Every so often, I like to try to get into the mind of an antivaccine crank, a quack, or crank of another variety, because understanding what makes cranks tick (at least, as much as I can given that I’m not one) can be potentially very useful in my work trying to counter them. On the one hand, it’s not easy, because understanding conspiracy theorists, really bad science, and a sense of persecution shared by nearly all cranks doesn’t come natural to me, but it’s a useful exercise, and I encourage all of you to do it from time to time. While it might not be possible (or even desirable) to “walk a mile in their shoes,” it is revealing to try to understand why they behave the way they do.

What provoked this bit of thought (if you can call it that was a recent, rather hilarious Twitter exchange involving everyone’s favorite conspiracy theorist crank (on this blog at least) but perhaps least favorite on a personality level crank, Jake “Boy Wonder” Crosby. In response to being called (along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) “mercury obsessed” and, of course, antivaccine, Jake Tweeted:


Yes, that’s right. Jake is actually claiming that he “doesn’t make assumptions about people’s motives.” In fact, that’s all Jake does. His entire online “career” as a blogger and antivaccine activist has been largely based on making assumptions about other people’s motives.

Until recently, Jake was perhaps the most prominent rising star in the “vaccines cause autism” movement. He is young, just out of high school when he started blogging, reasonably attractive, and actually “on the spectrum,” which allowed the antivaccine movement to pretend as though it actually cared about issues of interest to autistic people. In other words, he was a perfect poster boy for the antivaccine movement. Even better (from the antivaccine movement’s standpoint), somehow Jake managed to get into the epidemiology program at George Washington University, which means that, should he graduate, the world will consider him an epidemiologist, although it’s doubtful that most epidemiologists will consider him one, given his propensity for the bad science, bad epidemiology, and in general bad reasoning of the antivaccine movement. So over the last four years or so, Jake has been churning out antivaccine rants for that crankiest of antivaccine crank blogs, Age of Autism, and basking in the increasing adoration of the vaccine-autism tinfoil hat brigade, whose praise of his “efforts” frequently bordered on the nauseating.

In fact, Jake developed an MO whose core is to question people’s motives. Basically, until recently, Jake was a “one trick pony” whose one trick was to impugn scientists’ and journalists’ motives by claiming undisclosed conflicts of interest based on tenuous “six degree of separation” links to big pharma or vaccine manufacturers. Indeed, when I first became aware of Jake’s propensities, he was busily trying to slime the founder of Scienceblogs and Seed Media, Adam Bly, as somehow being in the thrall of big pharma because as a teenager—yes, as a teenager—Bly had been the youngest guest researcher at the National Research Council, a Canadian government body that overseas scientific progress, studying “cell adhesion and cancer. He also suggested that Seed Media, which had in 2004 published a credulously awful portrait of Mark and David Geier as “brave maverick researchers” who did their research in the basement of Mark Geier’s house (one wonders how he got the permits or whether city knew about his doing biomedical “research” in a residential neighborhood) abandoned sympathy to the antivaccine viewpoint because of pharmaceutical company advertisement funding.

And that’s how Jake got started. If you peruse his oeuvre on AoA now, starting at the beginning, you will find numerous instances of Jake doing exactly what he denies doing, making assumptions about people and conspiracy mongering. Examples are legion, including his painting Brian Deer as a “narcissist” who, “starved for attention…knew how to get it – by targeting Dr. Andrew Wakefield” (which is nothing short of pure ad hominem and making assumptions about Brian Deer just because he had a lot of pictures of himself on his website) and his attack on Paul Offit as being “Nick Naylor from ‘Thank You For Smoking’ with an MD.” If you remember that movie, Nick Taylor was an unscrupulous lobbyist whose major client was the tobacco industry, and he would lie for the tobacco industry for money. If likening Dr. Offit to a hired flack who will say anything for money isn’t “making assumptions” about Dr. Offit’s motives, I don’t know what is. Ditto the assumption that Brian Deer posts pictures of himself on his website because he’s a narcissist and that Adam Bly somehow stomped on all blogging sympathetic to the antivaccine viewpoint in order to score some of that sweet, sweet pharma lucre for advertising. The list of vaccine defenders who have been subjected to similar attempts to impugn their motives as deriving from being in the thrall of big pharma (again, due to that sweet, sweet pharma lucre) is long and includes prominent bioethicist Art Caplan, Seth Mnookin, Scott Pelley (who, according to Jake, is responsible for the CBS antivaccine reporter Sharyl Attkisson being “silenced,” all because he sits “on the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee with Susan Susman, director of external relations for Pfizer, “which sponsored Pelley’s 60 Minutes report on H1N1 vaccine production”), and even a judge, Amy Clark Meacham, all because she is married to a lobbyist who has done work for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (because, apparently, you know, being married to someone who works for physicians who are pro-vaccine is a hopeless conflict of interest that can’t be overcome). Jake even recently touted a talk he was to give at Autism One in which he claims he is “trying to convince people of scientific truth” while at the same time explaining how to look for conflicts of interest in obituaries (nice touch!), wedding announcements, Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, news articles, and the like.

A while back, I predicted a bright future for Jake as an antivaccine “brave maverick scientist” (as a real epidemiologist, not so much) on par with Andrew Wakefield or even worse, churning out bad study after bad study linking mercury in vaccines or vaccines themselves with autism, all to the adulation of the vaccine-obsessed conspiracy mongers that AoA claims as its base. Unfortunately for him, his tendency to ascribe evil motives extends even to his allies, leading to a rift in which Jake attacked his erstwhile allies for not being antivaccine enough and allegedly engineering a switcheroo that eliminated his favored “scientist” (Brian Hooker) from testifying in front of a Congressional panel. He even went so far as to insinuate that his former mentor Mark Blaxill was fooling around on the side.

Believe it or not, I didn’t write this just to have fun discussing Jake’s utter lack of self-awareness and propensity to engage in conspiracy mongering and attacking his enemies as hopelessly compromised and in the thrall of big pharma (although there is no doubt that it is fun to do so), but rather to provide an example to demonstrate what I think to be a larger point. Even though to us (and anyone with two neurons to rub together), Jake is a conspiracy theorist whose main technique is to impugn the motives of his enemies (which inherently involves making assumptions about their motives, by the way) is antivaccine to the core. Just perusing his AoA archive will produce numerous examples to illustrate both points. Yet he really, really doesn’t believe that he is antivaccine, and he really, really believes that he does not make assumptions about people’s motives, although I’ve just shown multiple examples showing that he does just that. I could produce many more if necessary. In this, he reminds me of Eric Merola, the film producer responsible for the antivaccine propaganda “documentary” Burzynski The Movie: Cancer Is A Serious Business, Part 2, who appears to honestly believe that he is not a conspiracy theorist, that he doesn’t engage in ad hominem attacks, and that he is an “objective” journalist. Other names that come to mind are Stanislaw Burzynski (of course), Andrew Wakefield, Sayer Ji, Dana Ullman, and many, many others. All share characteristics to a greater or lesser extent, specifically a denial that they are cranks and a complete lack of self-awareness.

True believers don’t think they are cranks. They believe, as Jake does, that they don’t attack science, don’t attack people, and don’t make assumptions, even though in fact that’s all they do. That’s why I rarely try to change the minds of such people. It’s a fool’s errand. The odds of succeeding at it are almost as slim as the odds that there is still a molecule of an original homeopathic compound in a 30C dilution. The strategy instead has to be to expose the fallacious arguments, demonstrate the crankery for crankery, and counter the ad hominem attacks. The goal, of course, is to show the fence sitters or those with little knowledge of the issues involved. It has to be.

Comments

  1. #1 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    may I apply a minor correction:

    I don’t for a sec pretend to be as knowledgeable as Pd on neuroscience immunology stuff.

    I await proof that the immune stuff is causing increased memory, a larger number of smaller brain cells and increased perception.

    Alain

  2. #2 Denice Walter
    July 12, 2013

    Oh, Lookit! This thread has reached 800 comments- that means free airline miles for Orac!
    The rest of the minions just get free drinks at our next Pharma shill meet-and-greet cash bar.

  3. #3 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 12, 2013

    @Denice Walter

    Which is nothing to shrug at, given the prices of drinks at some locales.

    As for the cytokine stuff, pD, I actually took the time to read through your replies, and I have to agree with Krebiozen. You’re changing your arguments instead of addressing what he actually said.

    Up thread, you made the claim that changes in cytokine levels post-vaccination had not been studied, the implication that there did not exist a single study, at all, looking at this. Krebiozen provided you with examples of studies that did, in fact, look at changes in cytokine levels post-vaccination. You subsequently went off on some other tangent which, to me, seemed like you were trying to avoid admitting that you made a mistake.

    I recommend dropping the subject, admitting you were incorrect in your original claim, and move on.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    July 12, 2013

    As Kreb notes, much ado ….. Good question, Alain.

    AoA has an immunologist-by-proxy, Teresa Conrick, who similarly spins tales about immunological response and autism, as Todd W. knows only too well.

    Here’s my question: why doesn’t someone in the field take up this area of research- aren’t there thousands of researchers worldwide who are looking for grants and students who are in need of that evasive thesis/dissertation topic?
    Why has no one gone this route?

