Respectful Insolence

Vaccines and autism: Same as it ever was

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the last seven years about the antivaccine crowd invested in the idea that vaccines cause autism, it’s that it reacts with extreme hostility to any sort of studies that cast doubt upon their pet idea that vaccines cause autism. That’s somewhat understandable, given how much of their identity so many members of the antivaccine movement have invested in their idea, but not all studies that fail to support the central dogma of the antivaccine movement (i.e., that vaccines cause autism and are in general evil) are created equal, at least not with respect to the reaction they provoke from the antivaccine movement. Some provoke much more hostility than others.

The sorts of studies that provoke the most hostility of all seem to be the ones that suggest that autism has a large genetic component. I haven’t quite figured out why, other than that if autism is largely genetic in origin then it can’t be due to vaccines. Alternatively, some have speculated that the reason for this particular hostility is that they don’t like the concept that there is a large genetic component to autism because it implies something about the parents. Be that as it may, I saw a perfect example of this sort of reaction over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism yesterday when the media editor for the whole crank operation, Anne Dachel, wrote a post entitled Autism Diagnosis Age. Ann is really, really not happy about a new study and the publicity it got. Originally, I was going to let this study pass because, for whatever reason, I missed what I considered the window of opportunity to blog about it and Steve Novella had already covered it quite well. However, Dachel gave me the perfect excuse to revisit that oversight and take a look, this time in the context of examining the antivaccine movement’s reaction to the study.

Before I get into the study itself, I’ll just do the really brief CliffsNotes version of it. Basically, a group at the Univesity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill that found evidence of brain abnormalities on MRI as early as six months in children who later manifested autistic symptoms. In other words, this study is consistent with an emerging body of evidence over the last five years that suggests that brain abnormalities in autism are detectable far earlier in development than had previously been thought. Scientists are naturally excited by these results, because they suggest a biological basis for autism and because they could help us shed light on the genetic factors that contribute to autism. Antivaccinationists like Anne Dachel, however, are not:

Sometimes it seems that no one is really interested in finding out anything significant about autism. Experts are only obligated to come up with some new findings every few months to make it look like someone somewhere is doing something. That’s what’s happening with this latest research. If scientists can find evidence of autism in babies at six months, it would be proof that the parents who claim that their child suddenly regressed into autism following their 18 or 24 month vaccinations are wrong. It was all just a big coincidence. The signs of autism were really there much earlier.

Yes, that does appear to be the implication of this study. No, what’s happening is not that experts are “obligated to come up with new findings every few months.” Rather, what’s happening is that an increasingly robust body of evidence is being built up over time that suggests that, whatever the cause, the biology of autism manifests itself very, very early in development. The implications, of course, are exactly as Dachel states. If signs of autism are detectable in babies at six months, such observations alone cast huge amounts of doubt on their fanatical belief that vaccines cause autism. Couple this emerging set of evidence that suggests the biology of autism takes hold very early with the now numerous epidemiological studies that have failed to find a wisp of a whiff of a hint of a correlation between vaccines and autism, and it’s pretty obvious that the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism has about as much plausibility and support these days as, well, homeopathy. Ironically, strip Dachel’s little rant of its inherent sarcasm, and she actually got it right. The existing evidence does suggest that autistic regression observed after vaccination is not associated with vaccination any more than one would expect by random chance alone, and studies like this one do strongly suggest that detectable signs of autism are detectable at a very young age, far younger than the age at which symptoms are generally first recognized.

So what did this study show?

Basically, researchers studied high risk children, specifically siblings of children already diagnosed with autism, at six months using MRI. Actually, it was a specific kind of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging. The authors rationale for the study is described in the introduction to the paper:

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are complex disorders of neurodevelopment defined by impaired social communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors. ASDs represent a significant public health concern, affecting upward of one in 110 children, with a recurrence rate among at-risk families of nearly one in five (1, 2). Findings from prospective studies of infant siblings of children with ASDs, who are at higher than average risk for the disorder, indicate that a number of the defining behavioral features of ASDs first emerge around 12 months of age after a period of relatively typical postnatal development (3-5).

[...]

Taken together, findings from the behavioral studies and the studies of brain and head size growth in high-risk infant siblings suggest that the latter half of the first year of life is a pivotal time for both brain changes and symptom onset in infants later diagnosed with an ASD. The concurrent timing of these phenomena suggests that brain changes during this pe- riod may have an important role in the pathogenesis of autistic behavior.

Imaging studies were carried out in these high risk children, and the children were then also evaluated clinically at 24 months to see which children met criteria for autism spectrum disorder. The imaging studies were used to characterize the development of the brain’s white matter, which are the parts of the brain that contain the axons rather than the actual neurons and thus carry the nerve signals. Basically, the investigators used techniques known as fractional anisotropy, which allowed them to characterize the white matter. Basically, what they found was that, among the study participants, the 28 infants who later went on to be diagnosed with ASD had significantly different fractional anisotropy trajectories for 12 of the 15 fiber tracts studied than the infants who did not receive a diagnosis of ASD. Specifically, the infants who went on to develop ASD had significantly less white matter development. A clear implication of this study is that, whatever causes ASDs, it must begin well before six months of age. As the authors put it:

It is clear that the neurodevelopmental story of ASDs neither begins at 6 months of age nor ends at 24. Extend- ing neuroimaging downward to infants younger than 6 months would help clarify the temporal origin of diverging trajectories, while extending neuroimaging to later ages would capture increasingly stable neurobehavioral out- comes. Additional data points would likewise refine the calibration of trajectories beyond linear models. Because the present results are limited to at-risk infants, the inclu- sion of a low-risk comparison group is necessary to frame group trajectories in the context of typical development. The addition of a multimodal approach to neuroimaging could sharpen our understanding of early brain changes in ASDs, allowing for the investigation of functional and structural covariance. Linking the structural integrity of specific fiber tracts to behaviors relevant to autism during infancy would similarly clarify mutually dependent de- velopmental processes. To capture the mechanisms that engender and maintain the trajectories evidenced here, future researchers might also consider the role of genetic and epigenetic variables in the development of structural neural circuitry.

Of course, no study is perfect, and this study is not without its shortcomings. Perhaps the most important one is that there wasn’t a low risk control group. In addition, fractional anisotropy is an imperfect measurement of white matter organization. Even so, the results of this study are fairly robust-appearing. Basically, this study is one line among several converging lines of evidence that suggests that the earliest changes in the brain associated with ASDs are detectable around six months, which converges with other lines of evidence suggesting that the first detectable behavioral signs of autism appear around six months too. And, yes, converging lines of evidence that suggest that the pathophysiology of autism is detectable at a very early age are inconsistent with the claim, for instance, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, given that the MMR isn’t given that early.

None of this deters Anne Dachel, however:

Jason Wolff attributed autism to genes and ‘a child’s experiences with the world,’ I’d like to point out to him that a big part of that experience includes an arsenal of vaccinations, starting at birth.

And, if vaccines don’t cause autism when given to the baby, then maybe they do when given to the mother, at least if you believe Dachel:

(And even earlier if a pregnant woman receives the flu vaccine, recommended at any stage of pregnancy. The majority of the flu vaccine available come with a huge level of mercury, a known neurotoxin. This mercury easily passes the placental barrier.)

And if trying to claim that mom’s vaccines cause autism in baby doesn’t fly, there’s always conspiracy mongering:

None of the doctors cited in these stories is worried about the effects of the toxic chemicals regularly found in vaccines. No one seems to care that there isn’t a single study on the cumulative effects of the ever-expanding vaccination schedule. Nor are they concerned that every study disproving a link between vaccines and autism is tied to the vaccine industry.

Pharma shill gambit, anyone?

And if the pharma shill gambit doesn’t work, then there are over-the-top attacks on scientists from commenters:

These people have blood on their hands, and they know it. They will do anything they can to keep that fact from becoming common knowledge.

If that’s the case, scientists sure have a funny way of showing it, given how many studies they’ve done of vaccines and autism, even long after it was clear that the hypothesis was not standing up to scientific scrutiny.

In fact, over the last 10-15 years, there has been a relentless drumbeat of studies that have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. In the normal course of scientific studies, such a string of completely negative studies would lead to the abandonment of the hypothesis under test, and it has, among scientists anyway. However, to antivaccine zealots like Anne Dachel and her merry band of antivaccine activists at AoA, it’s got to be the vaccines. It is, first and foremost, all about the vaccines. It has always been about the vaccines, and it will always be about the vaccines. Studies such as this are thus immediately attacked and dismissed as either being the result of scientists’ “dogma” that autism must have a significant genetic component rather than scientists following the evidence where it leads. Alternatively, to antivaccinationists, they must be the result of scientists circling the wagon to protect their pharma paymasters from having to admit that vaccines are The One True Cause of Autism. The reasonable conclusion from so many scientific studies that have failed to find even a hint that vaccines are correlated with autism is that vaccines do not cause autism. Unfortunately, when it comes to vccines antivaccinationists are not reasonable people, which is why they will never accept where the evidence goes.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark M
    February 22, 2012

    The other obvious point:

    Mercury does not cause autism either. In high enough doses (which vaccines don’t contain and never did), mercury causes – surprise, surprise – mercury poisoning…! Symptoms and effects are well-known.

    Vaccines have saved millions upon millions of lives. The data proves it.

    Anti-vaxxers are anti-science, anti-truth and actively harming children’s health with their nonsense.

  2. #2 MartinM
    February 22, 2012

    Tangentially related, but you might be interested in this video. It’s by Peter Hadfield, aka potholer54, who’s done some phenomenal work educating people about creationism and global warming denialism, and has now started on the anti-vax movement, with a passing shot at Natural News on the way.

  3. #3 The Peak Oil Poet
    February 22, 2012

    Much as i might (or might not) agree with you in principle the fundamental argument you present is still flawed

    no matter how much evidence we obtain about swans the fact is that there are no black swans – we have been all over the world and everywhere we encounter swans they are white

    therefore the facts as revealed by science is that there are no black swans

    it’s the same argument as yours – no matter how much evidence we gather about the causes of autism we have found nothing to link it to vaccines

    ok, that’s true

    but we have found no proof that there is not a link – and there never can be until a link is found or until the cause of autism is absolutely known

    in a way, this post of yours, though, as i said before, i might agree with you in principle, is really poor science or rather it is not science – it is just a form bullying of others – it’s a form of religious dogma

    it’s exactly the same as someone beating up people who keep saying there is bound to be black swans – and say so because they have had visions of them in their dreams or while on drugs – we all now there are no black swans – only an idiot or a heretic would claim there is and for proof look – these folk claiming there must exist black swans are all on drugs or are making their claims based on dreams – proof positive that they are heretics

    how dare they

    let’s beat the crap out of them

    and burn them at the stake

    you’d have made a really great priest

    p

  4. #4 Mark M
    February 22, 2012

    Dear “Peak Oil Poet” (whatever that’s supposed to mean),

    Thank you for your very public display of truly impressive ignorance.

    You are a spectacular example of everything Orac says about anti-vaxxers; incapable of rational argument, unwilling to even try.

    (I’ve seen several black swans. None had autism…)

  5. #5 Prakash
    February 22, 2012

    Good post, keep on posting.

