As I mentioned yesterday, I’m at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting imbibing the latest and greatest that science-based medicine has to offer against cancer. The AACR is mainly a basic science and translational meeting; so a lot of this stuff is seriously preclinical. That’s what makes it interesting, though. In any case, my distraction aside, sometimes stuff happens that I still have to comment on and, better yet, sometimes it’s the sort of stuff that I don’t feel obligated to write an Orac-ian length screed about. In other words, it’s perfect for keeping the blog active while I’m away because it’s not just another open thread (and open threads rapidly get dull) but it doesn’t require that I spend a long time analyzing something. In other words, it allows me to give you, my readers, a brief hit of that Insolence that you so crave without spending a lot of time that I don’t have right now to do it.
I guess I have Donald Trump to thank for this.
Yes, it turns out that Donald Trump “has a theory” that vaccines cause autism. Yes, I know. Big shocker. Well, I have a “theory” that The Donald is a scientific ignoramus, and at least I can provide evidence to support it, such as this video below:
The segment on vaccines starts around the 2:50 mark.
It was true that I wasn’t too surprised at first when I learned that he bought into vaccine-autism pseudoscience. However, when I first read little snippets about The Donald’s idiocy on Skepchick and elsewhere, I was expecting that Trump probably mentioned it in passing. But it’s way more than that. It turns out that Trump is seriously into antivaccine misinformation and pseudoscience, as watching the video above will demonstrate.
First, though, I have to wonder: Why on earth did the infotainment drones on Fox and Friends think that it was a good idea to ask The Donald about the CDC numbers released that week indicating that autism prevalence has reached one in 88? Does The Donald have an autistic child? Has he ever said much about autism before? Inquiring minds want to know! Well, it turns out that Trump is buddies with Bob and Suzanne Wright. Yes, we’re talking about the very same Bob and Suzanne Wright who are the founders of Autism Speaks. Let’s just put it this way. The Wrights have drunk deeply of the antivaccine Kool-Aid, so much so that the continued embrace of antivaccine nonsense by Autism Speaks in the face of overwhelming evidence that vaccines are not linked with autism is a large part of the reason why Alison Singer left that group. Trump’s even done fundraisers for them.
In any case, now that we understand where The Donald is getting his misinformation from, it’s not hard to predict what comes next. The Donald, as is his wont, serves up a steaming, stinking slab of putrid misinformation straight out of the playbook of antivaccine groups like SafeMinds, Age of Autism, and the like. It’s not even the watered down version that Autism Speaks likes to use, the one that calls for “more research” and simply saying that the science is incomplete, as reported here:
“I’ve gotten to be pretty familiar with the subject,” Trump said. “You know, I have a theory — and it’s a theory that some people believe in — and that’s the vaccinations. We never had anything like this. This is now an epidemic. It’s way, way up over the past 10 years. It’s way up over the past two years. And, you know, when you take a little baby that weighs like 12 pounds into a doctor’s office and they pump them with many, many simultaneous vaccinations — I’m all for vaccinations, but I think when you add all of these vaccinations together and then two months later the baby is so different then lots of different things have happened. I really — I’ve known cases.”
Theory. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means, Mr. Trump. Here’s a hint: It doesn’t mean “wild-assed guess.” It actually means a scientific principle that has enormous amounts of evidence to support it and has great explanatory and predictive power. Think theory of relativity. Think germ theory of disease. Think theory of evolution. Don’t think “theory that vaccines cause autism based on my association with antivaccine activists and no science.” Because the existing weight of scientific evidence is very much against that “theory” of yours. As I said before. I have a “theory” too.
I know, I know. What does one expect of The Donald? An analytical, scientific mind is not something he possesses. Indeed, this makes me wonder whether Trump’s embrace of the birther movement when he was still running for the Republican nomination wasn’t, as I thought at the time it was, a cynical attempt to pander to the lowest elements of the Tea Party. Maybe I was wrong, though. Maybe it was just crank magnetism in action. The Donald is a crank, and, as his enthusiastic embrace of vaccine-autism quackery suggests, maybe he’s prone to a whole lot of crankery. Strike that. There’s no “maybe” about it.
Perhaps the most hilarious thing about this whole segment is who the voice of reason turned out to be. Seriously. It was Gretchen Carlson, who actually very mildly challenged Trump’s pseudoscience. I kid you not:
“You know that most physicians disagree with that,” co-host Gretchen Carlson noted. “And the studies have said that there is no link. It used to be thought that is was the mercury in those vaccinations, which they have not had for years and, yet, we are at the highest number in recent time of autism. So, maybe it’s environmental.”
The Donald would have none of that:
“It’s also very controversial to even say,” Trump acknowledged. “But I couldn’t care less. I’ve seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations and a month later the child is no longer healthy.”
I’m so impressed that Trump “couldn’t care less.” Such bravery in the face of Big Pharma. Such crankery. Such…Donaldness.
And why? Because Trump has anecdotes, man:
“It happened to somebody that worked for me recently,” he added. “I mean, they had this beautiful child, not a problem in the world, and all of the sudden they go in and they get this monster shot. You ever see the size of it? It’s like they’re pumping in — you know, it’s terrible, the amount. And they pump this in to this little body and then all of the sudden the child is different a month later. I strongly believe that’s it.”
But Trump goes beyond that. To him, it’s a “monster shot”:
They go in and they get this monster shot. I mean, have you ever seen the size of it? It’s like they’re pumping in–you know, it’s terrible, the amount. And they pump this in to this little body, and then all of a sudden the child is different a month later, and I strongly believe that’s it. They should have vaccinations, but do them separately and over an extended period of time, not all at one time.
Here’s a hint for Trump: Even if the child were truly “different” after vaccination, a month later is not “all of a sudden.” In any case, Trump’s regurgitating the “too many too soon” gambit, which has no science to support it. All spreading out vaccines accomplishes is to increase the period of time that a child is vulnerable to infectious diseases for no real benefit of reducing the chance of autism because there is no link between vaccines and autism.
I realize that criticizing Donald Trump for being an antiscience idiot is rather akin to criticizing water for being wet or Donald Trump’s hair for having a life of its own, but sometimes a blogger’s just gotta do what a blogger’s gotta do. Particularly when he’s preoccupied with real science.