    At any rate, a few years ago, a friend of a friend, persisted in the belief that almonds prevent cancer ( right, Edgar Cayce’s old “6 a day”)- so I searched out any and all combinations of the terms and didn’t find data that showed any merit to this idea. The closest thing I found was that high fibre food ( almonds have fibre) may help prevent CR cancer. Which is not the same thing- which is almonds in particular and cancer in general.

    People who aren’t in a field don’t have the same outlook on research as people who are and have had standard education that has covered the area well. You might be surprised how many modern day parents who have adult children with SMI want to believe that SMI is caused by a teacher’s scolding, rejection by a sought after romantic partner or a lack of B vitamins. They wonder why the research isn’t being done or why vitamins shouldn’t be tried out as a potential cure.

    People who study an area on a graduate level see research differently.

  5. #5 JGC
    What makes you think anyone is subjecting kids to anything at all?
    July 12, 2013

    I encourage everyone to watch it and ask, why are we subjecting kids to such horrible fates.

    The idea that we’re subjecting kids to anything at all is simplify an unsupported assertion on your part, since despite being asked to do so for a few months you haven’t offered any evidence supporting the premise a causal link between routine immunization and autism spectrum disorders exists.

    Maybe we should make a request for actual evidence of a causal link the next “respond in three posts or concede the point” challenge?

  6. #6 Narad
    July 12, 2013

    Also Narad, your anger and frustration at me is unbecoming

    I can assure you that no further demonstrations of your boundless self-aggrandizement were required. I am as cool as a cucumber, baby. Contemptuous ridicule requires neither anger nor “frustration.” The fact that you would fantasize yourself to have engendered the latter is merely a another display of your wholesale lack of self-awareness.

    You have failed at and/or run away from every challenge to your painfully embarrassing babbling, and that includes the following:

    I work with autistics and I surely don’t hate them.

    You’ve been asked before, Greg: What are your credentials? What combination of education and professional training led to your purported vocation?

  7. #7 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 12, 2013

    @Denice Walter

    Ahh, Ms. Conrick. Yes. She who thinks that vaccines caused her daughter’s irises to change from blue to brown. If you read that, be sure to note the addendums. Ms. Conrick is an exercise in confusing correlation with causation.

  8. #8 Narad
    July 12, 2013

    The fact that it is moderation suggests that you have some very nice ‘pleasantries’ for me!

    Oh, look, wrong again. There’s a shock. Of course, if you had been paying attention rather than merely clamoring for attention at any cost, you would have been able to detect the foolishness of the insinuation beforehand.

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    July 12, 2013

    Aha! What an amazing discovery she made, Todd! My eldest daughter is autistic, and guess what? The same thing happened to her! She received her normal infant vaccines, and, during her first year of life, her eyes went from a stunning blue to a deep, chocolate brown! It must be the MERCURY! Of course, none of her shots *had* mercury, but still. Somehow. And of course two of my brothers’ had the same thing happen. And the second child, who was similarly vaccinated, kept her blue eyes.

    (I also find it hilarious she tried to support her case with a study about mercury vapor causing the *lens* to discolor. You’d think she’d be smart enough to at least know that the lens is not the same thing as the iris, and that a discolored lens causes vision problems, while brown irises do not. But I don’t really expect logic from her given her initial premise.)

  10. #10 Liz Ditz
    July 12, 2013

    Thank you Narad.

    I’d like to second your request for some information about his educational history and training.

  11. #11 JGC
    July 12, 2013

    “What evidence do we have that there is an actual increase in autism prevalance, as opposed to just the perception of one?”

    “You have asked a question (“shred of evidence”) to which you know in advance does not exist, and cannot be collected ethically.”

    Except that evidence does exist, can and has been collected without ethical violations. It’s possible to review both current and historical medical records, to apply current diagnostic criteria to children diagnosed prior to changes in the DSM, etc., and draw conclusions regarding whether or not diagnositic substitution, broadening of diagnostic criteria, etc., contribute to the increase in autism diagnoses without violating any one’s right to privacy (e.g., the California study by Shattuck and the UK study by Bishop, to name two off the top of my head.) Then there’s the Brugha study (Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults in the Community in England) which looked at autism incidence in adults vs. children using a common diagnostic procedure (ADOS-G) and found no significant difference in incidence, which would not be expected if the actual number of autistic individuals had increased over time.

    rease in other diagnoses.

    Evaluating a common population using the same criteria but different diagnostic protocols also results in different rates of incidence. For example, there are two commonly used diagnostic tools: ADI (Autism Diagnostic Interview R) and ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). Looking at a population of adults with a history of developmental speech disorders, Bishop found that if one required indivdiuals to meet teh criteria of both tools to receive an autistic diagnoses incidence was 21%. while if instead they were required to meet the criteria of one or the other incidence was 66%.

    What do we know?

    Diagnostic criteria for autism was broadened greatly with the publication of DSM IV.

    Changes in diagnostic criteria has been demonstrate to result in increased incidence of diagnoses of autism.

    When one examines historical medical records for indviduals previously diagnosed using useing narrower historical criteria and applies the broadened criteria from DSM IV one sees a statistically significant increase in autism diagnoses with a corresponding decrease in other diagnoses.

    The number of diagnoses has been seen to vary not only with change in iagnsotic criteria but aslo with differing diagnostic tools and procedures.

    No actual increase in the numbers of he number of autism diagnoses with time was found when children and adults were examined using the same criteria/tools.

    All of this argues strongly for increased number of autistic diagnoses over time rather than an actual increase in the number of autistics over time, and if the findings had been different–if for instance the Brugha study had found more children diagnosed with autism than adults, for example– these studies could have providedevidence of an an actual increase in autism prevalance without any ethical violation.

  12. #12 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 12, 2013

    @Liz Ditz

    Meant to say thanks for posting your comment about other gainfully employed and successful autists.

    I wonder, though, if the giggly one will try to claim that for each of those specific cases there would also be 1,000 non-verbal, head-banging, poop-smearing autists. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, math and honesty are not his strong suits. He may say that it’s still 1:1,000, though he might concede and instead state that for every 1 successful, gainfully employed autists there are only 200 of the sort he looks down on.

  13. #13 W. Kevin Vicklund
    July 12, 2013

    Again, please point to my exact text where I said 199/200 cases of autism are caused by vaccines. Let me make clear my position on the issue.

    It was a calculated value from comment #680.

    Greg has stated:

    1) In the halcyon days of yore when vaccine-preventable disease had free rein, the autism rate was 1/10,000.

    2) Today the rate is 1/50, or 200/10,000.

    3) All of that increase is due to vaccination, because some percentage of the population — at least 2% – would respond to a mild immunological insult in infancy (read: vaccination) by developing autism.

    If this were true, I’d expect pre-modern societies to have an autism rate caused by early life immune insults of at least 2% which Greg denies; Greg claims that without vaccination the rate would be 1/10,000. I see this as a problem with Greg’s argument; perhaps you don’t.

    Of course, as you point out, infant mortality plays a role here. But according to Greg, 199/200 potentially autistic children would have to die in infancy to produce the “proper” autism rate When half the children die before reaching adulthood, 2% dying from early life immune insults wouldn’t even be noticed. True. But by the same token, any genes that produce that outcome would be under ferocious selection pressure, don’t you think? If only 0.005% of the carriers live long enough to reproduce, there’d have to be some substantial benefit for their collaterals to keep the genes in the population.

  14. #14 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 12, 2013

    @AF –

    The answer you are giving is an answer to the wrong question.

    You asked this question:

    What evidence do we have that there is an actual increase in autism prevalance, as opposed to just the perception of one?’

    The parental age data doesn’t answer the question of having evidence for an actual increase in autism? [seriously?]

    I never imagined that I would have to actually spell out for you that “an increase in autism” in this context specifically means “an increase in autism that is not otherwise accounted for”. But then again, I never imagined that you would quote-mine LW the way you did, so there we go.

    Can you actually understand why, now that it’s pointed out, why “we have an increase in autism that already has an explanation” does not automatically send reasonable people running to find other explanations for the same increase?

    The fact that we are keeping pre-term babies alive with more consistency doesn’t answer this question?

    Exactly the same objection as before. There’s not even a need to go into whether the link between pre-term birth and autism is undisputed. It still makes no sense.

    What type of evidence would you accept as evidence, up and above those two types of evidence?

    Those two “types of evidence” aren’t evidence that is useful to your case. I will say it again: “an increase in autism” in this context specifically means “an increase in autism that is not otherwise accounted for”, and I never imagined that you could have trouble understanding why.

    Considering you don’t seem to have any faith in the scads of parental age data, your hypothesis, that the increase is solely based on perceptions appears to me to be impossible to falsify.

    Whether or not I have faith in the parental age data is irrelevant, since an increase in autism which is caused by increasing parental age is not an increase in autism for which we need to puzzle out “Gee, wow, what could the cause of this possibly be? Could it be vaccines?”

    (Of course, it occurs to me that perhaps that you think this is scientifically logical: that if a factor such as increasing parental age poses an increased risk of autism, there must be a mechanism by which that happens, and that means suddenly it’s appropriate for you to speculate wildly about how vaccines are that mechanism, right?)

