Autism

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It’s been a while since I paid attention to the movie, but the publicity among the antivaccine movement for Andrew Wakefield’s and Del Bigtree’s movie VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe continues apace. Sadly, I missed my opportunity to see Bigtree himself doing a Q&A for the movie when it rolled through Detroit a a week…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Oliver. When my aging body allows me to stay awake late enough on Sunday nights and there’s a new episode on, I’ll almost always be watching. Since starting his own show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on HBO, Oliver’s become quite the expert at…

[Note: Since this was written, Donald Trump won Indiana and Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign. This is why I changed the title of this post on Tuesday night. Meet your presumptive nominee, Republicans.] I haven’t written anything about Donald Trump and vaccines in a while. When last I did write about him, I enumerated…

Now that I’ve dispensed with Mike Adams’ attacks (for now), It’s time to get back to business as usual. No way am I going to let Adams interfere with the business of this blog for more than one day to take note of it, even though he’s now gone basically batshit crazy. Unfortunately, no sooner…

Celebrities who support pseudoscience and quackery are worse than regular, run-of-the-mill believers because they have a much larger soapbox than any of us do. I have a pretty healthy blog traffic for a medical blog, but even I don’t reach more than maybe 10,000 people a day. Even at my not-so-super-secret other blog, we only…

When last we left Andrew Wakefield, hero to the antivaccine movement, he was a headliner on the Conspira-Sea Cruise, a cruise filled with conspiracy theorists, crop circle chasers, cranks, quacks, and antivaccine activists. It was a huge come down from his formerly exalted position as chief spokesman and “scientist” for the antivaccine movement, a position…

I write about homeopathy fairly regularly on this blog because there is no quackery that is (1) so obviously quackery and (2) such a perfect topic to use to illustrate a lot of issues relevant to medical science, such as issues in clinical trials resulting in false positives and, of course, placebo effects. Basically, homeopathy…

Last week, I wrote about how conspiracy theories have been flowing fast and furious about the Zika virus and microcephaly. Even if you didn’t see that post (perhaps instead having seen this one), you’ve probably seen the news reports describing how last fall the observation of a large number of cases of microcephaly, characterized by…

Yesterday was kind of busy and a long day in the operating room rather drained me. So I only had time for a quick followup to yesterday’s post on how Matt Carey obtained the entire document dump that the “CDC whistleblower” William W. Thompson gave to Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who then gave it to…

It always irritates me when I discover a new antivaccine crank in my state; so you can imagine how irritated I become when I discover one right in my very city (OK, metropolitan area). When that happens, it becomes a bit more personal than my usual mission to refute antivaccine misinformation. So I was most…

One of the best things about blogging is that I don’t feel obligated to cover a topic completely in one post because I know I can always write another one or revisit the topic later. It also allows me to look at what I like to call “variations on a theme” of various kinds of…

I originally wasn’t going to write about this particular post, but the mass shooting in San Bernardino yesterday led me to change my mind. For those of you who either aren’t in the US or were somehow cut off from media for the last 18 hours or so, yesterday a heavily armed man and woman…

Bullying. You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Yes, I do so love to co-opt that famous line from The Princess Bride for my own nefarious purposes, but it’s so perfect for this particular topic, which comes up every so often when I’m writing about the…

It is an article of faith among the antivaccine movement that vaccines are degrading the health of our children, such that vaccines cause autism, asthma, diabetes, and a number of other chronic diseases. You won’t have to look far on most antivaccine websites to find claims that today’s children are the sickest in history and…

The fixed mindset of medical pseudoscience

One of the key principles of skepticism, particularly in medicine, is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. I emphasize the word “necessarily” because sometimes skeptics go a bit too far and say that correlation does not equal causation. I myself used to phrase it that way for a long time. However, sometimes correlation does…

A typical response to a charge of being antivaccine coming from someone whose rhetoric is definitely antivaccine is to clutch her pearls mightily and retort, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine.’ I’m pro-vaccine safety.” Similarly, a common retort of antivaccinationists who believe that vaccines cause autism, particularly those who believe that vaccines caused their children’s autism, is to…

Two of the great “icons”—if you can call them “great” given that they’re icons but hardly “great”—of the antivaccine movement are Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. Over the last decade, they have arguably been the most influential people in the antivaccine movement. The reasons are simple. Let’s look at Jenny McCarthy first. In 2007, when…

Anger is an energy, as a certain old punk sang back in the 1980s. It can even be a great motivator, such as when anger overtakes us for injustice or over crimes. Anger, however, is not a particularly good intellectual tool, nor does it help in analyzing science. Which reminds me: J.B. Handley is back.…

One of the limitations constraining those of us who do human subjects research is that ethical considerations often prevent us from designing our clinical trials in what would be, from a strictly scientific standpoint, in the most methodologically rigorous way. For example, we can’t intentionally infect human beings with known inocula of deadly bacteria in…

A week ago, I noted that one of the stranger and less credible conspiracy theories promulgated by quacks and their believers was still going strong nearly three months after the first death that triggered it, the death of autism quack Jeff Bradstreet, apparently by suicide. Basically, three months ago, Dr. Bradstreet, who has long been…

Early in the history of this blog, I had a running gag that I’d use every now and then. Basically, it involved humorously extravagant descriptions of how I wanted to hide my face behind a paper bag in sheer embarrassment at the antics of fellow physicians, particularly fellow surgeons. Over time, the gag evolved to…

Antivaccine quackery is arguably one of the worst forms of quackery. First, the pseudoscientific beliefs undergirding such quackery are based on the fear and demonization of one of the greatest medical advances in the history of the human race, the result of which are children left unprotected against preventable diseases that routinely used to populate…

Note added 9/17/2015: I knew it. The vaccine issue came up during the second debate and Donald Trump repeated basically the same nonsensical antivaccine tropes that he’s been repeating for at least eight years. It rather puts the lie to his claim that he listens to experts and changes his opinion based on what they…

Dr. Bob lets his antivaccine freak flag fly

It’s not a secret to anyone who reads this blog that I have an incredibly low opinion of celebrity pediatricians who are, if not outright antivaccine, antivaccine-sympathetic or leaning antivaccine and use their authority as physicians to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines. Without a doubt, chief among these pediatricians in this country…

I must admit that I’m surprised. Pleasantly surprised, but quite surprised. The reason is that yesterday the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer rejected the recommendation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed in the state of…