White Coat Underground

It’s just disgusting.  Autism spectrum disorders are an important health problem (although not the “epidemic” claimed by some).  While real scientists and clinicians (and parents) are looking for causes and treatments based on evidence, fake experts are pulling “answers” out of their backsides.  Studies of families with autism have shown specific genetic defects associated with autism, and while this applies only to a small percentage of cases, it is an example of a good lead.  Even if a minority of people with autism have similar genetic defects, these findings can lead to more generalizable concepts.

Or you can just make shit up.

Jay Gordon, an anti-vaccination pediatrician (yes, that is somewhat oxymoronic), has another piece in the Huffington Post where he not only makes it up, but tries to invalidate all real research by the stroke of a pen (or keyboard).  Part of this goes back to a recent HuffPo article by Harvey Karp, an article which was just terrific in some ways—it acknowledged the insanity of the autism-vaccine manufatroversy, but then went off the deep end by blaming “endocrine disrupting chemicals”.  What’s with these pediatricians and making stuff up?  Seriously!

Anyway, Gordon responds to the crazy the only way he knows how—by turning the crazy up to “11”. 

Studies showing that vaccines and their many constituents do not contribute to this problem are flawed, filled with specious reasoning and, for the most part funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Even articles in reputable medical journals are often written by doctors with an economic interest in continuing the vaccination program’s status quo. This does not invalidate all of these studies but it certainly makes them suspect and a poor foundation for an argument excluding vaccines from the list of environmental influences on the increase in autism in America and elsewhere.

Wow, that’s a whole lotta crap in one small paragraph.  Let’s review:  “flawed”—argument by assertion, or begging the question; “specious reasoning”—ad hominem fallacy; pharma shill gambit—argument by paranoia, another flavor of ad hominem.   As usual, the only argument Gordon has for his failure to follow standard of care is that he just trusts himself more than the rest of the medical and scientific community. 

He goes on to spout his usual inanity:

Asking that cars be manufactured with more attention to safety and that driving is best when done safely does not make one “anti-car” or anti-driving. Asking for safer vaccinations and more judicious use of those we have does not make me or anyone else “anti-vaccine.”

Since the premise is false, his argument is absurd.  We don’t need “safer” vaccines, since the ones we have are 1) already safe; and 2) constantly being monitored for continued safety.  If Gordon had better morals and better reasoning skills, and wasn’t wedded to anhistorical thinking, he would realize that not only are the vaccines we have safe, but that they are several orders of magnitude safer than the alternative. 

So anyway, he get’s all mad at Karp for trying to be a different kind of crazy:

Dr. Karp, if you are going to talk and blog about kitchen cleaners, furniture polish, pesticides and other toxins, how can you possibly ignore the 30-40 injections of potentially risky material we give children in their first 24 months of life?

Fanatics are nothing if not ideologically pure.  “IT’S THE VACCINES SO DON’T BOTHER ME ABOUT YOUR STUPID ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS!!”

When doctors are arrogant enough to “go with the gut” rather than the evidence, patients are harmed.  Gordon even admits that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but then disregards it:

I have no proof that vaccines cause autism and would be very excited to have my large group of extremely healthy mostly unvaccinated children studied someday. It would be disingenuous to imply that non-vaccination might not lead to an increased incidence in vaccine-preventable illness. It would be equally disingenuous to state that this possibility poses a great threat to America’s children. The risks of vaccinating the way we do now exceeds the benefits of this vaccine program. “Scientists” who suggest that experienced doctors ignore their eyes and ears are wrong. Detractors who say that we should ignore parents who are certain that vaccines caused their children’s autism are wrong and often quite mean-spirited.

So he has no proof, but it just seems right to him, and anyone who doesn’t agree is a big meanie who ignores parents.  I have news for Jay: it’s possible for a patient and a doctor to be wrong.  That doesn’t mean their experiences are invalid, just their conclusions.  But science by assertion is distracting from real research into autism.  If people like Gordon, Karp, or David Kirby really wanted to help, they would support scientists and physicians who are doing real autism research.  Fake experts make for fake science, and in medicine, fake science kills people. 