    Thanks!
    Prakash
    http://medicalinformationforyou.blogspot.in/

  6. #6 gst
    February 22, 2012

    Peak Oil Poet
    “no matter how much evidence we obtain about swans the fact is that there are no black swans – we have been all over the world and everywhere we encounter swans they are white”

    Obviously you haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan

    Also, some additional reading you might find illuminating.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

  7. #7 Lawrence
    February 22, 2012

    @Orac – I saw that piece yesterday & immediately saw it as a means to lay the groundwork for continuing their attacks against vaccines. Think of it as AoA’s plan “B.” If they can’t lay the blame on childhood vaccines, they will move to vaccines given to the mothers – which create a more fertile ground for the development of autism in-utero, which in turn is exacerabated by the current vaccine schedule given to those vulnerable children.

    Sounds like a great way to move the goalposts…..

    Scary freakin’ people.

  8. #8 MikeMa
    February 22, 2012

    Peak Oil would like a study to prove a negative. This shows a profound lack of understanding of science and a need for absolutes, a concept which (biological) sciences rarely provide.

  9. #9 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    Lawrence, they’ve been rehearsing this argument for a while already. When I have pointed out that there was something obviously different about my (utterly lush) son right from birth, I’ve been told “It must’ve been the ‘flu vaccine” which I didn’t get (long story) or even the mercury in the fillings I don’t have. There’s also the idea being chanted that vaccines will make an autistic child more autistic, trigger a regression or “destroy their guts” – whatever that means (a Wakefieldism no doubt).

  10. #10 Skeptic Hamster
    February 22, 2012

    I had a debate just yesterday over this. The person I was discussing it with was appalled by the use of the term ‘brain abnormalities’.When I explained that this meant ‘different from the average’ rather than brain damaged or inferior I was told that all those who do not oppose vaccinations are in fact people who hate autistic children and want to see them institutionalised .At some point my head will break my desk.

  11. #11 sophia8
    February 22, 2012

    Skeptic Hamster: Tell that person that many on the autism spectrum actually support vaccination; if he then tells you that these must be “self-hating autistics”, treat yourself to a nice cold beer.

  12. #12 TCC
    February 22, 2012

    I think Peak Oil Poet is referring to Popper’s swan argument regarding falsification, although he or she has either misunderstood it or misapplied it to a situation where the focus is verifying a claim (that vaccines cause autism) rather than falsifying an existing theory. But basically, the argument implicit in that post is, “You can’t really know that vaccines cause autism,” which as a statement of fallibility is fine but not as a statement of knowledge, as it is an argument from ignorance.

  13. #13 David
    February 22, 2012

    Peak Oil: “it’s the same argument as yours – no matter how much evidence we gather about the causes of autism we have found nothing to link it to vaccines ok, that’s true
    but we have found no proof that there is not a link ”

    Actually, epidemiology studies are able to place an upper limit on the strength of association between vaccines and autism. That upper limit is so small that, if there is a link, it must be exceedingly weak, and account for at most a tiny fraction of the cases.

  14. #14 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    Skeptic Hamster:
    Ive been told “all those who do not oppose vaccinations are in fact people who hate autistic children and want to see them institutionalised” too usually by the same people who assume that because I have an autistic son I should be anti-vax! “Brain abnormalities” is the correct, descriptive term to use. Personally, I take great offence at the way autistic individuals are described by anti-vaxers. I would never describe my child in the language many of the “autism moms” use or describe our lives together in terms of tragedy as they do of their experiences – I just don’t view it that way.

  15. #15 Anj
    February 22, 2012

    Still holding out hope for my pet theory that at least one form of autism will be a met/endo disorder. That’s horribly generic, so I’ll make only modestly generic: A genetic flaw either leads to too much, too little or an aberrant form of a protein or enzyme needed for normal neurological development.

    It would also be largely genetic in origin. Possibly, if we could pinpoint the error in metabolism, we could also discover how to treat it effectively. [fingers crossed]

  16. #16 Anj
    February 22, 2012

    I also have a question:

    I have seen the term “vaccine damage” used with great abandon at Age Of Autism. Apparently “vaccine damage” can cause a many diverse disorders ranging from autoimmune disorders to immune suppression!

    They never define what “vaccine damage” is or what exactly is “damaged”. They even claim that “vaccine damage” in the mother can pass the “damage” to her unvaccinated children!

    Does anyone have answers to this puzzle?

  17. #17 LW
    February 22, 2012

    The Peak Oil Poet @3:

    how dare they

    let’s beat the crap out of them

    and burn them at the stake

    you’d have made a really great priest

    Kindly point to any place at all where Orac has suggested that any person should be harmed because of their anti-vax — or any other — beliefs. Orac may mock them and suggest that others should mock them, and suggest that no more resources be wasted trying to disprove their fixed ideas, but that is all.

    no matter how much evidence we obtain about swans the fact is that there are no black swans – we have been all over the world and everywhere we encounter swans they are white

    therefore the facts as revealed by science is that there are no black swans

    Uh, no, as has been pointed out, there are in fact black swans.

    it’s the same argument as yours – no matter how much evidence we gather about the causes of autism we have found nothing to link it to vaccines

    No, the argument differs in at least two respects.

    First, there is nothing inherently impossible about black swans. They had not been observed or reported in Europe, hence Europeans believed that they did not exist. But no one claimed that they could not exist. If children who are diagnosed as autistic at age two are detectably developing differently from others at age six months, then a vaccine given at age two cannot be the cause of their developmental differences. Unless you believe that effects precede causes, in which case there’s not much to say to you.

    Second, the vaccines-cause-autism claim is that autism has massively increased in recent years and that this is due to vaccination. Using your swan analogy, this would be equivalent to saying that the swan population in Europe has massively increased in recent years and that this is entirely due to the addition of huge numbers of black swans. If we then examine thousands upon thousands of swans in Europe, and we keep finding nothing but white swans, we can conclude that this claim is wrong without having to prove that there are no black swans anywhere.

    As David pointed out @13, all of these studies show that the upper limit on the strength of the association between vaccines and autism is very low, or in your terms, that black swans must be very rare.

  18. #18 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    Anj: “vaccine damaged” tends to be used interchangably with autistic or “autistic” (grr!) over at AoA. One ridiculous idea about how mum’s vaccines can vaccine damage her offspring was based on the notion that DNA in vaccines can combine with hers and damage it which is passed on at conception – they point to mum as many of their theories propose that autism is a mitochondrial disorder.
    There’s also that thimerosal in ‘flu vaccine reaches the foetus, as can all the other “toxins”.
    Another one is that vaccinated mothers may have disorders that effect how their bodies cope with mercury/aluminium (but because boys are more suseptible to autism it may not cause symptoms in mum) but high mercury levels are then present in utero and then in breast milk.
    Take your pick – they have a “cause” for every occasion

  19. #19 Michael
    February 22, 2012

    “but we have found no proof that there is not a link – and there never can be until a link is found or until the cause of autism is absolutely known”
    The idea that it’s impossible to disprove a link between autism and vaccines without finding the cause of autism makes no sense. Suppose that a woman is raped and murdered and I’m accused of the crime. In response, I present DNA evidence showing that my DNA doesn’t match the rapist, 10 witnesses saying that I was somewhere else at the time of the crime and a videotape comfirming that I was elsewhere at the time of the crime. Can it be said that I haven’t proved my innocence until I determine the identity of the real killer? Of course not. It’s possible to rule out a possible cause of an event without knowing the real cause.

  20. #20 Science Mom
    February 22, 2012

    Sometimes it seems that no one is really interested in finding out anything significant about autism.

    Translation: Scientists won’t keep flogging our raison d’etre autism cause so anything they do find is unimportant.

  21. #21 Andrew
    February 22, 2012

    “but we have found no proof that there is not a link – and there never can be until a link is found or until the cause of autism is absolutely known”

    That’s why the AOA people insist that the refridgerator mother theory hasn’t been disproven either, right? Oh, wait…

  22. #22 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 22, 2012

    We’ve never found any proof there aren’t leprechauns.

  23. #23 MartinM
    February 22, 2012

    When I explained that this meant ‘different from the average’ rather than brain damaged or inferior I was told that all those who do not oppose vaccinations are in fact people who hate autistic children and want to see them institutionalised.

    That’s rather ironic, given some of the rhetoric you hear coming from the anti-vax lot. There are clearly a fair few who think their perfect child was stolen and replaced by some soulless homunculus.

  24. #24 Anj
    February 22, 2012

    The Changeling Theory?

    Well. It might be the origin for the tales about fairies stealing a lovely, sweet human child and leaving one of their ill favored, squalling offspring in the cradle. After all, “regression” has been documented and apparently normally developing toddlers have become dysfunctional.

    (heavy emphasis on the “apparently normally developing” since a recent study has showed that even parents of children already diagnosed with ASD have not recognized delays in younger siblings.)

  25. #25 kruuth
    February 22, 2012

    There’s presently an article over at daily mail discussing if kids can out grow autism:

    h_tp://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2103940/Autism-Can-children-simply-grow-One-mother-tells-sons-life-transformed.html

    Wow.

  26. #26 MikeMa
    February 22, 2012

    Rev. BigDumbChimp
    I have seen rainbows. Isn’t that proof enough?

  27. #27 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    Kruuth: the Mail is pathetic in its reporting on any health/medical matters but autism especially:
    http://autismum.com/2011/10/23/the-fail-on-sunday/

  28. #28 Sauceress
    February 22, 2012

    22

    We’ve never found any proof there aren’t leprechauns.

    Neither has anyone found any proof that there is no Restaurant At The End Of The Universe either!

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    February 22, 2012

    In my little flow chart, three streams coalesce:
    -research increasingly shows earlier indicators of autism:
    genetic ( specific chromosomes), brain waves, physiognomic differences( head size, facial proportions), MRI and post-mortem findings of differences in cell density (PFC).There are early indicators of differences in gaze. These data fit much earlier research about brain development in the first tri-mester.
    -research shows no relationship between vaccination and autism
    - there is evidence that AJW fixed data, had COIs and recruited subjects who were already seeking legal avenues of redress.

    What more do they need: the lord almighty come down from heaven to take their hands, shake them and say:’ No, no, no: vaccines don’t cause autism!’**

    ** culturally sanitised version of David Mamet.

  30. #30 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    “What more do they need: the lord almighty come down from heaven to take their hands, shake them and say:’ No, no, no: vaccines don’t cause autism!”

    They need the Lord Almighty to tell them what the bloody hell to do next.

  31. #31 Marry Me, Mindy
    February 22, 2012

    I have seen rainbows. Isn’t that proof enough?

    And I am always after Lucky Charms.

  32. #32 Denice Walter
    February 22, 2012

    @ Anj ( # 16):

    I’ve run a cross various anti-vax claims about mercury, other toxins causing autism based on Blaylock’s ideas and recently, a more immunological slant- usually a type of global damage is discussed. ( unfortunately, I can’t go into details as I am on my way out now: over the past few months, a great deal of speculation – and scurrying about- has been observed @ AoA- see esp articles Conrick, Blaxill, oh endless crap).