    (Sadly for you, no. You’re still trying to fit the data to your hypothesis. Science is about trying to fit your hypothesis to the data. You’re just trying to shift a question you can’t answer – what reason is there to finger vaccines as a culprit in the autism developed by these children? – to a different set of children, which still leaves the actual question completely unanswered.)

    I’m terrible at reading minds, so maybe you could tell me what evidence would you accept that *some* amount of the increase is real?

    You mean, some amount other than that already accounted for by other factors?

    Let’s start by repeating the hard truth that you don’t seem to want to face. You are not entitled to make scientific breakthroughs. No one is. Researcher A might have a great hypothesis about a certain scientific matter, and the hypothesis might even be completely correct. But if Researcher A cannot obtain the evidence that shows the hypothesis to be correct, science cannot go ahead and say “yes, you’re right; because you provided us with all the evidence you could obtain, we’ll consider that good enough.” Not even if the reasons why Researcher A can’t obtain that evidence were, without question, not their fault. Look at all the great scientific hypotheses that were only settled after the scientists who proposed them had died, when advanced evidence-gathering methods such as DNA testing had been developed.

    Science does not scale grades, pD!

    You have asked a question (“shred of evidence”) to which you know in advance does not exist, and cannot be collected ethically. I’m not complaining about “science” or “entitlements”, I’m complaining about you applying a double standard; insistence on me providing data that we both know is not available.

    And I’m fully aware that that’s your complaint, and furthermore I’m agreeing that you’re correct about almost every part of it. The one part that you are wrong about is when you call it “a double standard.” It is not. It is the standard, the one that applies to all science and all scientists, from the most stridently pro-vaccine to the most stridently anti-vaccine.

    Suppose we rewind history a little bit and make it go differently. Suppose that we go back to just before the first study was performed that examined for differences the autism rates between unvaccinated and vaccinated children. And furthermore, let us suppose that the results of that first study showed something different than they did in our world: they indicated that in that fictional, hypothetical world the rate of autism was higher for vaccinated children than it was for unvaccinated children, to a statistically significant degree.

    You know what science would decree was the simplest hypothesis that fit the evidence, in that hypothetical world* where all the evidence that had been collected so far (small an amount as it was) showed a correlation between vaccination and autism? That vaccination and autism were causally related somehow. Anyone who had the hypothesis that there was some other explanation for the correlation besides a causal relation, the burden of proof would be on them to figure out an alternate hypothesis – and then the burden of proof would be on them to gather additional evidence, of whatever sort was necessary, for their hypothesis to be the simplest one that explains all the evidence. If they couldn’t do that – for instance, because the process of collecting the evidence would be unethical – then we’d feel sorry for them but we would not change the rules and say “All right, because you can’t get the evidence that would prove your hypothesis, we’ll give you a pass and deem your hypothesis proven without evidence.”

    The purpose of that exercise just now, looking at the imaginary world where it was the pro-vaccine people who didn’t have the evidence on their side and couldn’t go collect it – the purpose of that was not to give you a spontaneous orgasm. It was to drum into your head that this is not a double standard, it is the standard.

    To whine and call it unreasonable is even sillier than complaining that the driver whose car crossed the finish line first is considered the winner, and the same consideration is not shown to the driver whose car couldn’t cross the finish line because his axle broke. I am precise in saying “sillier” rather than “just as silly”, by the way: car races are human-created endeavors, and we can change the rules any way we want, to make the race more entertaining. Science is not for our entertainment. Science is our way to learn as much as we can about this complex, challenging world we live in, without getting fooled by all the tricky illusions the world or our own perceptual systems can throw at us. We change the rules for one and only one reason: to try and reduce error. To change the rules instead so that claims are accepted not because they checked out when they were checked against the evidence, but because they couldn’t be checked against the evidence, would be utter absurdity.

    * It’s sad that I have to keep stressing that to deter quote-miners.

  15. #15 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    About the immune system stuff, I have been alerted of this article which claim that autoimmune antibodies in the mother is linked to 1/4 of the autistic newborn:

    http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2013/07/11/researchers-cause-autism/18297/

    publication here:
    http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v3/n7/abs/tp201350a.html

    I think it’s a better causal link than any of the stuff that pD presented here. Now, if the mother have immune issues, wouldn’t it be normal that the autistic child have immune issue, which is not necessarily a causal link to autism.

    Haven’t disected the study but count on it that I will dissect it soon.

    Alain

  16. #16 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    Oh! and, if autoimmune issues from the mother is a causal link to autism, wouldn’t it be normal to find autistics (at least 1/4 of the population of current autistics) since prehistoric times?

    Alain

  17. #17 Denice Walter
    July 12, 2013

    @ Liz:

    Somewhere Greg told me that his background was in psychology: I doubt that any graduate work/ degrees were involved because I hear neither the statistics/ research design focus nor that of physio nor of testing screaming loudly in my ears- which I would hear if he had any sort of grad degree from any U worth its salt.

    If you take a peek at Jennifer Larson’s autism group via AoA ( visit Holland), you’ll notice that many of her staff have undergrad degrees in psych and precious little else.. so I assume it IS possible to work with clients who have ASDs without much background or training.

    There are also alt meddish life coaches who work with all manner of ASD. LD and MI. Probably not very well, I’d venture.

  18. #18 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    @ Denice,

    so I assume it IS possible to work with clients who have ASDs without much background or training.

    A person I know, she was and is asperger; she worked with autistics child but her two bachelor are in cinema and something else that I don’t remember and definitely not psychology.

    BTW, the organism she worked in, never paid her for her work.

    Alain

  19. #19 Greg
    July 12, 2013

    @Narad
    Are you sure you are not angry? You’re kinda sounding like you are! (Hee, hee, hee).

    Oh yes, my credentials…..

    What if I were to tell you that I am a high school dropout who looks after my neighbour’s twin autistic boys casually, and spend most of my free time looking up autistic stuff on the net? Would this automatically disqualify me from having the honour on conversing with you guys?

  20. #20 Greg
    July 12, 2013

    ‘honour of…’

  21. #21 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    Greg,

    It would show that you have not been practicing the scientific method because you were never given the chance. You also don’t know how to weight scientific evidence.

    Alain

  22. #22 sheepmilker
    July 12, 2013

    Meanwhile, using actual, you know, science, the whole genomes of 32 Canadian families with ASD have been sequenced.

    Candidate ASD genes confirmed and four new target genes discovered. It’s just amazing to me that we have the techniques, and computing power, to do these kind of studies.

  23. #23 Narad
    July 12, 2013

    Are you sure you are not angry? You’re kinda sounding like you are!

    Yes, I’m quite sure. At this point, it would be like being “angry” at Philip Glass. You, on the other hand, seem to be overflowing with incredibly stupid, schoolyard-variety aggression.

    Perhaps your psychological training was not sufficient to inform you that it is perfectly possible to bluntly tell someone whom one respects when they’re full of shıt. And you have earned no such courtesy.

  24. #24 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 12, 2013

    Greg – I apologize if this is too personal, but you’ve shown yourself to be incapable of understanding other people’s emotional states more than once. Have you been evaluated? I ask this as a well wisher, in that I do not actively wish you harm.

  25. #25 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    July 12, 2013

    Would this automatically disqualify me from having the honour on conversing with you guys?

    Of course not but you need to check that arrogant ignorance at the door. I would also question the mother who would allow you to look after her boys.

  26. #26 LW
    July 12, 2013

    @Greg:

    Again, please point to my exact text where I said 199/200 cases of autism are caused by vaccines. Let me make clear my position on the issue. I believe the vast majority of autistic cases are caused by vaccines.

    Of course Greg didn’t say 199/200. That would require higher mathematics (i.e., arithmetic). However, when he first graced the comment section of this blog with his presence, he sneered this in his persona as one of his fantasized pro-vaxxers:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/04/06/can-antivaccinationists-knock-it-off-with-the-autism-holocaust-analogies-already/#comment-250480

    The anti-vaxers are so frustrating. They just don’t believe us when we tell them what really causes autism. Autism is caused by abused mothers, old mothers, fat mothers, stressed mothers, old fathers, old grandfathers, fathers in their 40s marry women in their 20s, engineer and tech parents, having siblings too close together, women not taking folic acid during pregnancy or having a fever or flu during pregnancy, lack of vitamin D, c-section deliveries, low birth weight, living too close to a highway, lots of rainfall, air pollution. Everything causes autism except vaccines!

    Back in 1995 when the Autism rate went from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 500 we told them that the sudden rise was due to better detection. We were concerned that this explanation would not wash, but incredibly they believed it! In 2007, the rate jumped exponentially to 1 in 150 leaving us no choice, so in desperation we used the better diagnosis argument again. Could you believe it folks? Astoundingly, they fell for it, again! Now that the rate is 1 in 50 we are still saying its better detection and they are still buying it! Our luck is just not running out! Their gullibility is beyond words. 