Comments

  1. #1 _Arthur
    June 15, 2009

    One SPECIFIC “safer” vaccine might be within the real of the possible,
    but you would have to find a Pharma company willing to spend $5 billions and more
    on a new vaccine that would have only a 20% chance of being “safer”, i.e. less side effects like allergies, or a 7% better efficacy in the general population.

    The vaccines denialists would, of course, refuse to acknowledge that the new vaccine is any safer because, heh, it was made by a Pharma company, and it would be EXACTLY as safe as the previous vaccine, autism-wise.

    Their dislike of vaccines is not based on any actual safety data, anyways.

  2. #2 Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP
    June 15, 2009

    Hi PalMD,

    Thanks for your suggestions and observations. I would however take exception to 2 of your comments:

    1) Re EDCs and autism: EDCs are usually xeroestrogens and have a feminizig effect on teh body, however there is the potential of EDCs to pass the BBB and increase intracerebral estradiol which may have a masculinizing influence on the brain of the developing fetus. As you will read in the third part of my blog, this is just a theory, but it may be in agreement with Simon Baron-Cohen’s “extra male” theory of autism.

    2)Re leave it to the experts: While I have not done research on ASD etiology, I am doing beginning a research project on ASD and behavior at UCLA. That notwithstanding, as a pediatrician of 30 years experience and trained in child development…and as the most read pediatrician in the US…the AAP has sought my support to help be a spokesperson in swaying public opinion on the isses.

    I look forward to your comments on the other two parts of my blog.

    Best,

    Harvey

  3. #3 Scott Belyea
    June 15, 2009

    Excellent append. However …

    Let’s review: “flawed”—argument by assertion, or begging the question; “specious reasoning”—ad hominem fallacy; pharma shill gambit—argument by paranoia, another flavor of ad hominem.

    I suggest that it’s past time to tone down the focus on listing the logical flaws in an argument (not that you’re the only offender by any means). I do hope you realize that the existence of such flaws says nothing whatever about the truth or falsity of the point being made. It may be intellectually satisfying to list a bunch of fallacies with Latin names, but it really accomplishes very little. In fact, you come perilously close to saying, “Because he uses the fallacious arguments, his point is wrong” … and that is a form of ad hominem.

    And saying that a study is “flawed” is not an example of “begging the question, nor is “specious arguments” ad hominem.

    Don’t get me wrong. You’re arguing against crap from a position of some authority on an important issue, and good luck to you. It just bothers me to see an important item weakened by sloppy argumentation.

  4. #4 PalMD
    June 15, 2009

    I think regular readers realize that ad hominem is only a fallacy if it substitutes for actual argument. Same with other fallacies.

  5. #5 PalMD
    June 15, 2009

    Harvey, thanks for stopping by, and i certainly look forward to parts II and III. I’ll be especially interested in seeing data about this, since the idea is rather new to me.

  6. #6 Scott Belyea
    June 15, 2009

    I think regular readers realize that ad hominem is only a fallacy if it substitutes for actual argument. Same with other fallacies.

    You miss my point, which is that you misuse an argument which does not address the point you’re trying to make. I’m not sure you understand logical fallacies.

    Well, I’m done. Keep flogging the deniers.

  7. #7 Dianne
    June 15, 2009

    EDCs are usually xeroestrogens and have a feminizig effect on teh body, however there is the potential of EDCs to pass the BBB and increase intracerebral estradiol which may have a masculinizing influence on the brain of the developing fetus.

    Can you explain this statement or give a reference? Estradiol is a form of estrogen so it’s not clear to me how it can have a masculinizing effect. Not saying your wrong, but I’d like to see the pathway before taking this statement as a given. Also one would have to look at the amount of estradiol produced by xeroestrogens as compared to the amount produced by the mother’s body. Which finally leaves the question of whether autism has anything to do with testosterone/masculinization or not. It’s not at all clear to me that the higher incidence of autism in males is related to hormonal mechanisms. Maybe some of the genetic causes of autism are related to X chromosome abnormalities. Or maybe there is a diagnostic bias. (Especially in the asperger’s/high functioning range.)