    @ Sauceress:
    FWIW, I do believe I have been there a few times. The view is great.

  33. #33 Poodle Stomper
    February 22, 2012

    A new study has linked the influenza vaccination of pregnancy to increased birth weight in children (see http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/02/22/269687-Influenza-vaccination-during-pregnancy-can-help-prevent-undersized-babies.html). Of course, by “increased birth weight” what they really mean is “Increased cephalic weight due to vaccine-induced autism!!!!!” Behold the truth!!!!

    *Runs around in hysterics*

  34. #34 JGC
    February 22, 2012

    None of the doctors cited in these stories is worried about the effects of the toxic chemicals regularly found in vaccines.

    That’s because there is nothing to worry about: at the greatest concentration possibly delivered as a consequence of vaccination those chemicals generate no toxic effects.

    I mean, really–that “the dose makes the poison” has been understood for centuries.

  35. #35 Mu
    February 22, 2012

    What more do they need: the lord almighty come down from heaven to take their hands, shake them and say:’ No, no, no: vaccines don’t cause autism
    They just tell him he has no clue, his son wasn’t on the spectrum.

  36. #36 Beamup
    February 22, 2012

    What more do they need: the lord almighty come down from heaven to take their hands, shake them and say:’ No, no, no: vaccines don’t cause autism!’**

    That wouldn’t even do it – they’d probably become Satanists at that point since God is obviously an evil liar.

    “Vaccines cause autism” is so much a fundamental belief of their worldview that quite literally NOTHING will ever shake it. The Pope will become an atheist first.

  37. #37 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    “What more do they need: the lord almighty come down from heaven to take their hands, shake them and say:’ No, no, no: vaccines don’t cause autism
    They just tell him he has no clue, his son wasn’t on the spectrum.”
    That’s arguable (hee hee)
    http://autisticsymphony.com/jca.html

  38. #38 Paratope
    February 22, 2012

    @ Anj #16

    The US recognizes some specific and legitimate vaccine injuries: see the table at http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/vaccinetable.html
    There is a very small risk associated with vaccines, but autism is not among the harms on the table or in real life.

    A superb book about a vaccine that did cause serious harm is Paul Offit’s The Cutter Incident–which is also evidence that supporting vaccines does not require people to deny risk, just to call for better protections.

  39. #39 Todd W.
    February 22, 2012

    @Paratope

    I think the question that Anj was getting at is how anti-vaxers define “vaccine damage”, rather than how everyone else understands it. But, your points about the vaccine injury table and Dr. Offit’s book are very good and things that it would be nice for the folks at AoA to understand a bit better.

  40. #40 Mike
    February 22, 2012

    “but we have found no proof that there is not a link – and there never can be until a link is found or until the cause of autism is absolutely known

    As several others here have already pointed out, better than I can, you can’t prove a negative.

    But to deflate you’re own apparent argument, there is no real proof that it does either. Fact is the ‘vaccines cause autism’ community believe that it does. No amount of evidence will sway them from that belief. End of story.

    So, how about you take the argument to your ‘vaccines cause autism’ friends that until they can actually prove there is a link, that they kindly stop yammering about it?

    Seriously. It’s worse than religious zealots.

  41. #41 Dangerous Bacon
    February 22, 2012

    “but we have found no proof that there is not a link – and there never can be until a link is found or until the cause of autism is absolutely known”

    The key word in that declaration is “absolutely”.

    I can’t think of a single medical condition whose etiology has been “absolutely” deciphered, from infections to inflammatory disorders to cancer. Demanding that autism’s cause(s) be “absolutely” established leaves an out for antivaxers. As long as there are any remaining questions and parameters that are not fully understood, the diehards will claim that vaccines might still have a role, however improbable.

  42. #42 Phila
    February 22, 2012

    “Poet,”

    therefore the facts as revealed by science is that there are no black swans

    Taking your stupid analogy at face value for the sake of argument, the proper conclusion would not be “there are no black swans,” but “statistics show that your chances of seeing a black swan are basically nil. Therefore, we can pretty much dismiss claims that black swans are common, especially since they’re not supported by any actual evidence.”

    let’s beat the crap out of them

    I.e., “Let’s point out how and why they’re wrong. In writing. With citations. Online.”

    It doesn’t sound quite as melodramatic when you put it that way, does it?

    and burn them at the stake

    See above. Being corrected on a point of fact ≠ Holy Martyrdom.

  43. #43 Roadstergal
    February 22, 2012

    Sometimes it seems that no one is really interested in finding out anything significant about autism.

    All this time and effort wasted, in the interest of insignificant things like how to detect autism earlier… and if that leads to earlier treatment and better outcomes from same, how petty and tedious!

    None of the doctors cited in these stories is worried about the effects of the toxic chemicals regularly found in vaccines.

    They’re also not worried about the effects of leprechauns. Oh, the humanity.

  44. #44 kruuth
    February 22, 2012

    Even if we do prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the goal posts will be moved. MMR is proven to not cause it? Then it’s mercury. Not mercury? Then it’s aluminum. Not aluminum? Maybe latex. None of those? Well, maybe it was mom’s vaccines.

  45. #45 Liz Ditz
    February 22, 2012

    The phrase that Barbara Loe Fisher and the AoA faithful use is “vaccine injured” Vaccine Injured Not Treated with Compassion (horrible & self-referential article, but worth reading if you need a reminder of how the leader of the anti-vaccine movement “thinks”)

    I would like to remind readers that parents believing in “vaccine injury” are a small minority of autism parents. Many feel that the “vaccine injury” idea is actively damaging to autism acceptance. As Eileen said at LeftBrainRightBrain:

    we need our children to be recognized as full people and phrases like “vaccine-damaged” and “vaccine-injured” are not only false, they conjure a hopeless image that does not make the greater world want to help, invest money, or care.

  46. #46 Sauceress
    February 22, 2012

    #14 Autismum

    Ive been told “all those who do not oppose vaccinations are in fact people who hate autistic children and want to see them institutionalised” too usually by the same people who assume that because I have an autistic son I should be anti-vax!

    Well Autismum…don’t you see? How can all these people confidently look forward to all those billions of dollars in damages payouts from eeeevil Big Pharma if there are heretics like you running around deviating from “The Truth” (TM). You’re jeopodising all the years of effort the faithful have put in.
    I mean those BIG RICH pharma companies can afford to pay! I mean all they do is mix up some toxins, and bits from aborted babies, and monkey DNA, and virus DNA, AND MERCURY, and ect. in a big cauldren and then sell it as a vaccine…for BIG BUCKS!! It’s not like THEY spend years and millions of dollars on R&D and clinical trials and stuff is it!!!111!!!

    ~~~
    @Orac
    Thanks for the Talking Heads earwig. Seriously. Haven’t listened to “Stop Making Sense” for ages and it’s always been one of my top favourites for road trips. Unfortunately playing it driving around lower speed limits got a bit risky as it has a tendency to weigh down my accelerator.

  47. #47 Terrie
    February 22, 2012

    You know the saying “When you hear hoofs, think horses, not zebras,” well, AoA hears unicorns. After all, we can’t prove they don’t exist.

  48. #48 Beamup
    February 22, 2012

    let’s beat the crap out of them

    and burn them at the stake

    It’s not Orac who was issuing death threats against Dr. Offit’s children, or threatening journalists with bodily harm if they weren’t “nice” to Wakefield.

  49. #49 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    That’s exactly it, Sauceress, I’m a heretic! I like that. xx

  50. #50 rw23
    February 22, 2012

    @anj #16

    They never define what “vaccine damage” is or what exactly is “damaged”. They even claim that “vaccine damage” in the mother can pass the “damage” to her unvaccinated children!

    Does anyone have answers to this puzzle?

    Yeah. They’re loons incapable of any degree of critical thought which might imperil their preconceptions.

  51. #51 Green Eagle
    February 22, 2012

    After reading this whole thing, all I can say is that I feel like beating the crap out of some black swans.

  52. #52 lilady
    February 22, 2012

    Moving goalposts indeed!

    The “theory” about mother’s vaccines in early childhood, causing autism in an unvaccinated child; the simple explanation offered by Kim Stagliano at AoA, to debunk a genetic cause for her three children diagnosed with autism.

    How about the multiple “theories” advanced by Alison MacNeil (“Robert MacNeil’s daughter blames vaccines for autism”) that caused her child’s autism?:

    http://autism-news-beat.com/page/2

    And, I love it when the posters at AoA leave the echo chamber and post here…just great fun to play with them and send them back to la-la land.

  53. #53 David N. Brown
    February 22, 2012

    ” I haven’t quite figured out why, other than that if autism is largely genetic in origin then it can’t be due to vaccines.”

    Actually, this doesn’t follow even from the anti-vaxxers’ argument. All they have to do is say “genes PLUS…” It would also be reasonable at least to consider that i) autistic children may be at greater risk of an adverse reaction to vaccines and ii) if there is an adverse reaction, it’s quite LIKELY that autistic symptoms will be more severe for as long as the reaction lasts.

  54. #54 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 22, 2012
    no matter how much evidence we obtain about swans the fact is that there are no black swans – we have been all over the world and everywhere we encounter swans they are white

    Obviously you haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand.

    I believe that’s exactly the point that POPoet wanted to make. It seemed to be aiming for the following syllogism:

    1) For a long time, the evidence that was collected outside of Australia and New Zealand indicated that swans were always white, and never black.
    2) Later evidence collected in Australia and New Zealand showed that some swans are indeed black.
    3) Therefore, it doesn’t matter that those who arrived at the conclusion “swans are white” did so through careful observation and those who declared before they had any actual evidence “there are black swans out there! and purple ones! and glowing ones with the face of my father who speak to me in riddles!” did so based on drug trips, psychosis or “intuition.” All that matters is that the druggies were correct (at least about the black swans, if not the purple or glowing ones) and that proves that everyone who opposed them was evil and ready to burn them at the stake.

    Obviously, there are some problems with this syllogism. But clearly we are meant to accept it and then complete the analogy:

    all the good evidence points to “swans are white”, but drug trips and dreams and “other ways of knowing” point to black swans : black swans exist in the world :: all the good evidence points to “autism develops with or without vaccinations”, but “mommy intuition” and self-appointed gurus declare that vaccination is causing an “autism epidemic” : it will surely be realized later that vaccinations really do cause autism.

    All I can say is this is Hollywood-style logic, where a million-to-one chance is certain to come through, precisely because it is so unlikely to come through. It doesn’t work in the real world, but perhaps POPoet is less familiar with the real world than with drug trips.

  55. #55 sophia8
    February 22, 2012

    MartinM@23:

    There are clearly a fair few who think their perfect child was stolen and replaced by some soulless homunculus.

    I’ve often wondered if those mediaeval tales and myths about fairies stealing human babies and replacing them with fairy children were actually attempts to explain autistic children.

  56. #56 Beamup
    February 22, 2012

    @ sophia:

    Many people have wondered the same thing. It is certainly plausible, though would be quite difficult to prove one way or another at this point.

  57. #57 Darwy
    February 22, 2012

    The latest attempt I’ve seen from anti-vaccine folks is the ‘natural’ versus ‘synthetic’ forms of chemicals, most notably formaldehyde.