    So, here we have Greg stating that the autism rate was formerly 1/10,000 and is now 1/50. Greg evidently has not mastered fractions so is unaware that 1/50 = 200/10,000, and further that 200/10,000 – 1/10,000 = 199/10,000, so the “excess” cases in his view are 199/10,000. Moreover, in order to compute what fraction of all cases are excess, we divide excess by total, like this: (199/10,000)/(200/10,000) = 199/200. Hence, in Greg’s view, as evidenced by his own words above, “excess” autism cases are 199/200 of all autism cases. 

    I apologize to those who have graduated from elementary school, for belaboring the computation.

    Note that Greg sneers at every explanation other than vaccines as an explanation for possible real increases in autism, including older parents, which his hero, passionlessDrone, insisted on as a real cause. 

    Continued in the next comment to avoid moderation.

  27. #27 LW
    July 12, 2013

    So we’ve established from Greg’s own words the 199/200 autism cases are “excess”. But does he claim that they are all caused by vaccines?  Yes he does:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/05/01/autismone-2013-a-quackfest-just-as-quacky-as-ever/#comment-256136

    Still, where autism is concerned, I will always see the vast majority of autistic individuals as vaccine, brain damaged. They were not born that way. Autism was not their destiny and instead was a scourge that was forced upon them. To not accept this is to betray the autistic individual by denying his/her legacy. This I feel is the ultimate disrespect. I also believe the pro-vaxers do feel a lot of guilt and instead of owning up to the crime committed against the autistic individual, will sooner blacklist anyone who speaks the truth as being an ableist. Such hypocrisy is what I believe is truly reprehensible.

    Re your position that even if vaccines were ‘shown’ to cause autism then you would still advocate the existing recommended vaccination schedule, I fail to understand the sense in this thinking.  We are talking about 80,000 yearly vaccine brain damaged autistic kids. (Emphasis added). 

    Approximately four million children are vaccinated each year. If indeed the 1/50 number is correct, we would expect 80,000 of them to be autistic. Greg says vaccination causes 80,000 cases of autism per year (with his usual polite and charming terminology). Therefore, Greg says all cases of autism are caused by vaccination.

    I was giving him credit for acknowledging his own figure that 1/10,000 would be autistic without vaccination, but perhaps that was too much credit.

    I have more of Greg’s greatest hits, but after scrolling through three posts with comments by him, I feel I’ve make sufficient sacrifice for the day.

  28. #28 Greg
    July 12, 2013

    @LW

    Seems like you went into some serious calculations to suggest that I am arguing that all autistics are vaccine damaged. Yet, in the sample of my text that you selected, I argued, “still, where autism is concerned, I will always see the vast majority of autistic individuals as vaccine, brain damaged.” The obvious question then is if it’s so conclusive that I believe ‘all’ autistics are vaccine damaged, why did I say the ‘vast majority’ and not ‘all’? Also, notice how even as of today, I am still using the precise ‘vast majority’ term, which is consistent with my previous post from two months ago.

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    July 12, 2013

    LW, where do you think those dates/ figures ( 1:10,000; 1:50) come from?
    Exactly where you’d imagine: AoA, TMR, Natural News, etc.

    At any rate, being a sceptic or SB person requires no specific education or training and having a higher education isn’t a guarantee of a capacity for critical thinking: these skills and the outlook itself can be learned or cultivated.

    Some of us are fortunate enough to have acquired first-rate educations for whatever reason: talent, inclination, family culture, happenstance. More recently, it has become difficult for adults to go about completing degrees in the traditional fashion ( although on-line schools offer additional opportunities) because of costs and economic realities- juggling a job, family and school isn’t easy- I sometimes work with clients who are atttempting this.

    I think that on-line sceptical groups ( altho’ we have been called an “intellectual lynch mob” or suchlike) provide instant educational pointers for whosoever wants information and direction, for free, in an entertaining format. We are the alternative to the alties: Orac leads the way.

    I would venture that the reason that ludicrously ignorant self-promoters- like those I survey- get a large audience is because they pretend to have cutting-edge information that will help people to improve their lives- in reality, they just want to sell useless products and their posturing as educators is merely a ruse. But the audience does clamour for science and realistic ways to help themselves- they’re just looking in all the wrong places.

    Many of us here could use our spare time to work for pay but instead find our hobby rewarding in non-monetary ways.

  30. #30 Greg
    July 12, 2013

    Late question of the day……

    I asked this question before and I think it’s worth asking again. You guys are all seeming to suggest my ‘rantings’ amount to that of a madman on the street. Well, if that’s the case, why did this thread reach over 800 comments, when the other threads that I am not involved in averages, say, 100 or so comments. Asked another way, why do you guys feel so compelled to engage a ‘madman’?

  31. #31 Alain
    July 12, 2013

    Oh Greg, I love engaging with madmans on the street; they are genuine in their conviction and show an awesome lot of dedication to their cause. They are also very frank and don’t play any games at all.

    You should have seen the one who slept 2 hours per day for the last 6 month and who was totally dedicated to make 50 000$ in a few more month on the street; he had an awesome drive to make it.

    You? you have crusts to eat to attain the same level of Marg and Judith with their 2500+ posts in a thread.

    Good luck.

    Alain

  32. #32 janerella
    July 12, 2013

    I’d say the gleeful opportunity demonstrate how easy it is, with the help of legitimate citations, to consistently smackdown Greg’s woefully citation-befeft antivax bleatings for the benefit of the lurkers would factor mightily into the length of the thread.

  33. #33 janerella
    July 12, 2013

    bereft!

  34. #34 Narad
    July 12, 2013

    Also, notice how even as of today, I am still using the precise ‘vast majority’ term

    Well, there’s something one doesn’t hear every day.

  35. #35 Narad
    July 12, 2013

    Asked another way, why do you guys feel so compelled to engage a ‘madman’?

    Alain has already capably addressed this, but nobody except you has characterized you in this fashion. Why did you “feel so compelled” to describe yourself as such?

    I’m taking the over on “nothing left but squirming evasion.”

  36. #36 Chris,
    July 13, 2013

    Greg:

    Well, if that’s the case, why did this thread reach over 800 comments, when the other threads that I am not involved in averages, say, 100 or so comments.

    Because you are hilarious!

    You have managed to not answer questions with any data for over two months. And then you whine when you are given a deadline of noon then next day.

    Remember, we are not laughing with you.

  37. #37 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    which his hero, passionlessDrone, insisted on as a real cause

    I wouldn’t say that pD is Greg’s “hero,” but rather that Greg fancies him as some sort of potential yet decidedly subservient ally. Just another object, like his (B’siyata d’shmaya, imaginary) “brain-damaged,” “retarded” victims.

  38. #38 LW
    July 13, 2013

    @Denice Walter, oh, it’s not that I believe anything he writes, it just amuses me to point out the logical consequences.

    Do you think 99.5% is a reasonable approximation for the “precise ‘vast majority’ term”?

  39. #39 Greg
    July 13, 2013

    Orac’s VCADOD Group,

    I left this departure message on a wrong thread: Anyway, with the weekend here, I want to take a little break. Over 800 comments are quite something! I might drop back in to read stuff, but I ask that you refrain from any targeted comments that may tempt a response from me (hee, hee, hee). Maybe you guys can discuss stuff amongst yourselves for the time being. When I return — perhaps in a few days or so — we may continue with our exchanges.

  40. #40 ChrisP
    July 13, 2013

    Fancy posting on the wrong thread, Greg. Just about everything you have posted here has been wrong, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

  41. #41 Denice Walter
    July 13, 2013

    @ LW:

    Oh, I know. As I mentioned above, we frequently amuse ourselves as well as- hopefully- engaging lurkers.

    As an aside:
    speaking of really long threads precipitated by egregious commentary, wasn’t there another ‘greg’- a/k/a Peg and/or Emily- who was a chiropractor/ natural health enthusiast from AUS? Greg Fitzgerald IIRC.

  42. #42 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    I might drop back in to read stuff, but I ask that you refrain from any targeted comments that may tempt a response from me

    Too bad.

    I understand that the money set aside for such compensation is already almost gone. So, when the admission that vaccines do cause autism is made, and with the expected ensuing tsunami of claims what do you propose for obtaining additional funds?

    What was your response to this, again?

    Greg, what is the balance in the relevant account as of the end of the first calendar quarter of this year?

    Oh, right.

  43. #43 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 13, 2013

    “‎Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” – John Stuart Mill

  44. #44 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    Fancy posting on the wrong thread, Greg.

    I’m still on my first cup of coffee, but I’m not seeing it on another thread.

  45. #46 Chemmomo
    On a hot, hot day in July. . .
    July 13, 2013

    Fancy posting on the wrong thread, Greg.

    It also shows his grasp of numbers. Back at #834, Greg notes

    Well, if that’s the case, why did this thread reach over 800 comments.

    Yet, he failed to notice that the other thread (Veterinary Acupuncture) only had 68 of them when he posted.

  46. #47 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    @Chris,

    Here

    Thanks.

  47. #48 Liz Ditz
    July 13, 2013

    For the lurkers. Greg at 623 claimed,

    I understand that the money set aside for such compensation is already almost gone.

    This is from the website of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/index.html.

    The Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund provides funding for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate vaccine-related injury or death claims for covered vaccines administered on or after October 1, 1988.

