Pharyngula

My contempt is bipartisan

Robert F. Kennedy Jr, what the hell is wrong with you?

I also refuse to pay any attention to the ghastly Huffington Post—it’s an example of the worst excesses of left-wing credulity, as represented by that fraud and quack, Deepak Chopra.

Comments

  1. #1 HCN
    March 2, 2006
  2. #2 BlueIndependent
    March 2, 2006

    OK, I actually find the hurricane-junkyard quote quite hilarious. Not because I think he has a point, but it just came off as funny, when you conjure that mental image.

    I dunno. Made me laugh. Anyhow, on with real science!

  3. #3 Orac
    March 2, 2006

    Jeez. We don’t want to turn into the religious right here where all we care about is a half-dozen issues. Personally I don’t find this all that interesting, its just one of those borderline cases where the evidence apparently isn’t clear enough and people just have to draw their own (politically motivated) conclusions, thats always going to happen.

    Wrong. It is not a “borderline” case. The evidence is quite clear and becoming clearer every year. Thimerosal was removed from U.S. vaccines (except for the flu vaccine) in January 2003. There has not been a drop in the number of new cases of autism yet. If the Danish and Canadian experience are any guide, there won’t be. Yes, at three years, it’s a little too early to conclude anything yet, but if, as Generation Rescue claims, “autism=mercury poisoning,” the effect would not be subtle. It would be dramatic. There’s definitely no dramatic effect yet.

  4. #4 Phil Plait
    March 2, 2006

    I see someone else already noted I’m writing for HuffPo now. I agree that Chopra is truly awful (“Quantum healing”? PUHLEEZE!), but they also need to have more science stuff there. I do think there is a lot of critical thinking on HuffPo, it just doesn’t extend to everyone. Maybe I can help. Remember, Michael Shermer and Chris Mooney have both written some entries for HuffPo.

  5. #5 BronzeDog
    March 2, 2006

    Hopefully, Phil (Can I call you “Phil?”) your articles will be help to dilute the woo to homeopathic proportions.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    March 2, 2006

    I’m glad you’re doing your part to raise the quality of the articles there, but I’m afraid that seeing that quack Chopra popping up all the time just means I can’t bear to read it.

  7. #7 tikistitch
    March 2, 2006

    Thanks, P.Z. I get tired of explaining to well-meaning friends that RFK Jr. is just plain off his rocker on this one. I’ll just forward them to Respectful Insolence.

    Now, can you give us something to show the 12 bazillion people who think Airborne cold rememdy actually *does* something, other than make a pleasant fizz?

  8. #8 Francis
    March 2, 2006

    Look, people, given the horrible public-health consequences that would ensue from massive under-vaccination for serious childhood diseases, vaccination is a VERY VERY IMPORTANT issue and spreading lies about it is both harmful and contemptible. This is NOT a small deal. It is NOT being blown out of proportion.

    Indeed – which is why I get so annoyed about this subject.

    In most cases, not everyone who has been vaccinated is completely immune to the disease (although most people will probably only be vulnerable if their immune system is otherwise depressed). What vaccination does is to make the population as a whole more resistant – which means that if any person has the misfortune to catch the disease, they are less likely to pass it on – and if the average number of people any victim passes a disease onto exceeds one, you have real problems. When such an epidemic breaks out, even the vaccinated aren’t necessarily safe (never mind the strain placed on medical services…)

    In short, anyone playing games with vaccinations is not only endangering those who would otherwise be vaccinated, they are endangering you and me.

  9. #9 Arun
    March 2, 2006

    Orac writes:

    Thimerosal was removed from U.S. vaccines (except for the flu vaccine) in January 2003.

    I’m curious – why then does this article say Iowa is the first state to ban thimerosal from vaccines – May 14, 2004?

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/hawkeyes_eye_mercury/

    Is it more a means of making litigation possible, than a real cut-off in thimerosal? Or is this directed at flu vaccines?

    It seems more like a gradual phase out – e.g., this Dec 2005 story:
    http://www.qctimes.net/articles/2005/12/06/news/local/doc43952975174bc251623528.txt

    Since the Iowa ban went in place during January, California has followed suit and more than 30 other states have similar bans under consideration. Illinois is among them.

    In August, Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved the Mercury-Free Vaccine Act. As of next year, the percentage of mercury used in vaccines will be limited. As of 2008, no Illinois resident will be vaccinated with a product containing mercury

  10. #10 Jim H
    March 2, 2006

    I fear that RFK, Jr has some serious issues to deal with given his close association with PZ Knight, the Ramtha channeler. Not the kind of company a reality-based person would cultivate…

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    March 2, 2006

    JZ Knight. Let’s not confuse those initials.