  8. #8 Larian LeQuella
    June 15, 2009

    The anti-vax pro-disease lobby is loud but ill-informed. Please read this link for more information: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.html And please pass this link around. It is “endorsed” by Dr. Phil Plait, the President of JREF amongst others. Thank you.

  9. #9 Pareidolius
    June 16, 2009

    feminizig effect on teh body

    Nevermind “feminizig” cause that could be German or Dutch or something, but he actually used “teh” unironically, and that’s just refreshing.

  10. #10 Joe B
    June 16, 2009

    The Car analogy would make sense if there were knife wielding lunatics wandering the streets stabbing walkers, bikers and those taking public transport, but they couldn’t get people taking their cars with the doors locked.

  11. #11 Ranson
    June 16, 2009

    “Scientists” who suggest that experienced doctors pay attention to more than their eyes and ears understand that personal experience is exceedingly vulnerable to bias.

    Fixed that for Dr. Jay.

  12. #12 Jeff
    June 16, 2009

    What do you think about Dr. John Cannell’s theory: Autism is the result of vitamin D deficiency:

    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health/autism/vit-D-theory-autism.shtml

    He admits the studies that would prove this haven’t been completed, but vitamin D is so inexpensive, it might be worth a try.

  13. #13 DebinOz
    June 16, 2009

    Jeff at #12:

    I have a degree in nutrition, a PhD in epidemiology and I am the mother of a child with autism.

    It would be great to identify a nutritional risk factor for autism (in that it would be easy to address), but I can tell you from my heart that this isn’t it.

  14. #14 daedalus2u
    June 16, 2009

    Dianne, I think there is some merit to SBC’s data showing an association of elevated androgens in amniotic fluid with sub-clinical ASD-like symptoms later in life. In no way do I think this is “caused” by testosterone exposure. I think the data of elevated testosterone comes from the real cause, that of reduced NO levels in utero.

    The rate limiting step in testosterone synthesis is regulated by NO inhibition of the corresponding cytochrome P450 enzyme. Low NO causes increased testosterone and I think this is where the correlation comes from.

    All the P450 enzymes are regulated by NO, and so a change in the basal NO level perturbs steroid synthesis with no threshold. This is the normal regulatory pathway, it is already in the active range (that is the basal NO level is already regulating steroid synthesis pathways), so any change in the basal NO level changes the steroid output profile. This change is not simple, there are many enzymes processing many substrates producing many products many of which are substrates by still other enzymes.

    Testosterone does reduce NO levels in the brain, estrogen increases NO levels. I think that it is NO levels which regulate the neuroanatomy, rather than steroids. There is cross-talk and feed-back which makes these effects extremely complicated.

    The “extreme male brain” is too simplistic. The idea of xenobiotic endocrine disrupters as causing autism in humans isn’t very credible (in my opinion). The levels of natural estrogens/androgens are orders of magnitude higher, and the binding coefficients are also orders of magnitude higher than xenobiotic chemicals. Infants conceived while their mother was using hormone birth control tend to have a reduced incidence of autism suggesting that environmental estrogen mimetics would be protective, not causal.

    There is discordance in ASDs between monozygous twins implying that shared genes and shared in utero environment are not sufficient to cause equivalent position on the autism spectrum. To me, that argues against an external environmental cause, but the increased concordance between dizygous twins implies that the in utero environment is involved.

  15. #15 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 16, 2009

    ” Part of this goes back to a recent HuffPo article by Harvey Karp, an article which was just terrific in some ways—it acknowledged the insanity of the autism-vaccine manufatroversy, but then went off the deep end by blaming “endocrine disrupting chemicals”. What’s with these pediatricians and making stuff up? Seriously!”

    Finally!! Thanks for coming after this Dr. Karp (is that your real name??) and his absurd notions about trying to study the causes of autism by looking at environmental factors. His plan to do an actual study at UCLA deserves the back of your hand. As I’ve read here and at Orac’s site, the real issue is that parents just want someone (or something) to blame.

    As far as Dr. Karp’s claim to have practiced medicine for thirty years and have earned the respect of both millions of parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics . . . well, what further evidence do you need to completely invalidate everything he says with sarcasm and disdain? Go get him guys.