    Because what the human body produces itself is a different chemical from what’s manufactured.

    Despite having the same chemical formula, the same chemical structure, the same molecular weight, boiling point and vapor pressure.

  58. #58 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    @Darwy
    Fair play, that’s a new one to me

  59. #59 Calli Arcale
    February 22, 2012

    Antaeus:

    All I can say is this is Hollywood-style logic, where a million-to-one chance is certain to come through

    Ah, but as demonstrated by the work of Terry Pratchett (c.f. “Guards! Guards!”), it has to be *precisely* a million-to-one chance. If it’s just 999,999 to one, or if it’s 1,000,001 to one, it will fail.

  60. #60 JustAsking
    February 22, 2012

    I haven’t read the study, so I apologize if I am without the appropriate context, but perhaps someone can provide some clarification. My understanding is that these children were vaccinated according to the recommended schedule, which would mean that by the time they were six months old, they had received immunizations at least twice, at two months and four months of age.

    This would seem to present a problem with regard to the idea that these results bolster the scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. What am I missing?

  61. #61 Calli Arcale
    February 22, 2012

    JustAsking — well, for one, it specifically contradicts the blame applied to the MMR, which is given later.

  62. #62 Huffbot
    February 22, 2012

    Looks like they’re all over at the Huff having a bash…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-mccarthy-md/child-vaccines_b_1286448.html

    Currently standing at quadruple facepalm alert.

  63. #63 la tigre della malora
    February 22, 2012

    First: sorry for my english (I am italian).

    Second, JustAsking:

    My understanding is that these children were vaccinated according to the recommended schedule, which would mean that by the time they were six months old, they had received immunizations at least twice, at two months and four months of age.

    This would seem to present a problem with regard to the idea that these results bolster the scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. What am I missing?

    Well, the evidence “vaccines = autism” is the Hepatitis B vaccine, that may be given to children at the 1 day age old, isn’t it?

    Please…

  64. #64 Sortism
    February 22, 2012

    What do you mean by ‘We dunno what causes autism’?

    Search for Aetiology under silencedbysilencedbyageofautism it’s in there somewhere. So far undisputed.

  65. #65 meg
    February 22, 2012

    Ok, I don’t have access to medical journals, but I remember hearing this news item when it was released: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/testosterone-in-womb-linked-to-autism-risk/story-e6frg6nf-1226001079473 (sorry, suck at tags!)

    Knowing someone who does blame vaccines for her son’s autism, my thought was that she would struggle with the thought that it was something that happened during pregnancy. The thought that you, as a mother, had failed your child in some way, must be overwhelming for some. It’s the only reason I can really think of to deny the thought that perhaps autistic children are born that way.

  66. #66 lilady
    February 22, 2012

    @ Huffbot: Thanks for the heads-up. There are six anti-vax comments and six…now seven (mine)…”pending” comments.

  67. #67 HuffBot
    February 22, 2012
  68. #68 Autismum
    February 22, 2012

    There are so many reasons parents of autistic children cling to the vaccine myth. For some it is easier to blame an outside entity – it’s their doctor’s fault or it’s faceless Big Pharma (which is why I think having names and faces such as Paul Offit speaking out on the science side humanises it); for others there’s the guilt of not recognising early characteristics or not understanding that their child’s behaviour was indicative of autism. Maybe that guilt is harder to live with? If I hadn’t had a close relative with autism before I had my boy I don’t know that I would have recognised it so early. Although my child was clearly different from birth, I’ve also seen my son have a sudden and quite frightening regression which, if it’d been closely following vaccination I’m not sure I’d be able to dismiss a link without a good deal of reassurance and rationalisation. I’m sure I would get there in the end though – but i have sceintific training. There are people who hold this belief that vaccines cause autism because it is what they have “seen”.
    I also believe that some parents want to have something definitive to blame such as vaccines, even if that means blaming themselves for making, in their eyes, the wrong decision for their child. It lacks the vagueries of genetics or not knowing exactly what causes autism and avoids the “whose side did it come from” debate. There’s also false hope for a “cure” dangled in fron of parents who buy into it. These are the parents I feel most sorry for. AoA etc prey upon their guilt and anger multiplying it over and over again and persuading parents out of an awful lot of money on quackery or to support those who, like Andrew Wakefield are trying to right this injustice (anyone going to the AoA fundraiser btw?).The knock on effect to the autistic child is lack of acceptance and parents who are always battling their condition.
    Of course, it’s also a simple cause and effect relationship that people can just “get” – it’s a straightforward story. General scientific understanding even of basic genetics is seriously lacking. How many people do you come across who think genetic always = inherited?
    Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit.

  69. #69 HuffBot
    February 22, 2012

    Meg testosterone is more of a marker than a cause.

    That’s like saying that the amount of air put into the tyres is the reason for having a mountain bike instead of a racing bike.

  70. #70 herr doktor bimler
    February 22, 2012

    Ok, I don’t have access to medical journals, but I remember hearing this news item when it was released:

    That seems like a weird study — or weird conclusions to draw — since there is nothing there actually about fetal exposure to testosterone. The exposure is something assumed by the researchers, who cannot imagine any other cause for an average six-month delay in menarche.

    PERTH researchers have uncovered further evidence of a link between testosterone and autism, backing a theory that high testosterone exposure in the womb increases the risk of the disorder.

    Researchers at Fiona Stanley’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found that girls with autistic-like behaviours at age two had their first period about six months later than girls without the disorder’s symptoms.

    “These findings indicate that exposure to testosterone in the womb may be regulating both autism-like behaviours and the age of first period and that this may play a role in clinical autism,” lead researcher Andrew Whitehouse said.

  71. #71 Denice Walter
    February 22, 2012

    I deliberately use the language of religion, faith and inspiration** because anti-vaxx advocates are not relying upon *reason* but emotion and psychological defence ( which involve other parts of the brain): we will never be able to converse with the most adamant whose lives revolve around *horror vaccini*.

    If you visualise a normal curve, we’re talking about one tail end. Amongst parents with children under 18, about 30% are concerned about vaccines at all ( Thomson Reuters NPR, Sept 2011). Most of those are probably more reasonable than the self-selected habitual vocalisers @ AoA and Cry Shame. We should thus *write off* those who will never budge an inch and focus on more reasonable targets.

    Imagine looking at a tennis court: the player has to anticipate a variety of shots- because she can’t be everywhere at once, she learns to cover the most likely shots she’ll encounter- what an opponent is most likely to do, what’s easiest to do, what a specific opponent is best at doing and leave the most unlikely and most difficult shots unguarded: it’s based on geometry and probability.

    All of us have been in emotional situations where we imagine that terrible ( or wonderful) events are about to transpire: most of the time, when we calm down and wait, what occurs usually isn’t that spectacular – neither the second coming nor the end of the world. When emotions are constantly ramped up, there’s a tendency to see things in black-and-white apocalyptic terms.

    ** I’m an atheist but I have followed the call of my muse ( and he’s hard to resist).

  72. #72 Liz Ditz
    February 22, 2012

    Anj @24, Sophia @ 55
    Autism & the myth (or folktale) of the Changeling

    Wing L. The history of ideas on autism. Autism 1997;1:13–23.

    Leask J et al Evidence for Autism in Folklore (takes you to full pdf so no citation).

    I’d like to take this moment to point out that autism is a life-long condition, so that at any one time there are more autistic adults than there are children.

  73. #73 Liz Ditz
    February 22, 2012

    Re autism causation theories: Biologist and autism parent Emily Willingham* has a list (made in some exasperation): This Just In: Being Alive Linked to Autism

    This last week or so, every day seemed to bring a new finding about something linked to autism. I blogged one of them–diabetes–but who really would have the wherewithal to follow the growing list of factors linked to autism? I guess I would because below, I give you that very list, including current pop hits and some blasts from the past, with some brief commentary. Without further ado–The ever-changing face of autism–or, as some have wisely suggested we call it–the autisms:

    *If you aren’t reading Emily’s blog, you should. Great writing on science.

  74. #74 Matthew Cline
    February 22, 2012

    I’m curious about the difference between the anti-vaxxers who’s response to this study is that it must be vaccines given before six months of age, or given to the mother while pregnant (or even given to the mother before pregnancy), versus those who dispute the study. An easily guessable cause would be that those who dispute the study first noticed autism in their child after the child got a post-six-month vaccination, and so are convinced that it must have been that vaccination which caused the autism. I wonder what other differences there might be.

  75. #75 Jen
    February 22, 2012

    @Lawrence.” Plan b” actually makes complete sense. Now, the people having children are the very persons who have experienced the rapidly expanded vaccine schedule, so of course if there is an epigenetics component to the equation it makes perfect sense that the more vaccinated children have more children with problems. It would be expected.
    What would be really great is if vaccine “safety studies” looked at brains and certain bio- markers of vaccinated VS unvaccinated infants. I mean so what if autism may start early. So do the vaccines, starting with hep b at birth!

  76. #76 meg
    February 22, 2012

    Huffbot/Herr Doktor

    I’m not a medical person, so I’m not sure, and not seeing the study (not that I’d understand it fully) not sure I would understand it. Personally, I suspect there could be a massive array of reasons for the delay.

    However, it suggests that there are plenty of studies being done looking at various causes/indicators for Autism, which is certainly how it should be. We’ve exhausted the vaccine possibility (if it ever was one) so let’s focus on other factors. Maybe this study can help another researcher somewhere. As opposed to the anti-vax response of ‘well, it doesn’t mention vaccines at all, so it must be wrong and therefore disregarded’.

  77. #77 Science Mom
    February 22, 2012

    Looks like they’re all over at the Huff having a bash…

    I see the Dachelbot has gone into high spam gear.

  78. #78 NZ Sceptic
    February 22, 2012

    Good heavens, I’ve been seeing black swans all my life. Of course they exist. What a bizarre analogy!

  79. #79 Denice Walter
    February 22, 2012

    - I have a comment in moderation-

    We should remember that the general public- even those who “worry” about vaccines- are by no means likely to fall for the anti-vaxx gospel.

    I use the language of religion to describe the hard-liners because it has nothing to to with evidence, practicality or reason. It is an article of faith and entire lives revolve upon its axis. And cults need to have devils- that’s us.

  80. #80 Roger Kulp
    February 22, 2012

    ANJ@15

    I don’t know how closely you follow research in the last ten or fifteen years,but there have been an awful lot of metabolic diseases found to be associated with autism,far too many to list in a blog comment.Multiple types of mitochondrial encephalopathies,fatty acid oxidation disorders,transport and metabolism disorders of both folate,and cobalamin,being the most obvious ones that come to mind.There is also a newly emerging form of autism,involving autoimmunity of the folate receptors.

    One can argue back and forth if those with these disease have true autism,or just “features of autism”,certainly researchers and doctors do.But I say if it walks like autism,and quacks like autism,according to the ADOS,or the DSM,that’s just what it is,a form of autism.

    Those of us who have one of these forms of autism,are the ones who are a lot more disabled.We have seizures,often seizures controlled by correcting deficiencies,in my case folate.We have all sorts of chronic immune,or metabolic related diseases,we have worse developmental delays,learning disabilities,etc,than someone who has just plain garden variety autism.And there are a lot fewer of us,something that took me a long time to learn.There is nothing lonelier than being an adult with one of these diseases,plus autism.