    And yuck…Kennedy pandering to Ramtha?

  12. #12 MrKAT
    March 2, 2006

    Uranium, mercury, lead – elements of taboo for greens and laymen. No matter if normal farm field contains uranium 10 pounds / acre / feet or one fish more mercury than one vaccine. Taboo and populism comes in and sense of reality runs out.

    In our country there are protests and debates here about uranium mines but hardly no-one previously protested gold mines.
    What if vaccines would contain gold or platinum instead of mercury? Then every laymen would shout and beg “Me too ! We too !” ?

  13. #13 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    March 2, 2006

    Here’s a very very good reason for a drug company to take thiomersal out of vaccines:

    Because people are afraid of it, and offering a non-thiomersal version means that company has a bit better chance of getting it sold. Sure, their profits on vaccination aren’t so good, but I expect that’s mostly R&D (and proving to the FDA that it’s safe) – and that the effect of removing thiomersal is primarily to drastically decrease the shelf-life of the vaccine, given that the entire reason it’s in there is to try to keep it sterile.

  14. #14 Kristjan Wager
    March 3, 2006

    I’m curious – why then does this article say Iowa is the first state to ban thimerosal from vaccines – May 14, 2004?

    As amazing as it sounds, it doesn’t always take a law for such things to happen. Thimerosal was removed by the drug companies in everything but the flu vaccinations. There is also a thimerosal free version of that though, which people can choose.

    Thimerosal is a persavation component, that makes vaccinations cheaper, since they can be produced in bulk, and stored for a longer period. It’s not really that big an issue in the Western world, but for 3rd world countries, that price difference is very important.

  15. #15 Kristjan Wager
    March 3, 2006

    “persavation” -> “preservation”
    Sholdn’t write when I have just gotten up in the morning.

  16. #16 Steve LaBonne
    March 3, 2006

    You maybe were trying to write “perseveration”, which seems to be afflicting the thimerosal-phobes.

  17. #17 Prince Roy
    March 3, 2006

    I hadn’t heard of this Deepak Chopra character. I’d love to see his credentials. A high number of Indian physicians practicing in the US were subpar students in India. Unlike the US, med school there is not a professional degree. It is an undergraduate degree like biology. And unless one graduates at the very top of his/her class, the economic outlook is not good. Doctors average well less than $500 a month in India. Many Indian doctors in the US have what are known as ‘second-class’ degrees, meaning they performed very marginally. But as long as they can cram well enough to pass the USMLE, they can obtain a residency in a US hospital.

  18. #18 darukaru
    March 3, 2006

    Because people are afraid of it

    “People” are afraid of a lot of things, most of them without a good reason. If we keep pandering to the latest boogeyman to mince down the pike, then eventually we won’t have anything left.

  19. #19 drinkysr
    March 3, 2006

    As a physician who immunizes children and the father of a 2-year-old, I can tell you that it is very very easy to complete the full immunization schedule without ever getting a dose of thimerosal. No child in my practice has receive a thimerosal containing vaccine since 2002, and my child has not receive a thimerosal containing shot despite being fully up to date.

    I don’t do this for patient safety – thimerosal has never been shown to be a problem. I do it to protect myself from liability and also for a sense of prudence. Why use thimerosal when it is not necessary?

    Incidentally, when I was growing up in the 70s kids got at least as much and probably more thimerosal than they do now (3 DTP shot before age 1) – and we never heard the word “autism”.

  20. #20 Arun
    March 3, 2006

    A high number of Indian physicians practicing in the US were subpar students in India. Unlike the US, med school there is not a professional degree. It is an undergraduate degree like biology. And unless one graduates at the very top of his/her class, the economic outlook is not good. Doctors average well less than $500 a month in India. Many Indian doctors in the US have what are known as ‘second-class’ degrees, meaning they performed very marginally. But as long as they can cram well enough to pass the USMLE, they can obtain a residency in a US hospital.

    The basic degree is a 5-year MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) course. Entrance to the medical degree in India is extremely competitive. Doctors’ salaries are low only in comparison to the recently booming IT salaries. As to which ones come to the US, perhaps Prince Roy might explain why the best ones stay back, especially at the salaries he is deriding.

  21. #21 Ms. Clark
    March 3, 2006

    The problem with saying that thimerosal should be taken out of all vaccines ASAP, and that it’s a “nobrainer” to take it out, is that people are exaggerating the danger of thimerosal and imagining that what might take it’s place would be risk free.

    This is a big deal when you realize that people should have a double standard for vaccines that kids get here and the ones that kids get overseas.

