educated parent such as Dr. Bialik could choose to jeopardize countless immunocompromised children and adults – not to mention per-vaccine infants – because of slavish adherence to quackery.

  49. #49 Creatrix
    May 7, 2012

    I apologize for the re-post, but i had so many typos that had to for clarity! (i blame autocorrect for many!)

    I can accept her choice to experience the pain of childbirth. When done correctly, Vegan eating is probably quite healthy. The choice of cloth over pampers is an ecologically responsible choice, IMO. Although her inattention to what seems like signs that her children need therapy baffles me, but I am neither a parent nor a pediatrician, so I’ll leave the commentary on that to wiser commentators. I do wonder how attachment parenting might keep children from learning self-reliance and problem solving skills: mommy is always there to fix everything. I have no problem with extended breastfeeding. While I get that she chooses not to teach her children basic manners and recognize that is her decision, I hope she isn’t surprised when other parents choose not to be burdened by her little miscreants at birthday parties and the like. Basically, all of these are choices that I can accept, if not agree with. (I secretly suspect, though, that she is raising little Amy Farrah Fowler boys, destined for lives of awkward loneliness.)

    Failure to vaccinate, however, is not. How anyone with a PhD in any kind of science can fail to understand herd immunity is beyond me, and it’s simply morally reprehensible that a highly educated parent such as Dr. Bialik could choose to jeopardize countless immunocompromised children and adults – not to mention per-vaccine infants – because of slavish adherence to quackery.

    (Also, does this AP business remind anyone else of the fat people in the floaty chairs from Wall-E?)

  50. #50 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 11, 2012

    Report from the Great White North: the current edition of Time magazine has stirred up controversy here, and not only because of the cover photo. It’s shoved the crackpot ideas of Bob Sears into the mainstream, and not all of it puts Dr. Sears’ ideas in very favourable light.

    I haven’t read the story yet but if someone has, does it mention Sears’s anti-vax policies?

  51. #51 janerella
    May 12, 2012

    @Marc and Lawrence : To reiterate Chris’ comment:

    Dr William Sears (73) = Attachment parenting guru, pro vax

    Dr Bob Sears = Vocal public anti-vax advocate, son of Dr William Sears

    Sorry to snark, but we need to keep the facts straight in these discussions.

  52. #52 Chris
    May 12, 2012

    I looked at the time.com website and the only article that seems to be on a Dr. Sears is about the William, Bob’s dad. It only has a snippet, so I have no idea what it is about.

    Twenty plus years ago my family doctor did say that while Dr. William Sears was a bit nutty, but his idea of the baby sling could be useful. With child #2 the sling was a life saver, because I could carry him around and get dinner made. That boy was definitely a lap baby, but that turned around when his terrible twos started when he was 18 months old and lasted until he was seven years old. He was the first of the three to get a job (just before 10th grade!), which he still has to pay his rent as he goes to college (lifeguard/swim teacher).

  53. #53 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 12, 2012

    Janarella,

    Thanks for setting the record straight. I am aware there is a bunch of Dr. Sears working out of the same clinic.

    I guess what confused me is that Orac’s piece on Mayim Bialik mentions Dr. Bob Sears, so I assumed he was continuing on in his dad’s footsteps with the Attached Parenthood thing.

    So dad is pro-vac and son is anti-vac.* That must create a bit of tension around the office…

    *Although he won’t admit it. He pushes a modified schedule, but I presume only to his patients as a compromise who still insist on some vaccinations after he tries to scare them off.

  54. #54 Chris
    May 12, 2012

    Remember that that William Sears has lots of kids, several who became doctors. Some are sane and adhere to reality, then there is “Robert” who adheres to the most profitable ideas.

  55. #55 lilady
    May 12, 2012

    @ Marc: Here’s a commentary on the Time Magaine article on Dr. William Sears…it doesn’t mention vaccines at all:

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/05/11/dr-manny-attachment-parenting-isnt-all-that-bad/

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