    Children/people like us,are the ones parents at AoA write about,when they talk about the staggering number of medical problems their children have,or autism,being as bad,or worse,than AIDS or cancer.I can see where they are coming from,because I live with it too,and did for many years,before I gained any idea about what was wrong.

    The problem with parents,like those at AoA is,they either have not bothered to have any testing beyond an autism for their children,or they are unwilling to connect the genes,mutations,etc with the disease,for all the reasons we discuss here.There is no way to reach them.It’s their kids I feel sorry for.Having say a mitochondrial disease,or a folate transport disorder,AND being as brainwashed as Jake Crosby,is just too much to wish on anybody.

  81. #81 JustAsking
    February 22, 2012

    This study would seem to negate the claim that MMR vaccination initiates subclinical neurological changes in children who develop autism, but I’m not aware that anyone has made that claim, not even Andrew Wakefield.
    There are those who refer to parental descriptions of behavioral changes subsequent to MMR administration and who feel that MMR vaccination triggered these changes. This study doesn’t address those claims at all, as far as I can tell.

    The results are interesting and may become quite important, but they don’t even suggest that vaccines do not cause autism. I am surprised to see them presented that way here.

  82. #82 Science Mom
    February 22, 2012

    The results are interesting and may become quite important, but they don’t even suggest that vaccines do not cause autism. I am surprised to see them presented that way here.

    No the results don’t have anything to do with vaccines and that is the point. Autism research is still going on and not focusing on vaccines and that has the AoA crowd upset which is the point of this blogpost. More and more research suggests that autism is either purely genetic and determined at conception, an in utero exposure to something during foetal brain development or a combination of both.

  83. #83 Chris
    February 22, 2012

    JustAsking:

    This study would seem to negate the claim that MMR vaccination initiates subclinical neurological changes in children who develop autism, but I’m not aware that anyone has made that claim, not even Andrew Wakefield.

    Sullivan of LBRB would disagree with you.

  84. #84 lilady
    February 22, 2012

    “I see the Dachelbot has gone into high spam gear.”

    Yes, and lilady has taken on the Dachelbot at Ho-Po (in moderation right now)

  85. #85 JustAsking
    February 23, 2012

    Science Mom: I guess. I did read the post as suggesting that the results implied that vaccines don’t cause autism.
    I am not familiar with the AoA crowd, but a myopic focus on vaccines is certainly an unhealthy perspective, for anyone interested in the truth about the nature of autism.

    Chris : Sullivan would definitely disagree with me, if I’d stated that Wakefield never made such a claim. However, considering that my statement was that I was not aware of anyone making such a claim, even Wakefield, what Sullivan would actually do, would be to inform me that Wakefield did make such claim. But since you’ve already informed me, please inform Sullivan that it has been taken care of.

    Of course, you’re aware, and Sullivan would be aware, if he were aware of what was going on here, that your post was unresponsive to mine, with regard to substance. The point was, and is, that this particular study does nothing to refute the claim that vaccines cause autism, or even the claim that the MMR vaccine, in particular, causes apparent autistic regression in some children.

    If such regression occurs, it would be unsurprising to learn that it occurred within the context of previously established but previously undetected neurological changes, such as those detected in this study. This would be true whether or not the administration of the MMR vaccine played a role in the process.

  86. #86 Chris
    February 23, 2012

    So many words, so little content. Really, Wakefield now makes his living off of the vaccines cause autism world. He is even the on the advisory board of the magazine “Autism File.” So trying to make him out as not a central figure in the claim that MMR causes autism is actually quite a lame attempt to rewrite history.

    Which is why I did respond, whether you understand it or not is not my problem.

    As far as this study, this article is about Ms. Dachel continuing to blame vaccines even though there is no real evidence. And this paper is just another pile that shows the MMR and others given after age one are not implicated with autism.

    Now claiming that the neurological changes noted on the MRIs make a child more sensitive to any vaccine is just a way to move the goalposts.

    Again it is not my problem if you do not understand. Just like the fact many do not understand that the MMR vaccine has been used in the USA for over forty years. Wakefield had at least twenty years of use in the USA to use as references in his little case series. But no one can tell which papers point to an issue between the American MMR vaccine and autism plus gut issues that were written between 1971 and 1997. Just like no one can tell me which of at least three MMR vaccines used in UK between 1988 and 1998 Wakefield was studying.

    It is still very amusing anyone still defends Wakefield, or even mentions him outside a discussion of blatant fraud.

  87. #87 lilady
    February 23, 2012
  88. #88 Th1Th2bot Service Center
    February 23, 2012

    Game on…between me and the Dachelbot

    Hmmm. Nah, we’d never get away with that.

  89. #89 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    February 23, 2012

    More or less Off-Topic, but just as proof that nothing much has changed in the last century, this book, Quacks and Grafters, by a gentleman known only as “Ex-Osteopath”, showed up on Project Gutenberg last night.

    I’ve got to say, other than a few differences in phraseology* it could have been written in 2008 as well as 1908.

    *Why do I hear Paul Ford yelling: “You watch your phraseology, ya wild kid, ya!”

  90. #90 JustAsking
    February 23, 2012

    Chris,

    ” So trying to make him out as not a central figure in the claim that MMR causes autism is actually quite a lame attempt to rewrite history.”

    This is unresponsive to anything that I wrote. You are correct, in that I do not understand how you could have read what I wrote and yet responded as you did.

    You are also correct in that my inability to understand how your response had anything to do with what I wrote is not your problem. What is your problem, evidently, is that you believe that

    ” …this paper is just another pile that shows the MMR and others given after age one are not implicated with autism.”

    I see a connection here. Based upon the evidence you have provided, your problem seems to involve accurately understanding content, when faced with ” so many words ” .

    Maybe Sullivan can explain things to you.

  91. #91 Chris
    February 23, 2012

    Wakefield fan is still clueless.

  92. #92 Krebiozen
    February 23, 2012

    I find the goalpost shifting we see quite bizarre. First it’s the mercury in the vaccines, then it’s the measles virus, then it’s the hepatitis B vaccine, and now (if I understand JustAsking right) it’s a neurological vulnerability that is triggered into regressive autism by the MMR. If you look at the timing of the increase in autism diagnoses in relation to the removal or introduction of each of these, there is no correlation at all. Thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines over a decade ago, yet autism rates continued to rise after its removal. MMR has been in use in the US for 40 years yet the increase in autism didn’t happen until 20 years after it was introduced. Hepatitis B vaccine is still not in routine use for newborns in the UK, yet autism rates are similar to those in the US.

    Not only is there no epidemiological evidence to support the idea that vaccines cause autism, but there is no plausible mechanism either. Some people point to studies that show that in some cases of autism there may be immunological abnormalities, or increased rates of allergies and/or autoimmunity and try to use that as evidence of a link with vaccines.

    This amounts to saying that because autism might have something to do with the immune system, and vaccines do something to the immune system, there might be a link. If immunological challenges in vulnerable people lead to autism, surely getting measles is a far greater immunological challenge than the MMR vaccine and would be even more likely to lead to autism.

    I’m still sticking with my hypothesis that broccoli causes autism, as there have been no proper studies ruling it out, no one has looked at how the immunomodulatory substances in broccoli affect children in combination with other foodstuffs, and these substances may even cross the placenta or end up in breast milk. If that’s disproven I’ll move to brussels sprouts, then carrots, asparagus, cabbage… It makes as much sense as blaming vaccines.

  93. #93 Jen
    February 23, 2012

    It’s called epigenetics, people. And brain abnormalities at 6 months probably just speaks to the vaccine schedule starting in the first minutes of life. Why can’t you just admit that the genetics theory has fallen off.

  94. #94 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2012

    herr docktor bimler:

    That seems like a weird study — or weird conclusions to draw — since there is nothing there actually about fetal exposure to testosterone. The exposure is something assumed by the researchers, who cannot imagine any other cause for an average six-month delay in menarche.

    I didn’t read it, but I wonder if they corrected for prematurity, which is associated with learning disorders, and which might reasonably be associated with later menarche as well simply because those kids actually are younger than their birth certificates suggest. I’d also be interested whether eating disorders are more common among the autistic; eating disorders commonly delay menarche.

    Of course, one can also question whether a six-month average delta in menarche is even significant, given the tendency of the first few cycles to be very irregular.

  95. #95 JustAsking
    February 23, 2012

    Okay, Chris.

    Come again with another substanceless attempt to have the last word(s), however inaccurate and irrelevant they are. You do more to demonstrate your incompetence than I ever could by wasting more time responding to you.

    Should you surprise with a willingness and an ability to add something that makes sense within a context other than your own apparent Andrew Wakefield obsession, then I might bother to respond. Otherwise, the floor is yours.

  96. #96 lilady
    February 23, 2012

    @ Calli Arcale: I located an article that discusses the study referenced by herr doktor bimler:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/testosterone-in-womb-linked-to-autism-risk/story-e6frg6nf-1226001079473

  97. #97 OhDear
    February 23, 2012

    @Autismum @ #9 “…destroy their guts” – whatever that means.”

    This is sad. Please research “whatever that means” or ask your Doctor how extremely vital and important healthy gut flora is to the functioning’s of an entire system. Dr. Oz commented on it recently, I’m sure you could find his comments somewhere without much effort.

    A friend is treating her autistic childs’ gut (among his sensory stimulation, or lack thereof) before her Doctor and her embark on an attempt to clear the candida from his blood. They saw much progression, until he unfortunately had to be put on antibiotics for a two simultaneous infections, in which case he regressed drastically. Not every autistic child is the same, and albeit not every autistic child should be treated (medically) in the same way, but to not know the meaning of such crucial digestive health (especially in such a fragile system as an autistic child’s) is such a disservice to your ill offspring.

    Good luck to you, but mostly to him/her for they are the true sufferers of this disease. As I have personally witnessed, improvements and potentially cures ARE there, most of us just aren’t taking the time to pinpoint the problem and figure out the solution. Money, unfortunately, plays a huge role in where treatment starts and where it has to end. Again, good luck in your journey – as a mother, if anyone has the key to your child’s recovery and/or improvement, it is you.

  98. #98 herr doktor bimler
    February 23, 2012

    @96: The credit belongs to meg, who first brought up the Australian study in comment #65.

    The more I read that press release, the stronger the impression that the researchers had already written their conclusions before conducting the study. Towards the end — after headlining with a “testosterone in womb” claim — it is admitted that testosterone in the womb is something they might get around to looking at in future research.*

    Dr Whitehouse and his team are now embarking on a world-first study to further examine the link. In utero testosterone levels will be tested in pregnant women who already have an autistic child.

    * If the history of brain development / androgen research is any guide, they will in fact measure various proxies such as *blood* testosterone levels, and apply the optimistic assumption that these correlate with in utero levels.

  99. #99 Beamup
    February 23, 2012

    This is sad. Please research “whatever that means” or ask your Doctor how extremely vital and important healthy gut flora is to the functioning’s of an entire system.