    What do you say to a mom in a third world country?

    “This stuff is safe, it’s been injected into a kajillion kids in the US, Canada and Europe and no one has ever found that it has harmed any child.

    But some moms in the US freaked out because of what some
    greedy personal injury lawyers
    and ill-informed, conceited and entitled wealthy parents were saying,
    so they took it out of our American vaccines, but it’s still safe for your baby.”

    There was already a rumor going around in the Muslim world that the polio vaccine caused AIDS or sterility or something, so a bunch of Muslim kids in Africa didn’t get vaccinated for polio and got it, then it spread to Malaysia, as I remember. That was just last year.

    Just what you need to frighten people oversease into not vaccinating. All of this because Sally (who calls herself Sallie to hide her real identity) Bernard decided to write a nonsense paper called, “Autism, a novel form of mercury poisoning?” and paid to have it published in a nonsense magazine, “Medical Hypotheses” that happens to be indexed in pubmed. gah!!! The paper is trash, the magazine is a rag, the idea is pathetic, but because Sally and her friends had money and were ashamed to think that it was their genes that made their kids autistic, they pushed this into the media. Sally is a billionare. That’s with a “b”.

    This is how the autism empidemic and mercury garbage got started. Sally is one of the founders of “SAFE MINDS” mentioned (linke to) above and she’s the president of “Cure Autism Now” which presents itself as a fairly rational group funding research, but at the heart of it are more entitled wealthy parents. Same for the UCD MIND institute. I’m a UCD student, I know what they are about.

    People never needed to fear the amount of thimerosal that was in vaccines not even for premature babies. There was no research on thimerosal safety at this level because it had been grandfathered in. We know know, that the use of thimerosal caused no harm to public health. There were no increases in neurological disorders during the 1990′s. Contrary to what people say about autism. Where’s the increase in epilepsy and cerebral palsy and MR? There was no increase.

    I’m not afraid of thimerosal. I got my flu shots the last 2 years and didn’t ask what was in it. I assumed that it could have thimerosal in it. Big stinking deal.

    Feel free to read the neurodiversity weblog and
    autismdiva.blogspot.com
    and ballastexistenz.blogspot.com
    for more information on what autism really is.

  22. #22 Ms Clark
    March 3, 2006

    Correction:
    This is a big deal when you realize that people should NOT have a double standard for vaccines that kids get here and the ones that kids get overseas.

  23. #23 Ms Clark
    March 3, 2006

    Correction:
    This is a big deal when you realize that people should NOT have a double standard for vaccines that kids get here and the ones that kids get overseas.

  24. #24 Prince Roy
    March 3, 2006

    Arun:

    your point is largely moot: the best doctors stay back in India b/c those are the ones who get good, prestigious jobs in the big hospital chains (Apollo, etc); they make very good salaries, and they provide some of the finest care in the world. They are not making 8-10K rupees a month like the second-class degree holders I am referring to. It’s largely the latter that attempt to go to the US, because they cannot make good livings here. I can’t recall ever seeing a strong first-class degree holder attempt to get a visa to take the USMLE exam.

    “Entrance to the medical degree in India is extremely competitive”

    a bit disingenuous: sure entrance is competitive, but only in the sense that getting into any university in India is ‘competitive’. Getting into a decent engineering program is even more competitive, because those are where the best and brightest apply.

  25. #25 Arun
    March 4, 2006

    America should worry that India’s second rate doctors, who could not make it in India, are successful in the US. After all, patients can vote with their feet.

    The admission to the decent medical schools is as competitive as the admission to the decent engineering schools, and is rather different from getting into university in general. E.g, for 36 open seats for MBBS in the All India Institute of Medical sciences, “the institute received almost 37,761 applications in 1999, 45,877 applications in year 2000 and over 52,898 applications in 2001,”

  26. #26 Porlock Junior
    March 4, 2006

    MrKat lists three favorite Green bugaboo elements, which gives me an excuse for a little thread diversion:

    Is there any scientific case for a significant danger from depleted uranium?

    Let’s spare the jokes, since we all know of the extreme health hazards from having a piece of it cross paths at high speed with a tank you’re riding in.

    Also, it’s a heavy metal, so it must be toxic.

    I have always assumed the rest of the panic was BS about a nuclide that’s a million times less radioactive than 226-radium, and some of the statistics cited to prove the damage it has done merely prove themselves to be nonsense.

    But I don’t want to be hasty about this, and sometimes nonsense is cited in support of things that aren’t nonsense. So, where is there something written about this by someone who knows and cares about the facts? And btw, how bad is the chemical toxicity? Is it comparable to lead? Mercury? Thallium? Etc.?

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