    Funded by a $0.75 excise tax on vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine administration to children. The excise tax is imposed on each dose (disease that is prevented) of a vaccine. Trivalent influenza vaccine for example, is taxed $0.75 because it prevents one disease; measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which prevents three diseases, is taxed $2.25.

    The Department of Treasury collects the excise taxes and manages the Fund’s investments.

    The link to the reports is: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/tfmp/vaccomp/vaccomp.htm

    The total amount paid out to date is $2,704,762,675.55. The total assets to date, as of June 30, is $3,397,803,125.95. That’s a long way from “almost out of money”.

    Let’s do a rough estimate of how much money flows into the NVICP Trust fund each year. There are about 4 million babies born each year. Let’s set the vaccine uptake rate at 90%. Let’s say the baby gets an annual flu shot, and gets the remaining preschool boosters in his 4th year. In months 0-12, the child will receive 24 taxable immunizations (remember DTaP counts as 3); in months 13-24 12 taxable immunizations; in months 25-36 1 taxable immunization; in months 37-48 1 taxable immunization; and finally in months 49-60 8 taxable immunizations. So each immunized child contributes $34.50 to the NVICP fund from birth to age 5.

    So in any one year, the current and previous birth cohorts ALONE (forget later childhood vaccinations and adult vaccinations) are contributing about $124,000,000 to the Fund. Historically, there has been an excess if income over expenses, so the Fund also benefits from substantial investment income. For example for this fiscal year to date, the income is reported as $89,463,223.61.

    Greg went on to write,

    So, when the admission that vaccines do cause autism is made, and with the expected ensuing tsunami of claims what do you propose for obtaining additional funds?

    One: the Autism Omnibus hearing considered the propositions that the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine, or the MMR plus thimerosal, could cause autism. Neither proposition was found to be legally or scientifcally plausible.

    Two: there is no reason in science to think that something else about vaccines could be causal in autism. So there’s no reason to think that the NVICP would need to fund claims.

    There is currently a case before the vaccine court, alleging that somehow, vaccines produced using human cell lines can trigger autism. The court finds the claim based on faulty research and evidence. See http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/CAMPBELL-SMITH.MOSTOVOY061213.pdf.

  48. #49 Shay
    July 13, 2013

    “Asked another way, why do you guys feel so compelled to engage a ‘madman’?”

    As we used to say in the 12th Marines, target-rich environment.

  49. #50 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    Historically, there has been an excess if income over expenses, so the Fund also benefits from substantial investment income. For example for this fiscal year to date, the income is reported as $89,463,223.61.

    Lest anyone misread this, more specifically that’s net revenue of $56,053,497 from the excise tax and $30,923,204 in investment interest.

  50. #51 Narad
    July 13, 2013

    (As of March 31.)

  51. #52 Greg
    July 16, 2013

    Greetings VCADOD Group,

    You fine purveyors of poisons — ahem vaccines- for kids! Congrats Orac on stepping up your game –slightly– with your ‘provaxxer world domination’ shtick on another thread. Your ‘quacks, cranks are bad tagline’ was starting to get a little worn.

    Anyway, I would like to get started with our program right away by having our ‘question of the day’:

    I need not remind you guys that I am a layperson where immunology science is concerned. Still, it did seem logical to me that if vaccines are suspected in causing an inflammation response that may disturb infants’ brain development then we should examine kids post vaccination to see if there is indeed an increase in their inflammatory chemicals are cytokines. (Please also see the link below of, yet, another –peer reviewed!– studying tying vaccines to autism through the inflammation process). Around a month ago, I did discuss this idea with Krebiozen. Then ‘loh and behold’ we had Pd recently mentioning how despite having the technology to do such studies the research is quite scant. (BTW, despite your desperate efforts to show PD as lacking in knowledge, he sounds rather credible.) The ‘question of the day’ then is why are such studies, studying inflammatory chemicals post vaccines, so scant? Surely the ‘ethical’ excuse doesn’t apply here?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130712-904463.html

  52. #53 Greg
    July 16, 2013

    their inflammatory chemicals ‘or’…..

  53. #54 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 16, 2013

    Hunh. I didn’t know you could get the WSJ website to carry a press release. Here’s a link from the actual source, PR Newswire, which will basically print anything you ask in exchange for pay:

    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/autism-epidemic-linked-to-epidemic-of-vaccine-induced-diabetes-215213361.html

    A quick search suggests the sole author, Bart Classen, has been heard of around here before…

  54. #55 Greg
    July 16, 2013

    Thx Liz Ditz (still didn’t see your comment where you told me off for discussing the unflattering, but true side of severe autism) for the info on NICTFs,

    You mentioned……
    “The total amount paid out to date is $2,704,762,675.55. The total assets to date, as of June 30, is $3,397,803,125.95. That’s a long way from “almost out of money”.”

    I understand that the amount paid out to date was only a small fraction of the pending claims, and if such claims succeed there will be nothing left. Also, you and Narad, really didn’t answer my question. MOB stated that ‘if’ vaccines are ever shown to cause autism — I say ‘when’ — then families should be compensated from this fund. How would there ever be enough money to satisfy the expected ‘tsunami’ claims?

  55. #56 Julian Frost
    July 16, 2013

    Greg:

    ‘if’ vaccines are ever shown to cause autism — I say ‘when’ — then families should be compensated from this fund. How would there ever be enough money to satisfy the expected ‘tsunami’ claims?

    Given that the omnibus Autism Proceedings are being wound down with most petitioners seeking withdrawal, and that there has been no new theory of causation advanced, you may as well ask if it may help the environment to use dragons in steel making.

  56. #57 Narad
    July 16, 2013

    Here’s a link from the actual source, PR Newswire, which will basically print anything you ask in exchange for pay

    If you look closer, you’ll find that the same goes for the journal.

  57. #58 Narad
    July 16, 2013

    Please also see the link below of, yet, another –peer reviewed!– studying tying vaccines to autism through the inflammation process

    Thanks for the demonstration that you know nothing about journals publishing (and placing an exclamation point on it) and that you haven’t read the actual, ah, “paper.”

  58. #59 JGC
    What evidence creeping in would that be , greg?
    July 16, 2013

    What evidence supports your claim that vaccines are cause autism?

    Respond by the end of the day, or concede that you are unaware of any evidence supporting your often-repeated claim.

    (And, as always, be aware that ‘anecdote’ and ‘evidence’ are different entities.)

  59. #60 Krebiozen
    July 16, 2013

    The ‘question of the day’ then is why are such studies, studying inflammatory chemicals post vaccines, so scant? Surely the ‘ethical’ excuse doesn’t apply here?

    This has been looked at over a period of at least 48 years – I linked to a 1965 study looking at interferon levels (interferon is a pro-inflammatory cytokine) after measles vaccination). Nothing of great interest has been found, and there is no doubt at all that infections cause a far greater release of pro-inflammatory cytokines than vaccination, over a far longer period. What else do you think scientists should have looked at?

  60. #61 Calli Arcale
    July 16, 2013

    “I understand that the amount paid out to date was only a small fraction of the pending claims, and if such claims succeed there will be nothing left.”

    I am reminded of the incarcerated fellow who, having been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and deprived of most entertainments other than the prison library, has forged a new form of amusement: filing absurd lawsuits for insane amounts of money. There isn’t a whole lot that can be done to stop him; all the cases get dismissed as soon as they see his name on them. If you were to add up the claims, you’d find that if all of his cases prevailed, there would not be enough money in all the world to pay out his claims. Some of his lawsuits request damages in the quadrillions. It would be a little silly to therefore claim that the global economy is bankrupt, since all the lawsuit claims in the world could not be paid. Obviously everybody filing a lawsuit is not going to prevail, and even if they do prevail, obviously they will not all receive the awards they were seeking. Indeed, it is common practice to file for a larger sum than desired, because the amount you file for is both the starting point for negotiations should the defendant offer to settle, and it is also a rhetorical device for your lawyer to use to illustrate how injured you are. Seldom do the final awards match the amount initially filed for, if it actually goes to trial.

  61. #62 Narad
    July 16, 2013

    I understand that the amount paid out to date was only a small fraction of the pending claims, and if such claims succeed there will be nothing left.

    Since you repeatedly demonstrated that you had no freaking idea of the balance in the account to start with (“I understand that the money set aside for such compensation is already almost gone”) and are such a screaming bonehead that you didn’t even know where to look, I will be most amused to wait for you to cough up “the amount … of the pending claims,” as I’m sure will be anyone who has the slightest idea of how the process works.

  62. #63 Jay Gordon
    July 20, 2013

    @Narad “Yes, I’m quite sure. At this point, it would be like being “angry” at Philip Glass.”

    I have previously read nothing in this thread but I glanced at it this morning. I have absolutely no idea what the context was for that statement, Narad, but it is the best thing I’ve read all morning, anywhere.

  63. #64 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 20, 2013

    @Krebiozen,

    I’m informed by a friend in Belgium that Brussels sprouts are called choux de Bruxelles if you’re Walloon or spruitjes if you’re Flemish.