    Citation that vaccines interfere with gut flora, or that said interference causes autism?

    Dr. Oz commented on it recently, I’m sure you could find his comments somewhere without much effort.

    Dr. Oz is a fool and a quack, who has lost all credibility by embracing outright falsehoods.

    A friend is treating her autistic childs’ gut (among his sensory stimulation, or lack thereof) before her Doctor and her embark on an attempt to clear the candida from his blood.

    Citations that such treatment is effective? Evidence that said child actually has candida, or that there is any connection between that and autism?

    Bottom line – just because some quack in a white coat (which definitely describes both Oz and any member of DAN!) says something, does not make it true. Real scientific evidence makes it true.

  100. #100 Jen
    February 23, 2012

    @81. Bang on comment!

  101. #101 Autismum
    February 23, 2012

    #92 and #97
    @Krebiozen
    You assertion that broccoli causes autism is clearly ludicrous. Point 1 my son has never eaten the stuff and is severely autistic and point 2 everyone knows that autistic people “only eat biege” therefore it must be peanut butter that does it or possibly bagels.
    Maybe that’s what’s destroyed my son’s perfectly healthy guts! I’m heading over to Dr Oz right away…I’ll need my credit card, my husband’s credit card and a bit more credulity first – can you buy credulity over there Oh dear (indeed) or do I need to visit Mercola for that?

  102. #102 Autismum
    February 23, 2012

    Wondered how long it’d take for some kindly curebie to offer me advice.

  103. #103 Sauceress
    February 23, 2012

    everyone knows that autistic people “only eat biege” therefore it must be peanut butter that does it or possibly bagels.

    Biege eh? What about poop? Have there been any studies that definitively show that eating poop does not cause autism? I think not!

  104. #104 Stu
    February 23, 2012

    A little late, but:

    They never define what “vaccine damage” is or what exactly is “damaged”. They even claim that “vaccine damage” in the mother can pass the “damage” to her unvaccinated children! Does anyone have answers to this puzzle?

    Yes, it’s a dogwhistle. It’s not meant to convey anything substantial. They’re not even talking to you. They’re talking to their base, who “knows” what “vaccine damage” means. They won’t be able to describe it, but they know.

    cf. “Hard-working Americans”, “Urban”, et cetera.

  105. #105 Autismum
    February 23, 2012

    #103
    Sauceress I dunno. After poo smearing episode yesterday and today I think you might be on to something (the boy did the smearing – I wasn’t doing a dirty protest or anything)except that that’s a recent thing he was autistic before that and used to love bagels and peanut butter. Hmm.
    sorry TMI!

  106. #106 lilady
    February 23, 2012

    @ Autismum: In spite of the poo smearing episode yesterday, “pwdin” is an adorable kid.

    In spite of the age difference of our little boys (mine born in 1976), pwdin reminds me of my own son…so few photos where he didn’t avert his eyes. I miss my little one, so give pwdin a big hug and kiss for me…lilady

  107. #107 brian
    February 23, 2012

    Jen @100

    No, that is not a “bang on comment” since it ignores the clear evidence from prospective studies that parents miss the subtle early signs of ASD, and so the apparent temporal association of receipt of MMR with the onset with ASD goes “poof!” Moreover, of course, those children who experience the most prominent regression follow, according to recent work from the UCD MIND Institute, a pattern of abnormal brain overgrowth that Eric Courchesne has indicated must begin many months before birth.

    Also, FWIW, the onset of puberty is not triggered by entering middle school.

  108. #108 Jen
    February 23, 2012

    @Brian, Courchesne’ s paper was more of the same- wanting desperately to pin autism on anything other than an environmental assault.

  109. #109 Autismum
    February 23, 2012

    #106
    Lilady, I just snuck in and gave him a kiss from you – then another from me. Thank you for being so lovely – I’m sure your boy was every bit as lush as mine.
    I’ve put something up for you (he just started doing this yesterday though he’s much more an Otis Redding kind of boy usually) it’s my wish for your day xx
    http://autismum.com/2012/02/24/soul-man/

  110. #110 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 23, 2012

    There are those who refer to parental descriptions of behavioral changes subsequent to MMR administration and who feel that MMR vaccination triggered these changes. This study doesn’t address those claims at all, as far as I can tell.

    JustAsking, are you familiar with Occam’s Razor?  The heuristic is popularly phrased these days as “The simplest explanation for the evidence is the best,” but an older formulation closer to the source puts it as “Do not multiply entities needlessly.”  If we are already working with the hypothesis “these neurological differences are associated with the mechanism that causes autism,” it is multiplying entities needlessly to add “when triggered by MMR vaccination.”  Where’s the evidence to indicate that there is any external trigger for the mechanism?  Yes, there are parents who “feel” that there’s a connection, but just a few centuries ago, those parents would have been pointing at old women mumbling to themselves and claiming that to be the obvious initiating event.

    Suitable evidence could exist to indicate MMR as an external trigger.  For instance, Wakefield’s Lancet paper showed a range of time after MMR administration in which the visible onset of autism occurred that was both precise (within two weeks, in each case) and consistent (happening in each case reported in the paper.)  As we know, of course, that evidence was fraudulent; Wakefield blatantly tampered with the times to create the impression of a precise, consistent correlation that did not exist in his data.  Now if that correlation had been real, and it proved to be true for even a significant minority of children with autism, then it would be reasonable to take a closer look at the possibility that MMR acted as a trigger.  But the burden of proof is on those who believe in a vaccine-autism link to show evidence that there is one, before anyone has anyone has any obligation to show that there isn’t one.

  111. #111 HaHA
    February 23, 2012

    lilady & autismum, friends in real life? Lesbian lovers? Get a room! Keep your weird lovey-dovey shit off Orac’s blog you fucking weirdo’s

  112. #112 Chris
    February 23, 2012

    And the above comment by HaHa illustrates the mindset of a typical anti-science troll.

  113. #113 brian
    February 23, 2012

    Jen @108

    How interesting that you consider the available evidence to be a desperate attempt to prove that the nonsense that you have long believed is in fact nonsense. Really, though, you don’t have the knowledge or expertise necessary to evaluate the available evidence, do you?

  114. #114 Krebiozen
    February 23, 2012

    Autismmum,

    You assertion that broccoli causes autism is clearly ludicrous. Point 1 my son has never eaten the stuff and is severely autistic

    You or maybe your parents must have eaten broccoli and passed on the damage epigenetically.

    and point 2 everyone knows that autistic people “only eat biege” therefore it must be peanut butter that does it or possibly bagels.

    Well some people are allergic to peanuts so clearly peanut butter does something or other to the immune system, and that causes some sort of autoimmune inflammatory cytokine brain thingy that interferes with normal development, but that remains unnoticed until it’s triggered by broccoli. Everyone knows there is secret peanut oil hidden in vaccines so that’s the vaccine connection covered too. It all makes sense! Easy this science stuff isn’t it? Now all I have to do is self-publish a book and the Nobel Prize will be in the bag.

  115. #115 Sauceress
    February 23, 2012

    Lesbian lovers? Get a room! Keep your weird lovey-dovey shit off Orac’s blog you fucking weirdo’s

    You have my sympathy HaHA. No doubt life must be a continually daunting and insurmountable challenge for sad losers such as yourself. Poor little thing.

  116. #116 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2012

    @ Krebiozen:

    At present, I am investigating the effects of broccoli – ( loaded with sulfurophane, a known anti-inflammatory agent)- on the right parahippocampal gyrus (associated with social cognition and sarcasm)- it appears that the peanut oil *de-activates* the sulfurophanes which usually spur the growth of the phg thus incapacitating the development of social cognition ( and sarcasm) and leading to deficits.
    Our Nobel is in the bag.

  117. #117 herr doktor bimler
    February 23, 2012

    Jen @ 108: Courchesne’s paper was more of the same- wanting desperately to pin autism on anything other than an environmental assault.

    I am intrigued. Which part of Courchesne’s neuron counts do you see as the ‘desperate’ part? Have you informed the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Society of your concerns, so that they might retract the paper?

  118. #118 Jen
    February 23, 2012

    Her doctor and Brian, I believe Courchesne’s study looked at something like 7 boys (even the primate study looked at more subjects!) and he doesn’t seem to take the concept of neurogenesis very seriously as a way of explaining the cell growth. He also desperately wants the’ cause’ to be something very early- in utero, oh of course- it couldn’t be the umpteen doses of vaccinations given to a baby right at birth, 2,4 and 6 months of age that could cause any problems.

  119. #119 lilady
    February 23, 2012

    “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

    -George Herbert Walker Bush

    There’s peanut oil in vaccines…I thought it was motor oil?

    Is there is a higher incidence of autism in the Thai people because of the peanuts or (too many and/or too soon) garlic and ginger ingredients in peanut sauce? We figured it out even without Wakefield’s help. Now about the Somalis….

  120. #120 Jud
    February 24, 2012

    I’m supposing it must be sheer coincidence that folks who are impervious to learning anything to shake their fixed ideas give themselves wildly inappropriate nicknames like “JustAsking.”

  121. #121 Autismum
    February 24, 2012

    #111
    @HaHa life must be lonely with only a stray apostrophe for company. (((((HUGS!))))

  122. #122 Autismum
    February 24, 2012

    #114
    “Now all I have to do is self-publish a book and the Nobel Prize will be in the bag.”
    What’s this “I” stuff? I need some of those Nobel dollars to enhance the luxury life style I lead on the state benefits I claim on behalf of my child. I also think you’re understimating the role of Big Bagel in all this – have you not heard of the Zionist conspiracy?

  123. #123 Science Mom
    February 24, 2012

    @Brian, Courchesne’ s paper was more of the same- wanting desperately to pin autism on anything other than an environmental assault.

    The only desperation is with dunderheads like you who refuse to entertain the thought that autism isn’t a post-natal event and reject all studies that suggest otherwise. I also don’t believe that Courchesne’s study dismissed the possibility of environmental insult except that you seem to believe “environmental insult” is tacit for itstehvaxxines.

  124. #124 Denice Walter
    February 24, 2012

    @ Science Mom:

    Some people will never accept that *autism isn’t a post natal event* because it is an article of faith and their status as anti-vaccination is part of their identities. I have tried to show the example of another condition- schizophrenia- having a genetic and an environmental component ( see schizophrenia.com/ causation; includes relative odds) meaning primarily *pre* or *peri* natal. Historically, theories of causation also began with (wrong) ideas about post-natal- childhood- causation.

  125. #125 brian
    February 24, 2012

    Jen, how interesting that you can devine the intentions of researchers!

    Courchesne and others have shown that the abnormal brain growth trajectory in ASD is evident beginning at birth, while recent work from David Amaral’s group at the UC Davis MIND Institute suggests that in children with regressive autism the abnormal brain growth trajectory begins with normal brain size at birth followed by enlarged brain size by about four months of age. Do you think this might be because Courchesne’s kickbacks come from the birth dose of the Hep B vaccine, while Amaral’s pockets are lined to exonerate MMR? And what might the effect be if a researcher fails to disclose to his colleagues that he is paid by a law firm to support anti-vaccine litigation and receives about three-quarters of a million dollars plus another million or so for a company that he founded to profit from a vaccine scare?