    Best,

    Jay

  16. #16 Karl Withakay
    June 16, 2009

    Actually, demanding that manufacturers stop making cars until they can be made safer, without showing that cars are currently unacceptably unsafe, and without defining what level of safety would be acceptable would, in fact, make you anti-car.

    Scott, I think maybe you miss the point. PalMD’s not using sloppy argumentation, he’s pointing out that the other side is using sloppy argumentation, and that they have used fallacious arguments in place of logical support for their positions.

  17. #17 Tim Kreider
    June 16, 2009

    In response to Dr. Gordon’s reaction (#15) to PalMD’s criticism of Dr. Karp:

    Hypothesizing a specific environmental cause or risk factor for autism is reasonable. Performing studies to investigate it is appropriate. Engaging the research community in analysis of the work is terrific. However, publicizing a pet theory in the lay press before it is supported by rigorous evidence borders on irresponsible. There are social and economic consequences for false alarms. It is probably safest for physicians to keep their public comments grounded in scientific consensus, since few in the press or the public will look for follow-ups on a daring new hypothesis after more research has been done.

  18. #18 Ranson
    June 16, 2009

    Dr. Jay,

    I think the point that many critics are making against Dr. Karp’s idea isn’t one of plausibility. Rather, like so many others, he’s doing things backwards. He has a hypothesis concerning environmental factors. He has announced the potential effects, called up a bunch of publicity, and probably scared the hell out of some people who don’t know any better. NOW he’s going to do a study.

    That’s the failure right there. He doesn’t have the evidence. He doesn’t have the data to back up his idea at this point — but he’s still announcing it all to the media. *Bzzzzzzt* That’s the wrong way to go about science. After generating your hypothesis, you test, then you refine and test, then you refine and test some more, until finally you get a coherent idea of what’s going on, and whether your initial hypothesis has merit. Then you publish and let other scientists try to replicate and/or tear your idea to shreds. Around that time is when going public might make sense. Otherwise, you’re wasting everyone else’s time, and regular old GP’s are going to waste ages explaining to every scared parent that there is no actual evidence that furniture polish has damaged their children.

    Evidence first; otherwise it’s just another Pons-Fleischmann press conference.

  19. #19 Ranson
    June 16, 2009

    Dangit, I hate it when the post before mine is so much better… ;)

  20. #20 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 16, 2009

    Ranson, Tim Kreider–This is why I come here. I could go elsewhere for abuse, sarcasm and disdain. Once in a while, just once in a while, I get educated.

    Those are two excellent posts and they will slow me down as I promote my unproven hypotheses. I continue to think that observation and experience are very valuable in contemplating autism causation, but they are not enough to speak as loudly as I sometimes speak. Thank you both.

    Best,

    Jay

  21. #21 PalMD
    June 16, 2009

    Jay, thanks for your thoughtful and considered response.

  22. #22 daedalus2u
    June 16, 2009

    Or another “mercury causes autism” idea. A hypothesis that (perhaps) was once reasonable, after looking at it in detail it became untenable but the proponents didn’t back down. There was plenty of data very early on that showed the mercury causes autism idea was wrong. The Faroe Islands mercury studies showed gigantic exposures to children in utero, was a 1,000 cohort study with extensive follow-up. If mercury caused autism, there would be a gigantic autism hot spot in the Faroe Islands. There isn’t because mercury doesn’t cause autism.

    The quacks latched onto the mercury causes autism idea because it gave the lawyers a target with deep pockets to sue (vaccine manufacturers), it gave the quacks treatments to sell (chelation), gave the autism pseudo-advocates a justification to raise money, and it gave the sociopaths targets to hate (big Pharma and Dr Offit).

    This endocrine disruption hypothesis isn’t tenable either. There is a reduced incidence of autism among infants exposed to hormone contraceptives in utero.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11335784

    The endocrine effects of contraceptive hormones are gigantic compared to estrogen mimetics in the diet (which mostly are from normal foods such as soy and whole wheat) and not from synthetic xenobiotics.