  64. #65 skeptiquette
    middleevil times square root
    July 23, 2013

    First off, sorry I take so long to respond. I just have a number of obligations and things going on, so it is difficult to keep up with the barrage of responses that come at me.

    … the science-based camp is stating “we have simply not been presented with anything like a convincing case that vaccines cause autism, and it would be irrational to jump to the conclusion that they do or probably do in the absence of a convincing case.” If you’re asserting that that’s an unreasonable position…

    I am not asserting that that is unreasonable, it is perfectly reasonable.

    then you’re asserting that either you think a solid case that vaccines cause autism does exist (in which case, you’re not between the two camps at all, you’re in one of the very camps you called unreasonable) or you’re asserting that the science-based camp should be taking seriously the speculation that vaccines cause autism just because someone came up with such a speculation.

    Actually, I am just pointing out that I think it is reasonable to want to explore the various immune etiology hypotheses of autism, which would likely include vaccines at some point.

    Seeing that various cytokines are integral to normal brain development and memory, and disruptions in these signaling patterns during critical timeframes can lead to later life behavioral and cognitive outcomes consistent with autism, coupled with the fact that vaccines harness these pleiotropic molecules to direct a long term immune response during early life, I think it would be interesting and worthwhile to look into. To me this does not seem unreasonable even in light of the epidemiological studies that I have seen.

    Incidentally, this was also the position of Kimberly McAllister and Judy Van de Water at the time of writing their manuscript “Breaking Boundaries in Neural-Immune Interactions” for Dec. 2009 Neuron: ( I am not aware if their position has changed… Alain, want to email one of them?)

    Finally, neural-immune crosstalk also has profound implications for public health policy. Growing evidence that maternal immune activation could increase the incidence of autism or schizophrenia in offspring suggests that healthcare providers should revisit the pros and cons of using anti-inflammatory drugs in pregnancy with the goal of developing drugs that prevent a proinflammatory response in the CNS without damaging the fetus. Another issue for society right now is whether, and when, pregnant mothers should be given the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines. While the flu can be extremely harmful to pregnant women, the effects of stimulating the immune response with two flu vaccines during pregnancy are unknown. Absent the luxury of waiting for large-scale study results, recommendations that pregnant women receive both vaccines are valid based on current knowledge of the dangers of natural flu infection during gestation. However, since the negative effects of immune stimulation during pregnancy are likely determined by susceptibility factors, our understanding of factors that cause aberrant baseline immune responses in some pregnant women must be improved and better methods for susceptibility screening developed soon.

    It is also important to note that neural-immune crosstalk could be affected by the current schedule of childhood immunizations. Although there is some epidemiological evidence that immunizations are not likely to have a direct role in the ontogeny of autism (Immunization Safety Review Committee, 2004), it is still possible that responses to the number and combinations of vaccinations given at some visits could contribute to cognitive changes in children who may already have altered immune responses. Natural infections in an individual with a dysfunctional immune system might have an equally deleterious effect. Thus, a better understanding of the effects of immune activation during gestation and early post-natal development, especially in the context of increased disease susceptibility, will be critical to either validate our current health policies or modify them for specific populations of individuals.

    In what way are you more qualified than either of these fine researchers? Do you have a strong background in the scientific disciplines we are accessing in our discussion? Im curious.

    I am not saying stop vaccinating until we do these studies,(in fact the only way we can do the studies is if we keep vaccinating) just that we should consider looking more closely at the immune response post vaccination and how that may shape the developing neonate beyond the long-term protective antibody response that is hopefully generated.

    That’s a very important part of the science-based position, so to leave out “burden of proof” and discuss the various vaccines-cause-or-exacerbate-autism hypotheses as if testability was the only meaningful criteria, and therefore any hypothesis that was deemed “testable” was therefore automatically one that deserved testing, would badly distort reality.

    You know what Antaeus, I agree with you. Which is why I think it is badly distorting reality when commenters suggest “the internet must’ve caused it, or pink unicorns, or broccoli” (obviously suggesting these in a facetious way)or whatever other cockamamie ideas people come up with.

    However, it may be that the point about burden of proof was not clear to you, so let’s look at it again, approaching it from a slightly different angle. Let’s talk about “Occam’s Razor”. This very famous principle has been stated many ways over the years; one of the most precise formulations is “Avoid multiplying entities needlessly”, but the modern version, easier to understand, is “when there are multiple explanations for the evidence, the simplest is the most likely to be true.

    Yes, Antaeus, I am aware of Occam’s Razor, the problem with applying it to autism science in the way you are trying to is that “when there are multiple explanations for the evidence, there is NOT just one simple explanation that is the truth” did it occur to you that there could just be multiple explanations for the evidence, which actually fits what is known about the heterogeneity of autism.

    “Some cases of autism are caused by vaccines” sounds simple enough; it sounds so simple, we might be tempted to think there couldn’t be a simpler explanation. Except it only sounds that way because we’re leaving out part of it; when you state it fully, you find out it’s a hypothesis that “multiplies entities needlessly.” It’s an established fact that some children who were never vaccinated nevertheless developed autism. Therefore the VCA (vaccines cause autism) hypothesis, spelled out in full, has to be “There is something which isn’t vaccines that causes autism (entity 1); in addition, there are some cases of autism that are caused by vaccines (entity 2).” You know what’s a simpler explanation than that, which involves only known fact and not speculation like the VCA hypothesis? “There is something which isn’t vaccines that causes autism.”

    Now the situation would be different if the evidence was different. Some VCA believers, as I mentioned before, still claim that vaccines have in fact caused an “autism epidemic”. If such a claim was true, then unvaccinated children would still develop autism, due to entity 1, at a rate we’ll call A%; vaccinated children would develop autism at the higher rage A+X%, where X% are the children who wouldn’t have developed autism due to entity 1, but did due to vaccines, entity 2. The elephant in the room here, Skeptiquette, which you seem unwilling to acknowledge, is that every attempt to measure X% comes up with a figure indistinguishable from zero.

    To be honest that was a little confusing, it seems like your underlying assumptions are flawed. My underlying assumptions about autistics and the rest of the human population is that we all follow a basic equation which ultimately envelopes who we are. In it’s most simplified form it is Genes x Environment x Development. This means that the genome that you are dealt interacts with the environment it is exposed to during critical periods of development, which shape how our brains and emotions and everything else that is outward (appearance, sexual preference, speaking ability, etc) come to be.

    To me, Autism is the outcome of a response of a relatively stable genome to a relatively rapidly changing environment, it is basically evolution at work, with the immune system being situated in a central position to mediate this evolution. Just like any species that is exposed to a more chaotic environment, you get a much more varied phenotypic outcome, but sometimes that outcome may not be well suited for the environment. I think an evolutionary framework is important when considering what causes autism.

    When you look at it like this, there are a million different ways that someone could become autistic, it isn’t just entity one and entity two. Think of it this way each of the three components are weighted in any one individual’s autism, a certain percentage is Genetics, a certain percentage is environment and a certain percentage are attributed to critical junctures during development. In one case autism may be the result of an overwhelming number of small genetic contributions that equal, let’s say, 80%, while the environment and development part contribute about 20%. In another case it could be the other way around, the environment contributes 80%, while the particular genome is only partially (20%) responsible.

    The research keeps pointing us in the direction of genetic networks related to central immune signaling (cytokines), synapse formation (cytokines are integral for this), neuronal migration and critical periods of brain development. It is likely that the G xE xD equation can affect the same final common pathways that seem to be disrupted, but have very different origins depending on the case.

    Now, can those who are absolutely wedded to the vaccines-cause-autism hypothesis find a way to alter it, so that it no longer predicts things which the data already shows to be false? Yes, sure, of course they can, but that proves nothing. We could hypothesize that vaccines don’t actually cause autism, they just exacerbate it; we could hypothesize that vaccines cause autism only in children with certain particular preconditions; we could concoct any number of hypotheses that aren’t totally torpedoed by the data the way “there’s an autism epidemic caused by vaccines” is. But what’s wrong with every one of those hypotheses?

    Two things. First of all, each one is not an attempt to do actual science, but simply to co-opt the authority of science. Real science is about seeing where the data leads you; asking “how can we make the data point to the conclusion that vaccines cause autism?” means you’re not doing real science.

    Really? So if a hypothesis is devised that stratifies subjects with certain immunological preconditions and it shows that vaccination is associated with a higher incidence of autism that proves nothing?

    No, actually those are both perfectly legitimate attempts at doing “real science.” Sometimes when doing research it takes a more thorough understanding of the fundamental aspects to design appropriate testable hypotheses. This is what I was trying to explain earlier with the whole witchcraft, medevial, discussion.

    So the fact that the data is leading us to a more gene x environment centered understanding of autism implicating the immune system and specifically pro inflammatory cytokine networks during development, precludes considering vaccines??

    Even though vaccines excite these pro inflammatory networks during development while performing their intended function of building immunity. And this preclusion is all based on epidemiological research that didn’t include stratified cohorts?!

    When you have the tools and knowledge to better interrogate something as important as vaccination, you do it. This is the quintessence of the precautionary principle and science in general.

    And this is where pD was right in suggesting that we should be monitoring the in vivo status of pro inflammatory cytokines after vaccination and trying to see if there is a correlation between certain patterns of cytokines and future cognitive, behavioral and other health outcomes.