  126. #126 missmayinga
    February 24, 2012

    Lilady and Autismum, I salute your bravery and tenacity in fighting the Huffpo swarm. Personally, I don’t have the stomach/patience for it, but I admire anyone who does.

  127. #127 JGC
    February 24, 2012

    Even if we were to assume that neuronal overgrowth potentiates the development of autism and a post-natal triggering event is also required and then take the creative leap that the trigger must involve immune response, why would we implicate childhood immunization?

    Infants are exposed to literally thousands of antigens daily: in the first 5 minutes after delivery they will encounter orders of magnitude more antigens than they could possibly be exposed to as a consequence of even the most aggressive vaccination schedule possible.

  128. #128 Beamup
    February 24, 2012

    @ JGC:

    Don’t be silly. Those exposures are NATURAL so they couldn’t possibly cause any negative effects.

    Reminds me of the fellow on Science Friday recently (really been going downhill lately) who asserted that sugar in fruit couldn’t possibly cause any problems because “all food is inherently good”, and only when sugar was ADDED could it have any ill effect.

  129. #129 Autismum
    February 24, 2012

    Reminds me of when my cousins and I ate hamster chocolates (not a euphemism for poo btw). Our older cousin decided got the packet and pretended to read, “not poisonous if eaten accidently – deadly if you eat them on purpose.” Same logic!
    Oh it makes me chuckle whenever I remember (believing) that.

  130. #130 Autismum
    February 24, 2012

    #126
    @missmayinga – I have loads of real work to do, I’m not brave I’m procrastinating xx

  131. #131 lilady
    February 24, 2012

    @ missmayinga: Autismum and I do have “our moments” posting on the Ho-Po…and, the RI ladies “have each other’s back”.

    BTW, some of the RI guys and Science/Autism bloggers also post at the Ho-Po, as well.

  132. #132 herr doktor bimler
    February 24, 2012

    I believe Courchesne’s study looked at something like 7 boys [...] and he doesn’t seem to take the concept of neurogenesis very seriously as a way of explaining the cell growth. He also desperately wants the’ cause’ to be something very early- in utero, oh of course

    I have Courchesne &c open at the moment. Still not seeing any signs of ‘desperation’ in the authors’ descriptions of their methods and their results. Again I am forced to ask for details.

    The authors do note in the ‘Comment’ section of the paper that “Because cortical neurons are not generated in postnatal life, this pathological increase in neuron numbers in autistic children indicates prenatal causes, including unchecked proliferation, reduced apoptosis, or both”… but except through the eyes of projection, it’s hard to construe any ‘desperation’ into a passing statement of a basic fact of neuroscience.

    They don’t “take the concept of neurogenesis very seriously as a way of explaining the cell growth” because they’re writing for an audience that is interested in *reality*.

  133. #133 Autismum
    February 24, 2012

    Lilady, I don’t know you (so there’s the lesbian lovers thing out) but you are a star and I’m happy to be your side kick!

  134. #134 herr doktor bimler
    February 25, 2012

    Courchesne’ s paper was more of the same- wanting desperately to pin autism on anything other than an environmental assault.

    To check whether the 2011 paper by Courchesne &c was as desperate as Jen believes, I tried the Hitler Mashup test, i.e. substituting its phrases into the subtitles of ‘Downfall’.
    Conclusion: No evidence of desperation.

  135. #135 HuffBot
    February 25, 2012

    Looks like you got a little supernatural assistance too ;)

  136. #136 HuffBot
    February 25, 2012

    Looks like you got a little supernatural assistance too ;)

  137. #137 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 25, 2012

    To check whether the 2011 paper by Courchesne &c was as desperate as Jen believes, I tried the Hitler Mashup test, i.e. substituting its phrases into the subtitles of ‘Downfall’.
    Conclusion: No evidence of desperation.

    I applaud your methodology. I wonder how Jen’s own writing would fare in that testing procedure…

  138. #139 dt
    February 25, 2012

    Sassydoc’s something, huh?

  139. #140 lilady
    February 25, 2012

    “Sassydoc’s something, huh?”

    She isn’t a doc and she knows nothing about public health…in spite of her “MPH Degree” claims.

    “Autismum” and I are having a lot of fun with her…I just posted about the Poling case (in moderation now).

  140. #141 Autismum
    February 25, 2012

    I’ve implied that I think she’s clueless (even more than me) about public health so she comes back that I’m lying about my boy being hospitalised with chicken pox (he needed an NG tube because he just couldn’t chew or swallow properly – he had feeding issues from birth).
    She never asks if you’ve read a study or heard about research it’s always “the news” and CNN! the link she gave me was to the BBC and even that didn’t say what she thought it did. Bless!

  141. #142 lilady
    February 25, 2012

    @ Autismum: I’ve gotta go offline now. I tried to email you about one of the posters on your blog…who is also posting on the Ho-Po article. (Everyone “knows” that I am profoundly tech-deficient).

    I’ve responded to said Ho-Po poster (in moderation now).

  142. #143 lilady
    February 25, 2012

    P.S. Autismum: My Ho-Po post is out of moderation now.

  143. #144 lilady
    February 25, 2012

    I smell dirty socks.

  144. #145 I Smells Ox, Dirty
    February 26, 2012

    Oh I See.

  145. #146 Autismum
    February 26, 2012

    Which comment Lilady?
    I didn’t have an e-mail so is it ok if i send you one via the comment address from the blog?

  146. #147 lilady
    February 26, 2012

    Autismum: Please do email me.

  147. #148 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 26, 2012

    For some reason it wouldn’t post the comment I made in response to a thread by “melickisa” about the Big Pharma Conspiracy; if someone else wants to post it there, they’ve got my blessing:

    What is the price of a conscience? All those people who believe in a Big Pharma conspiracy, how much would it take to keep *you* quiet? What, you wouldn’t keep silent even if you were offered $100,000 to do so?

    Okay, so now we have a ballpark figure to work with, $100,000. Let’s reduce it, just to bend over backwards in the favor of the conspiracy hypothesis: we’ll quarter it, and say that each person in on The Big Conspiracy costs Big Pharma $25,000 a year. For life, of course. Just 20 people in on The Big Conspiracy costs half a million dollars each and every year. Now multiply that by all the tens of thousands of people all over the world who would have to be in on the conspiracy to keep up the united front, and that’s not even counting all the people who would have to be employed in payroll to keep track of all those payoffs – each and every one of which would have to be compensated at a similar rate to keep them from blowing the whistle.

    How could Big Pharma possibly be making enough profit off vaccines to justify the expense of all those payoffs?? I’ve had people who believe in the conspiracy tell me I don’t understand the depths that Big Pharma will go to to get what it wants; I wish they could do the math and then they’d wonder why Big Pharma *would even want* such a money pit.

  148. #149 lilady
    February 26, 2012

    @ Antaeus Feldspar: Hmmm, I got “moderated out” as well.

    Right now at Ho-Po we have a poster who is providing snippets and redacted paragraphs from studies and no citations or links. Here and there I found the actual unredacted/unedited abstracts and I am posting them.

    I just might post “your” comment under my ‘nym…if and when a *Big Pharma* comment comes up again. It is brilliant.

  149. #150 Krebiozen
    February 26, 2012

    I assume that ‘John Richard Smith’ is Blackheart who posts here from time to time. Same style, same obsessions, same lack of understanding of how to assess evidence…

  150. #151 Denice Walter
    February 26, 2012

    While I agree with Antaeus Feldspar, who makes perfect sense, here’s the problem: those who espouse conspiracy theories to support their woo don’t have much sense- or at any rate, don’t utilise it very frequently( and I’m not talking about standard measures of intelligence). Remember that they may also think that vaccines cause autism, virii don’t cause AIDS and green juices will cure whatever ails you.

    Conspiracy theories serve emotional needs: woo-meisters understand that some people are dis-satisfied with modern medicine and perhaps, life in general. Alt med providers themselves- either by lack of or insufficient expertise/ education to compete fairly in medicine or science- try to rig the game. First, they use ‘personality’ and advertising techniques to sidle up to those even less educated and more unhappy than they themselves are; then, they conjure up a tale of how they were cheated out of their position at the tippy top of the elite because their ground-breaking theories ( all correct -btw-) angered the powers-that-be.

    Steep this in a brew of anti-intellectualism and self-righteous anger and *voila* you have a following that will stick to you despite reasonable argument from experts, legal action and governmental sanction ( see AJW, Burzynski et al): their critics are all in the bag. Obviously they also gain in self-esteem by being in with the in-crowd, ‘ahead of the curve’, riding the crest of paradigm shift and someday they’ll all tell us: ” I told you so!”

  151. #152 yet another 2 cents
    February 26, 2012

    @10 Skeptic hamster – the anti-vax people say you lie if you are intelligent and claim to have asperger’s.

    Isn’t that what happened when an asperger called ‘jacob’ annoyed this forum last year?

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have banned him, he was annoying as a rabbit, but a lot of people dismissed his diagnosis. Why?

  152. #153 Krebiozen
    February 26, 2012

    The people who buy the Big Pharma conspiracy stuff clearly haven’t thought it through. Big Pharma consists of thousands of pharmaceutical companies all in competition, and all of which would love to gain an advantage over a competitor. If a drug produced a horrible side effect that was being suppressed, an employee in the know could sell that information to a competing company for a fortune. Even given an enormous budget for buying people off, it couldn’t work.

    The other possibility is that we are all ‘sheeple’ utterly brainwashed into believing a lot of very plausible lies. The trouble with that is that many of us are, or know people who are, doing primary research which would surely show up these lies. This leads back into the same problem. I have been in the presence of some very intoxicated research scientists, and they never breathed a word about the horrors they uncovered, and none of them seemed to have a mysterious extra income either.

    The closest thing to a Big Pharma conspiracy I ever came across was a drug company rep who told me that his company would sometimes buy up a drug that a competitor was working on and shelve it, so that two hypertension drugs, for example, didn’t hit the market at the same time. That’s it. A simple marketing strategy that may not be in everyone’s best interests, but doesn’t exactly suggest a conspiracy.

  153. #154 lilady
    February 26, 2012

    “I assume that ‘John Richard Smith’ is Blackheart who posts here from time to time. Same style, same obsessions, same lack of understanding of how to assess evidence…”

    John Richard Smith is deliberately redacting and “editing” his citationless studies.

    He also states that he has a child with autism…he doesn’t “blame” vaccines for his child’s autism and, he and his family are fully immunized. IMO, if he was being truthful, wouldn’t he be pro-vaccine and wouldn’t he be upset that so much time and so many resources are being wasted to disprove each and every pseudoscientific “theory” about the causes of autism?

  154. #155 Autismum
    February 26, 2012

    Too right, Lilady!

  155. #156 Anton P. Nym
    February 26, 2012

    Tangential, but potentially useful; the nice folks on Twitter have brought to my attention a series of videos produced by the Australian government covering logic and its misuse. It’s targeted at grade schoolers, but it is simple, concise, and clear… and it uses the “Pharma shill gambit” as an example of the strawman fallacy, and “cellphones cause cancer” as an example of how the Precautionary Principle can be abused.

    http://youtu.be/iSZ3BUru59A

    All hope is not yet lost.