    The predictable result of Dr Karp’s carping on endocrine disruption will be to frighten parents right into the clutches of the quacks the Geiers, who will be all to happy to “fix” that supposed endocrine disruption with Lupron at 10x usual dosages used to treat precocious puberty. It will give the organic food and supplement suppliers a big boost, the lawyers will find someone with deep pockets to sue, the autism pseudo-advocates will find yet more reasons to raise ever more money, and the sociopaths will add yet more people to their list of those to hate.

    And it will poison the atmosphere even more and make the real science behind autism that much more difficult to find and study.

  23. #23 Orac
    June 16, 2009

    Those are two excellent posts and they will slow me down as I promote my unproven hypotheses. I continue to think that observation and experience are very valuable in contemplating autism causation, but they are not enough to speak as loudly as I sometimes speak.

    Then why do you keep “speaking so loudly” about the dangers of vaccines when you yourself admit that you don’t have any scientific evidence. Why do you keep ranting about big pharma when you don’t have any evidence? Why do you make fact- and science-free assertions so frequently? Ranson and Tim were right. Unless you have some evidence, you really should stop spouting the same nonsense. You only embarrass yourself.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/06/more_anti-vaccine_nonsense_from_an_old_f.php

  24. #24 Joseph
    June 16, 2009

    Autism hypotheses are a dime a dozen. Everyone has one. It’s not so much that they scare people about unproven dangers – they are almost like background noise at this point, since there are so many of them. Why should any one of them be taken more seriously than the next one, in the absence of any real evidence?

    They also tend to be the result of closed-mindedness. How so? Most of them start out attempting to explain the rise in autism diagnoses environmentally. Rarely do people stop to consider the possibility that the rise is an artifact. If it is, all these hypotheses will prove to have been a waste of time and resources.

    I predict that hypotheses of this nature will continue to fail for the foreseeable future.

  25. #25 Aunty Woo
    June 16, 2009

    They wouldn’t let this on over at Huffpo, although anything wooish to the contrary was fine:

    Dr Gordon,
    Whilst I respect your devotion and hard work with children, you are unfortunately biased in many ways that prevent you from being objectionable in this debate:
    1. Conflict of interest – selling DVDs / books / lectures on vaccines being bad. Your reputation on depends on your anti-vaccine sentiment and therefore biases you from being a rational viewpoint in this.
    2. Confirmation bias – any science that doesn’t fit your vaccines = autism hypothesis, you reject as being flawed. Yet, you do not cite any literature to support this to be the case, nor do you provide any scientific evidence to the contrary. If you believe that vaccines are a cause of autism, please either provide some evidence or publish studies yourself. The only flawed science out there regarding vaccines, is that of Dr Wakefield that yourself and others still cite as an example of a vaccine/autism link.
    3. “Toxins” in the vaccines – previously you have been fixated on thimerosal as a cause for autism. This was removed in 2002 from childhood vaccines and the autism incidence did not go down (as you and David Kirby predicted). Further, the science you state as flawed, demonstrates no correlation between thimerosal and autism. As for the other ingredients of vaccines, please provide any evidence for any of these being harmful in the dose administered.
    4. “Certain childhood illnesses are far less common than before we had vaccines to decrease their numbers.” However, the moment we drop these vaccines, these diseases return. Just take a look at the UK right now, since the Wakefield (flawed study) made people stop getting the MMR vaccine. We now have deaths due to this of children. Its called public health and herd immunity for a reason.
    5. “The risks of vaccinating the way we do now exceeds the benefits of this vaccine program.” Again, based on what evidence? Gut feelings are not science.

    If you are indeed for “safer vaccinations” as opposed to “no vaccinations”, then do please cite some actual science or at least suggest what the problem actually is with the vaccines themselves.

  26. #26 The Blind Watchmaker
    June 16, 2009

    “publicizing a pet theory in the lay press before it is supported by rigorous evidence borders on irresponsible.”

    Here here!

  27. #27 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 16, 2009

    Then why do you keep “speaking so loudly” about the dangers of vaccines when you yourself admit that you don’t have any scientific evidence. Why do you keep ranting about big pharma when you don’t have any evidence? Why do you make fact- and science-free assertions so frequently? Ranson and Tim were right. Unless you have some evidence, you really should stop spouting the same nonsense. You only embarrass yourself.