    The way I see it, there is much more to be learned about vaccination, and to stifle this effort seems to be contrary to good science.

  65. #66 Chris,
    July 23, 2013

    “The research keeps pointing us in the direction of genetic networks related to central immune signaling (cytokines), synapse formation (cytokines are integral for this), neuronal migration and critical periods of brain development. It is likely that the G xE xD equation can affect the same final common pathways that seem to be disrupted, but have very different origins depending on the case.”

    I am just a dumb engineer, but I still don’t see how vaccines impact the immune system more than diseases?

    “So the fact that the data is leading us to a more gene x environment centered understanding of autism implicating the immune system and specifically pro inflammatory cytokine networks during development, precludes considering vaccines??”

    But shouldn’t you also consider the microbes in the environment, and also compare to the actual diseases? Still, vaccines only cover a teeny tiny itsy bit of the pathogens that are in the normal environment. Granted that teeny tiny bit are some very nasty pathogens.

    Seriously, how does the DTaP and MMR cause so much immune assault compared to other things we encounter just by living?

    And a word of advise: don’t read Spillover if you fear cytokines.

  66. #67 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    July 23, 2013

    @skeptiquette:

    am just pointing out that I think it is reasonable to want to explore the various immune etiology hypotheses of autism, which would likely include vaccines at some point.

    Not any more. We have scrutinised the supposed vaccine autism link in great depth. We have been unable to find it, despite using investigative techniques with mind-blowing sensitivity. It is time to close this book. In fact, it was time to close the book years ago.

    The way I see it, there is much more to be learned about vaccination, and to stifle this effort seems to be contrary to good science.

    Way to miss the point, skeptiquette. What we are saying is that vaccines have been looked at as a possible cause of autism. Thoroughly. They have been exonerated. Re-looking them as a cause of autism (as you want to do) is a total WOMBAT.

  67. #68 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    July 23, 2013

    There’s a corollary of Occam’s Razor that has the virtue of always being applicable, rather than just most of the time:

    Don’t waste any effort finding explanations for phenomena that don’t actually happen.

    Since we know for a fact that there is absolutely no correlation between vaccination and autism, there is no point in writing page after page of meaningless bafflegab, like Skeptiquette just did, desperately trying to explain that nonexistent correlation.

  68. #69 Krebiozen
    July 23, 2013

    Skeptiquette,

    Which is why I think it is badly distorting reality when commenters suggest “the internet must’ve caused it, or pink unicorns, or broccoli” (obviously suggesting these in a facetious way)or whatever other cockamamie ideas people come up with.

    My suggestion that broccoli may cause autism is indeed facetious, but contains a serious message. Broccoli contains 3,3′-Diindolylmethane which is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system. Specifically it stimulates interferon-γ sensitivity and also stimulates interferon-γ, interleukin-6 and interleukin-12 production.

    Please explain to me why the broccoli-autism hypothesis is any less plausible than the vaccine-autism hypothesis?

  69. #70 AdamG
    July 23, 2013

    To me, Autism is the outcome of a response of a relatively stable genome to a relatively rapidly changing environment, it is basically evolution at work, with the immune system being situated in a central position to mediate this evolution. Just like any species that is exposed to a more chaotic environment, you get a much more varied phenotypic outcome, but sometimes that outcome may not be well suited for the environment. I think an evolutionary framework is important when considering what causes autism.

    This whole paragraph, as well as your repeated claim that the literature is suggesting a connection to immune genes, COMPLETELY ignores most of the autism genetics literature that’s around today. There’s no good evidence that autism has anything to do with phenotypic robustness as you claim. What could you mean by ‘the response of a stable genome?’ How does the genome respond? When we sequence ASD individuals, we find rare inherited or de novo mutations in genes primarily involved with neuronal development. Many of these mutations are large deletions or inversions, caused randomly by the unstable nature of the human genome. This is what causes autism. Heterogeneity in autism type and severity is due to a heterogeneity in the affected genes and mutation types. Here’s a great recent example of this.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23849776

  70. #71 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 24, 2013

    then you’re asserting that either you think a solid case that vaccines cause autism does exist (in which case, you’re not between the two camps at all, you’re in one of the very camps you called unreasonable) or you’re asserting that the science-based camp should be taking seriously the speculation that vaccines cause autism just because someone came up with such a speculation.

    Actually, I am just pointing out that I think it is reasonable to want to explore the various immune etiology hypotheses of autism, which would likely include vaccines at some point.

    There may be some “immune etiology hypotheses of autism” that are worth exploring. However, “worth exploring” inherently implies “has not already been explored exhaustively without turning up anything to suggest that this is the right track to be pursuing”. So, no, wanting to pour more resources into pursuing an old already-tested hypothesis instead of coming up with a new one isn’t reasonable.

    In what way are you more qualified than either of these fine researchers? Do you have a strong background in the scientific disciplines we are accessing in our discussion? I’m curious.

    Shameful, skeptiquette. I really expected better from you than this blatant argument from authority. Describing someone as a “fine researcher” doesn’t make them automatically right, and it doesn’t artificially restrict the pool of who’s allowed to point out flaws in their arguments.

    That’s a very important part of the science-based position, so to leave out “burden of proof” and discuss the various vaccines-cause-or-exacerbate-autism hypotheses as if testability was the only meaningful criteria, and therefore any hypothesis that was deemed “testable” was therefore automatically one that deserved testing, would badly distort reality.

    You know what Antaeus, I agree with you. Which is why I think it is badly distorting reality when commenters suggest “the internet must’ve caused it, or pink unicorns, or broccoli” (obviously suggesting these in a facetious way)or whatever other cockamamie ideas people come up with.

    It’s almost as if you’re trying to call attention to the way you’re still not dealing with the burden of proof.

    The burden of proof still lies on the anti-vaxxers to produce evidence that vaccines are causing autism before it makes any sense to start discussing possible mechanisms for how it could do so.

    And yes, I’m sure you will protest “Anti-vaccine? That just shows how badly you misunderstand me! I’m not anti-vaccine at all!” Sorry, but yes, you are antivaccine. If someone says “Why no, I’m not anti-Semitic! I just think that we should keep Jewish bankers under constant scrutiny, constantly looking for any sort of evidence that they could be in a conspiracy to manipulate the economy, and even when we have no evidence that Jewish bankers are in a conspiracy to manipulate the economy, we should be discussing all sorts of possible ways in which they could be doing so!” then that person is anti-Semitic, despite protests that they’re not.

    As for your complaints that

    it is badly distorting reality when commenters suggest “the internet must’ve caused it, or pink unicorns, or broccoli” (obviously suggesting these in a facetious way)or whatever other cockamamie ideas people come up with.

    once again, the answer is “Sorry, no.” The reductio ad absurdum is a wholly legitimate debating technique. It’s a close relative of the analogy, so if you want to counter it, you have to find some legitimate point of disanalogy – some way that “believing that vaccines cause autism despite no evidence that they do and a lot of evidence that they don’t” is different from “believing that broccoli causes autism despite no evidence that it does”, specifically some difference that makes the former reasonable and the latter unreasonable. I may as well tell you: your feeling that vaccines-causes-autism is reasonable and broccoli-causes-autism is “cockamamie” is of no help to you here.

    By the way, were you aware that at least one of the three ideas you accused commenters here of “distorting reality” with by suggesting them in a facetious manner, at least one has people who propose it in dead seriousness as their explanation for what causes so much autism? That’s why you cannot just moan and pout when others present you with a reductio ad absurdum; if you cannot identify what it is that differentiates your idea from a “cockamamie” idea, perhaps it’s because your idea is actually just as cockamamie.

    However, it may be that the point about burden of proof was not clear to you, so let’s look at it again, approaching it from a slightly different angle. Let’s talk about “Occam’s Razor”. This very famous principle has been stated many ways over the years; one of the most precise formulations is “Avoid multiplying entities needlessly”, but the modern version, easier to understand, is “when there are multiple explanations for the evidence, the simplest is the most likely to be true.”

    Yes, Antaeus, I am aware of Occam’s Razor, the problem with applying it to autism science in the way you are trying to is that “when there are multiple explanations for the evidence, there is NOT just one simple explanation that is the truth” did it occur to you that there could just be multiple explanations for the evidence, which actually fits what is known about the heterogeneity of autism.

    You’re looking at this from an incorrect perspective. What you’re saying is that “For case of autism A, the correct explanation is that it was caused by maternal rubella infection. For case B, however, the correct explanation is that it was caused by de novo genetic mutations. Therefore, there’s no such thing as a single explanation that’s correct for each case.”

    Except we are not looking for an explanation for individual cases of autism. We are looking for the correct explanation for the totality of the evidence, including all cases of autism. (And, for that matter, of some individuals who are not autistic.) Do you understand the difference?

    Suppose that at the very dawn of autism research, the only cases of autism that we knew of were children from mothers that had been infected with rubella during pregnancy. We would ask ourselves, “What is the simplest explanation for every single case of autism we know of coming from a mother infected with rubella?” The answer would be, “The simplest explanation is ‘Maternal rubella infection is the cause of autism.'”