    — Steve

  156. #157 herr doktor bimler
    February 26, 2012

    I assume that ‘John Richard Smith’ is Blackheart who posts here from time to time.

    I remember calling Blackheart’s attention to the fact that someone was reposting his comments on other blogs, word-for-word, using the name ‘John Richard Smith’. Often, in fact, that other person was reposting his comments before he made them.

  157. #158 Krebiozen
    February 26, 2012

    that other person was reposting his comments before he made them

    The swine! The only thing worse than a plagiarist is a time-traveling plagiarist.

  158. #159 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 26, 2012

    The swine! The only thing worse than a plagiarist is a time-traveling plagiarist.

    I’m reminded of the great mathematician Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky…
    “My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed, when he finds out I publish first!”

  159. #160 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 26, 2012

    Well, it was Blackheart who informed us that disease effects showing up months before the purported causative agent was a perfectly cromulent etiology…

  160. #161 Denice Walter
    February 26, 2012

    Blackie also off-handedly compared me to Joyce or suchlike. Drat! I was shooting for Wm James.

    -btw- I *wish* that those who come to scoff would at least do us the courtesy of coming out and stating where they stand rather than wanking around for days with *their concerns*, about *insufficient research* and *safer vaccines*.

  161. #162 lilady
    February 26, 2012

    @ Steve…What a clever video, thanks.

    Okay guys, you’ve convinced me about Smith/Blackheart; (lol) time traveling plagiarist.

    Sock puppet alert!

  162. #163 Autismum
    February 26, 2012

    @ Antaeus Feldspar
    Cromulent is now my word of the week! Thanks xx

  163. #164 L
    February 26, 2012

    I think this post was just nasty and snarky and added nothing to the study or discussion of it. I’m all for whatever study gets us closer to a reason/cause. Why does it have to be one or the other? Something happens developmentally, evidenced by video, to *some* children about the same time they get the vaccines. Could it be they have a genetic variance that interacts? More studies, not less, and some compassion to those in the trenches of dealing with this everyday would allow better information to be shared.

  164. #165 Autismum
    February 26, 2012

    “In the trenches” you see living with awtism as warfare?

  165. #166 Marry Me, Mindy
    February 26, 2012

    The underlying question that no one ever answers is, why vaccines? When it comes to autism, what reason is there to suspect “vaccines”?

    Now, recall that the reason that MMR was suspected was NOT because of crap like “toxins” or anything, but because of the proximity. Kids got the MMR shot and BAM! 3 months later they were autistic. I mean, Wakefield so relied on this narrative that he felt he needed to alter the dates of initial appearance of symptoms in order to make it appear more damaging to MMR.

    Similarly, “mercury” was suggested because of the presumed similarities between the symptoms of mercury poisoning and autism. Which really aren’t all that similar.

    But now we have established that the onset of autism characteristics appears way before the MMR shot, and mercury isn’t even in childhood vaccines anymore.

    So what implicates the other vaccines? The logic of it doesn’t make sense.

    a) temporal association suggests MMR
    b) MMR is ruled out
    c) ????
    d) It must be some other vaccine

    How does that work>

  166. #167 lilady
    February 26, 2012

    @ L: How many more studies would you require to be satisfied that no individual vaccine, no combination of vaccines and no preservatives, adjuvants or excipients contained in vaccines, “trigger” the onset of autism?

    I realize that for the layperson, some of Orac’s blogs and some of our posts are difficult to understand. Just because you don’t understand the many studies that debunk the myth of vaccines causing/triggering autism…is not a valid reason to advocate more studies.

    Stop blaming vaccines for autism and do not go further down that rabbit hole by going into “martyr” mode. Been there, done that…and it’s a dead end.

    Why not enjoy your child and devote your energies toward getting better insurance coverages for therapies and more intensive educational/vocational programs in place for your child and others similarly situated.

  167. #168 Autismum
    February 26, 2012

    “…enjoy your child and devote your energies toward getting better insurance coverages for therapies and more intensive educational/vocational programs in place for your child and others similarly situated.”
    Indeed, it breaks my heart knowing how much money went into the pockets of Wakefield and his cronies to commit fraud.
    It breaks my heart knowing how much quacks charge for “treatments” and supplements encouraging parents to go into battle with their own children – autism is not separate from them.
    It breaks my heart seeing “professional witnesses” rip off grieving families who have bought into (literally and metaphorically)the lies they have sold them. This “connection” needs to be put to rest – not by more studies but by those still promulgating the vaccine autism link to come clean and say “We were wrong”
    http://autismum.com/2012/02/20/2nd-coulter-inquest-ordered/

  168. #169 Parent
    February 26, 2012

    “More studies, not less, and some compassion to those in the trenches of dealing with this everyday would allow better information to be shared. ”

    Until my son was diagnosed with autism, I ignored the antivax stuff, but now it’s personal – the antivaxxers are lying about my son, and I won’t stand for that.

  169. #170 Matthew Cline
    February 26, 2012

    How could Big Pharma possibly be making enough profit off vaccines to justify the expense of all those payoffs??

    To play devil’s advocate: that’s just bribery. You forgot about threats. Just threaten to kill the people in the know if they talk, and if it works then it doesn’t cost anything.

    However, there’s still a problem: organized crime (like the Mafia) does use threats like this, yet in spite of this people still testify against them.

  170. #171 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 26, 2012

    @Autismum

    I wish I could take credit for “cromulent”! It comes from The Simpsons, and an exchange where two teachers are discussing a film they’re showing about the town’s founder:

    Teacher #1: “embiggens”? I never heard that word before I came to Springfield.
    Teacher #2: I don’t know why, it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

    It’s a great word for saying, “Why, of course, this thing being presented is totally legitimate!” while clearly conveying the opposite.

  171. #172 dt
    February 27, 2012

    Off topic, i know (but we don’t seem to be particularly on topic anyway!)

    Geier in trouble again for breaching his restricted prescribing order:
    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-02-24/health/bs-hs-autism-doctor-20120224_1_autism-doctor-license-order

  172. #173 Autismum
    February 27, 2012

    The Geiers are creepy. They’re like limpets grabbing on to every peice of autism research, twisting it and taking conclusions out of context and to absurd lengths. I just CANNOT (caps required) understand why anyone, however desperate, would put their child’s health in the hands of either of the pair

  173. #174 lilady
    February 27, 2012

    @ Autismum: At least this time the Geiers are not prescribing and administering chemical castrating drugs.

    (Because I promised MI Dawn) WARNING PUT DOWN LIQUIDS BEFORE OPENING THIS LINK AND SCROLLING TO # 7 ON THIS CEASE AND DESIST ORDER:

    http://www.mbp.state.md.us/BPQAPP/orders/d2425001.252.pdf

  174. #175 Autismum
    February 27, 2012

    HaHa! I appreciate the warning. That’s a classic.

  175. #176 Science Mom
    February 27, 2012

    @ Autismum: At least this time the Geiers are not prescribing and administering chemical castrating drugs.

    If only that was the case; they are still allowed to peddle their wares in several states where papa Geier still has a valid medical license and his little shop of horrors.

  176. #177 Autismum
    February 27, 2012

    Baby Geier never had a medical licence did he?

  177. #178 lilady
    February 27, 2012

    Autismum:

    “Baby Geier never had a medical licence did he?”

    No, he never had a license, but that didn’t prevent him from practicing medicine:

    http://www.mbp.state.md.us/BPQAPP/orders/GeierCharge05162011.pdf

  178. #179 Todd W.
    February 28, 2012

    I’ve been following some of the developments around Geier Sr.’s license suspensions and his latest cease and desist nonsense and Geier Jr.’s practicing medicine without a license. Latest post here.

  179. #180 Autismum
    February 28, 2012

    Glass of wine, feet up and I’m gonna have a good old mooch on your blog Todd! Loving it so far xx

  180. #181 Todd W.
    February 28, 2012

    @Autismum

    Glad you like. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments on any of the posts!

  181. #182 Tina
    March 3, 2012

    For how many years has there been Vaccines? has any scientists thought to examine genetically passing ASD to their children because of generations of Vaccinations? what if the link is not of vaccination of the baby but rather generations of vaccinations passing through our genes to our children?- what i am saying is. what if all the generations of vaccine receiving over time ASD has been developed into our genetics and passed on through the generations causing ASD in our children today?? i feel that Vaccines are harmful- Over Time. my mother and father were vaccinated and their parents and their parents before them- when it first started, it was to prevent the spread of disease from Europeans to tribes they came into contact with and within their own people during the time of discovering the world.. Has anyone looked into the History of Vaccines and the possible causes of long term use. Are we harming our selves today because of generations of Vaccinations?? i hope that my questions are answered in the coming years.

  182. #183 Chris
    March 3, 2012

    Tina:

    For how many years has there been Vaccines?

    Over two hundred years.

    Which is about the time English grammar was starting to become standardized. Perhaps you missed that. Like those little rules that sentences start with capital letters, and when to actually use “have” instead of “has.”

  183. #184 Kelly M Bray
    March 3, 2012

    Tina, they were answered, in the going years, meaning already. The fact that your ancestors could reproduce is because they were alive. They were alive due to in no small part to vaccines.

  184. #185 alison
    March 3, 2012

    when it first started, it was to prevent the spread of disease from Europeans to tribes they came into contact with and within their own people during the time of discovering the world.
    No. When vaccination ‘first started’, it was to prevent the spread of killer diseases such as smallpox within European populations. Settlers were not above attempting to actively spread disease in the New World, & there was certainly no concerted attempt to prevent spread (the dreaded wikipedia hath its uses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_disease_and_epidemics).

  185. #186 Witch
    March 6, 2012

    If Hep B vaccines can induce liver damage and promote autoimmunity (see below), then is it so outlandish to suggest vaccine adjuvants (e.g. thimerosal / mercury and others) can promote the onset of autism in susceptible children?
    The latest research on Hep B vaccines shows Hep B Vaccine Damages The Liver It Is Supposed To Protect (Feb 29, 2012)

    Here’s just a sample of research strongly suggestive of adverse effects of vaccines, incl. the link to autism:

    A positive association was found between autism prevalence and childhood vaccination

    Abstract excerpts:

    The relationship between the proportion of children who received the recommended vaccines by age 2 years and the prevalence of autism (AUT) or speech or language impairment (SLI) in each U.S. state from 2001 and 2007 was determined. A positive and statistically significant relationship was found: The higher the proportion of children receiving recommended vaccinations, the higher was the prevalence of AUT or SLI. A 1% increase in vaccination was associated with an additional 680 children having AUT or SLI.

    The results suggest that although mercury has been removed from many vaccines, other culprits may link vaccines to autism.

    Source:
    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/there-positive-association-between-autism-prevalence-and-childhood-vaccination-uptake-across

    Study cited: J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2011 Jan ;74(14):903-16
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623535

    OTHER STUDY ABSTRACTS:
    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/disease/vaccine-induced-toxicity
    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/anti-therapeutic-action/vaccination-all

  186. #187 Chris
    March 10, 2012

    Witch, Sayer Ji is considered a joke around here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/01/vaccines_are_transhumanism.php