    Actually, it’s you who embarrass yourself, David. This is not the one-sided issue you paint it to be. Countless dozens of scientific arguments have proceeded in this way wherein one “side” aggregated the most studies and “proof” initially and then were found to completely wrong as more time went by and more research was done. Think Hormone Replacement Therapy for women of coronary artery stent issues. If the discussants in those issues and others had been as nasty and unscientific as you, progress would have been impeded. As it is by the polarization of vaccine disagreements. Unscientific? Yes. Ignoring observational data and demanding that no further research be done is antithetical to scientific method.

    I need to repeat: I might be completely wrong. I don’t think so, but there may come a time when definitive studies show that there’s no connection between vaccines and autoimmune phenomena. Right now, we’re nowhere near that stage and spitting in someone’s face when they offer an olive branch is not part of civil discourse.

    And, the proof that “big Pharma” is corrupt in their hiring of authors for studies and their manipulation of data is no further away than the front page of the New York Times. You know that.

    Best,

    Jay

  28. #28 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 16, 2009

    Aunty Woo. My DVDs and speaking engagements are not yet profitable. Perhaps someday they will be.

    My reputation depends not on my vaccine views but on my being honest and hardworking: 98-99% of my time and income involve the private practice of general pediatrics.

    As I read through this site and even Orac’s site, I often find posts which enlighten me. It’s just that it’s really hard to handle all the name calling and ad hominem attacks. Orac takes delight in accusing me of feigning a “soft” approach. I really do feel that something’s very wrong right now. There has been an explosion in childhood autism and other disorders coinciding with increased vaccinations and coinciding with lots of other things. My observations and experience lead me to strongly suspect that vaccines are part of the problem. I think that the pharmaceutical industry has not been held to high enough standards in proving the safety of many of their products. The proof of this lack of standards has been found for some drugs but not yet for vaccines.

    PalMD, I thank you for your comment.

    Best,

    Jay

  29. #29 D. C. Sessions
    June 16, 2009

    I could go elsewhere for abuse, sarcasm and disdain.

    Yes, but at AoA or HuffPo you’d have to gag down your pride and post something grounded in reality.

    Once in a while, just once in a while, I get educated.

    Nobody’s perfect. If you keep working at it, though, that kind of thing won’t happen as often.

    PS: While you’re waiting to be rescued from that escalator do take a moment and tell us the optimal incidences of polio, measles, HiB, etc. are for the United States.

  30. #30 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 16, 2009

    D.C. Sessions, as you or someone just like you once said over at Dave’s place, you really have no sense of irony do you?

    The optimal incidences of certain diseases? No one knows. One thing that is certain is that there are organisms which have lived symbiotic relationships with humans for as long as there have been humans. Eradicating all microorganisms would be absurd. Perhaps we have erred in choosing which bugs to eliminate. A more specific answer for polio, probably zero. For HIB, also zero. Measles, as was recently elucidated in the PARSIFAL Study, may be a questionable candidate for eradication. You also are well aware of the decision most European countries have made about not vaccinating against chickenpox. And you probably also know about similar decisions regarding HPV vaccination. Please stop being so smug and unpleasant. It doesn’t make you look more knowledgeable.

    Bestr,

    Jay

  31. #31 Karl Withakay
    June 16, 2009

    Dr Gordon,
    Have you seen this post regarding the rise in ASD diags and corresponding decrease in mental retardation diags?

    photoninthedarkness.com/?p=158

    Are you so sure that the has been an explosion in childhood autism, and that it is as big as you think?

  32. #32 Aunty Woo
    June 16, 2009

    Dr Jay,
    Again as I said, I have respect for anyone in the scientific or medical community who especially is trying to make a difference. However, you have to admit that even if these aren’t profitable yet, it does in the strictest definition represent a conflict of interest. Neither does appearing at the anti-vaccine rallies seem like an unbiased approach to this situation.

    I like many others on here (an especially Orac), will agree with you on criticism of pharma companies. However, vaccine testing has been one of the most thorough clinical tools available. As a doctor you will be aware anything that is given as a preventative measure and not a treatment for disease has to go through many more levels of critique and trial.

