Defenders of science and reason everywhere are shocked and appalled that Obama and Clinton have bought into the bogus notion that the science on autism and vaccines is “inconclusive.” As plenty of other SciBlings have pointed out, the science is most definitely not inconclusive. (Aetiology Tara’s take is straight to the point, but see also Orac and PZ.) There is no link between the two. So now all three presidential contenders have joined the ranks of the irrational fear-mongers. Or have they?
The story that added the two Democrats to the list came from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker team. But an update to the story suggests that Obama’s take is ever so slightly less absurd than Clinton and McCain’s. You have to use an electron microscope to tell the difference, though. Here’s the whole quote from the man of hope:
“My goal is to fully fund special education,” Obama replied, starting off on a dissertation about funding for such children. He noted some statistics about how much the fed government pays for such educational funding.
Then he started talking about “early screening” for children, more medical testing to identify children who will have these special needs. Then Obama turned to autism, saying, “That’s s an area where our basic investment, our basic research has to increase. There are huge opportunities for us to figure out” how diseases occur, calling for more funding for research into the causes and potential cures for autism and other disease.
“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. [Points to someone in the audience.] The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it. We can’t afford to junk our vaccine system, we have to figure out what’s happening. If we keep on seeing the increases in the rate we’re seeing, we’re never going to have enough money” to take care of these children.
Hmmm. Still uses the word “inconclusive” to describe the science, but also made a point of defending the value of vaccines in general, and seems to distance himself from those who make the link between autism and vaccines.
Does this do enough to salvage Obama’s reputation among those of use who want our president to respect science, instead of pander to the paranoid? I’m afraid not. What it does do is emphasize just how corrupted the notion of uncertainty has become in American society. Everyone feels they are safe if they refer to a lack of conclusive proof, no matter what the topic. After all, who can object to more research?
The problem is sometimes the evidence is sufficient to warrant making a decision. In the case of vaccines, study after study has looked for a link with autism and failed to find one. Autism rates (or should I say, diagnoses) continued to climb after thimerosal was removed from MMR vaccines. There is simply no causal connection. For presidential contenders to even hint that there might be cause for not vaccinating is irresponsible in the extreme. Children will die as the meme spreads.
Call your favored candidate’s office today and let them know how you feel.