    But then sooner or later, as autism awareness grew, we’d discover cases of autism where the mother had not had any rubella infection; there would still be a clear correlation between maternal rubella infection and autism, but we’d have other cases to explain. When those cases were verified, it would change the state of the evidence, and our explanation that “maternal rubella infection is the cause of autism” would clearly not match the evidence anymore. So we would look again, for the simplest explanation that matched the evidence. This time it would be “Maternal rubella infection is a cause of autism, but there is at least one other.” There may be multiple causes of autism, but that does not mean there are multiple equally true explanations for the evidence. There is only one true explanation for the evidence, and that explanation includes all things which cause autism.

    If [the claim that vaccines have caused an ‘epidemic of autism’] was true, then unvaccinated children would still develop autism, due to entity 1, at a rate we’ll call A%; vaccinated children would develop autism at the higher rage A+X%, where X% are the children who wouldn’t have developed autism due to entity 1, but did due to vaccines, entity 2. The elephant in the room here, Skeptiquette, which you seem unwilling to acknowledge, is that every attempt to measure X% comes up with a figure indistinguishable from zero.

    To be honest that was a little confusing, it seems like your underlying assumptions are flawed. My underlying assumptions about autistics and the rest of the human population is that we all follow a basic equation which ultimately envelopes who we are. In it’s most simplified form it is Genes x Environment x Development. [long speculations snipped]

    If you found my attempt to explain the concept using only the simplest terms confusing, then I’ll try introducing a slightly more complex term to clarify things. The term is “delta”. In this context, a “delta” means a change in effect that results from a change in causes.

    If the relay running team, for example, puts on new sneakers that are supposed to make them run faster, then the difference between their average finishing time with their old sneakers, and their average finishing time with the new sneakers, is the delta. If Ms. Johnson’s math class is being taught with new methods which are supposed to make the subject easier to grasp and understand, the delta is the difference between the grades of Ms. Johnson’s class, and the grades of similar classes being taught with the old methods.

    So we’re clear on what a delta is now, right? If a particular factor causes an effect, the delta is the measure of how much of a change in effect it causes.

    When the delta is zero, it means that factor isn’t causing a difference.

    When the relay team’s average finishing time doesn’t improve, it means the sneakers are not making them faster. When Ms. Johnson’s class doesn’t get grades that are any better than classes being taught with the old methods, it means the new teaching methods are not making math easier for the students to grasp and remember.

    When you measure how high the rate of autism is in vaccinated children and how high the rate is in unvaccinated children and there isn’t a difference, it means vaccines are not causing autism.

    It doesn’t matter if autism comes from a complex interaction of Genes x Environment x Development. We had a germ theory denialist, the infamous Dr. Greg/Emily/Pegasus, who used to come here and similarly claim that disease development was affected by so many different factors in the individual, was so “multi-factorial”, that it somehow exempted the phenomenon from basic math. It doesn’t. If vaccines do anything to cause autism in individuals who would not otherwise develop it, it would cause a delta between the rate of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. If there is no such delta, then vaccines are not causing autism.

    Now, can those who are absolutely wedded to the vaccines-cause-autism hypothesis find a way to alter it, so that it no longer predicts things which the data already shows to be false? Yes, sure, of course they can, but that proves nothing. We could hypothesize that vaccines don’t actually cause autism, they just exacerbate it; we could hypothesize that vaccines cause autism only in children with certain particular preconditions; we could concoct any number of hypotheses that aren’t totally torpedoed by the data the way “there’s an autism epidemic caused by vaccines” is. But what’s wrong with every one of those hypotheses?

    Two things. First of all, each one is not an attempt to do actual science, but simply to co-opt the authority of science. Real science is about seeing where the data leads you; asking “how can we make the data point to the conclusion that vaccines cause autism?” means you’re not doing real science.

    Really? So if a hypothesis is devised that stratifies subjects with certain immunological preconditions and it shows that vaccination is associated with a higher incidence of autism that proves nothing?

    No, actually those are both perfectly legitimate attempts at doing “real science.” Sometimes when doing research it takes a more thorough understanding of the fundamental aspects to design appropriate testable hypotheses. This is what I was trying to explain earlier with the whole witchcraft, medevial, discussion.

    No. They may be good faith attempts at doing “real science”; that is, the person doing them may be fully deluding themselves “I’m approaching this just as a real professional scientist would!” But it is not real science.

    Remember Ms. Johnson’s math class, from our discussion of delta? Suppose that the people who had sold the school system the materials for those new advanced teaching methods were embarrassed, as they should be, by the fact that the students didn’t do any better with those new methods. So they get hold of the student records, and they look at any individual students in the class who did better than the average, and they look at factors those students had in common. “Aha!” they say. “Out of the five students who did better, all five had an ‘A’ somewhere in their last names, and four out of five list pizza as their favorite food! Obviously when we stratify students according to the appropriate preconditions, we discover that our teaching methods do improve student grades!”

    I know what you will say to that. You’ll say “that’s ridiculous, that’s nothing like what I’m doing! ‘An A in the last name’ and ‘pizza is the favorite food’ obviously couldn’t have a real effect on understanding of math; the idea that an immunological precondition could affect the development of autism isn’t utterly implausible like that!”

    But that is missing the point. The point is that deciding on an idea that you want to be true, and then trying to figure a different way to slice up the data so that the data appears to support that idea, is not science. It doesn’t matter whether the idea is “certain students with particular preconditions do better with the teaching methods we sell” or “certain children with particular preconditions develop autism because they got vaccinated”. It’s not an attempt to reach “a more thorough understanding of the fundamental aspects” at all.

    Science is only for people who can accept it, and learn from it, when their ideas turn out to be wrong. The process of embroidering ever-more-intricate “preconditions” and special exceptions onto a failed hypothesis is only practiced by those who can’t bear being wrong.

    So the fact that the data is leading us to a more gene x environment centered understanding of autism implicating the immune system and specifically pro inflammatory cytokine networks during development, precludes considering vaccines??

    No, the fact that there is no delta between vaccinated and unvaccinated autism rates, as there would be if vaccines were causing autism even in a “stratified cohort”, is what tells us not to waste resources pursuing vaccines as a culprit.

    Even though vaccines excite these pro inflammatory networks during development while performing their intended function of building immunity. And this preclusion is all based on epidemiological research that didn’t include stratified cohorts?!

    Yeah, it is. And you wanna know why (besides the already-explained-countless-times part about “no delta”)?

    Because when that epidemiological research was done, no antivaxxers were talking about “Well, maybe if we looked at cohorts stratified by immunological preconditions…” They were saying “You vaccine-pushing fools, the streets are teeming with children who developed full-blown autism immediately after vaccination, so of course vaccination must be causing autism! You just see; when you compare the ultra-high rates of autism among vaccinated kids to the ultra-low rates among unvaccinated kids, you’ll see the huge difference that proves vaccines must be to blame!”

    It was only when the data came back and didn’t show what the antivaxxers wanted it to that they started talking about how maybe vaccines were still causing autism, but only in children with rare preconditions (completely forgetting everything they claimed about how these cases of vaccine-caused-autism were all over the place) and started talking about how the research should have been done with “stratified cohorts”. “Stupid vaccine-pushing fools! If you had just done the research with stratified cohorts, stratified according to ahemmumblemumblecytokinesomething – anyways, the only reason the data didn’t come out the way we were sure it was going to is that you didn’t do it the right way!”

    If the research had been done with stratified cohorts, and failed to produce the results the antivaxxers wanted to see, there is no doubt what their response would be. “You vaccine-pushing fools! You and your pharma masters think you’re clever, doing research with stratified cohorts stratified by the wrong criteria and pretending it means vaccines don’t cause autism! It’s utterly clear that our preconceptions would have been confirmed, if you’d only done the research the right way!”

    The fact is that no matter how many times the antivaxxers shift the goalposts, to pretend the right research to disprove the vaccines-cause-autism meme hasn’t been done, the science-based community does not bear the responsibility of disproving whatever new variant of the hypothesis the antivaxxers come up with. The burden of proof is on the antivaxxers to show evidence for whatever claim they’re pushing, not on everyone else to pre-emptively anticipate and debunk it.

    When you have the tools and knowledge to better interrogate something as important as vaccination, you do it.

    To what end? If I thought you meant “to answer the unanswered questions,” I’d agree with you, but I know what you actually mean is “to try and get a different answer to the questions that have already been answered, where the answer was something I didn’t like.”

  71. #72 Calli Arcale
    July 24, 2013

    For what it’s worth, the Internet-autism-causation concept isn’t entirely cockamamie, and in my opinion, quite a bit more plausible than vaccines. The Internet has opened up a great deal more awareness of autism than was ever available before, and this alone should be expected to increase the rate of autism diagnosis.

  72. #73 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 24, 2013

    I still believe that the broccoli causes autism hypothesis is perfectly reasonable and far more likely than the vaccine hypothesis, as you get many, many times the possible chemicals in one dose of broccoli than in one dose of vaccines. Plus there’s the emotional trauma of broccoli.

    However, I am not wedded to that and would easily be swayed towards consumption of certain other vegetables as the trigger instead.

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