    Further, you did not address the specific points I raised. They are valid questions / points and are not a personal attack. If you are an advocate for your view points, in such a pubic way, then you have to accept questions / criticism.

    Point 2; confirmation bias – “I really do feel…”. Whilst your judgment may suggest this, the science does not currently support this. Gut feeling is not science.

    Point 3; Regarding the toxic vaccines. “There has been an explosion in childhood autism and other disorders coinciding with increased vaccinations” But what is it about vaccines? Arent there more logical causes for autism? Doesn’t the science strongly suggest that it aint the vaccines? What about the UK which firstly has a lower vaccination schedule, but recently suggested a similar incidence of autism and secondly, with the large drop in vaccination rates in the UK due to the MMR scare, why hasn’t this dropped too?

    Point 4; regarding the previous statement about the need for vaccines. Would you prefer an outbreak of one of these infectious diseases instead with your patients?

    At least you get a discussion here of both viewpoints, unlike over at AoA.

    Finally, I’ll repeat as before, if you are indeed for “safer vaccinations” as opposed to “no vaccinations”, then do please cite some actual science or at least suggest what the problem actually is with the vaccines themselves.

  33. #33 Chris
    June 16, 2009

    Dr. Gordon:

    I don’t think so, but there may come a time when definitive studies show that there’s no connection between vaccines and autoimmune phenomena.

    Those studies do exist. Just like all the studies that show no relationship between autism and vaccines.

    Do you know what else has “exploded” in the past few decades? The closing of the institutions that disabled children were warehoused in (they were often called the School for the Feeble Minded), along with the schools for the deaf and blind (which had to be expanded in the early 1960s due to the rubella epidemic). Isn’t it terrible that our local program for the deaf went from serving almost a hundred kids twenty years ago is now down to just one classroom of less than ten? Must be the fault of those evil vaccines!

  34. #34 Chris
    June 16, 2009

    Let me clarify my statement “Those studies do exist. Just like all the studies that show no relationship between autism and vaccines.”… which you, Dr. Gordon, are conveniently ignoring for no other reason than your own bias.

    Perhaps you should be “Dr. Jay Gordon: hard working pediatrician dedicated to the preservation of measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, polio, pertussis and haemophilus influenzae type b! Because no child is complete until they have survived one of these… regardless if they end up permanently disabled or dead!”

    Oh, in addition to the little paper above about the effect those evil vaccines have had on mental retardation, you should be pleased to know that researchers in Japan have figured out that mumps actually causes deafness in one out of a thousand cases!

    You sir, could be a hero in bringing back the requirement for deaf education! (by the way, my son’s special ed. program included some participation in the deaf ed. program, which is why I know about it… his first real form of communication was in ASL… so I know a bit about some who wish to preserve a certain “Deaf Culture”)

  35. #35 Dianne
    June 16, 2009

    There has been an explosion in childhood autism and other disorders coinciding with increased vaccinations and coinciding with lots of other things.

    Has there? Are there any definitive epidemiologic studies that demonstrate a true rise in the incidence of autism (versus an increase in diagnosis due to greater awareness)?

    My observations and experience lead me to strongly suspect that vaccines are part of the problem.

    What specific observations lead you to be concerned about vaccines as opposed to “a lot of other things”? For example, why not blame computers? Computers could be to blame in a number of ways from decreasing face to face interactions (and so decreasing the stimulation and growth of mirror neurons) to “nerd culture” increasing the reproductive opportunities for Aspies leading to greater numbers of aspie and autistic children being born. Could it all really be the fault of Bill Gates?

    I think that the pharmaceutical industry has not been held to high enough standards in proving the safety of many of their products.

    In what ways do you feel the products have been inadequately tested? What further testing would you like to see before (or after) approval of medications and vaccines? And how do you feel about the approval process (or lack thereof) for supplements and homeopathic remedies? Comments on this sort of thing would be appreciated.

  36. #36 Jeff
    June 16, 2009

    One more post about Dr. John Cannell’s website (link above)
    where he makes a very detailed, compelling case for Vitamin D deficiency as a possble cause for autism. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the subject. One of the opening paragraphs in Cannell’s piece:

    “The theory that vitamin D deficiency, during pregnancy or childhood, causes autism is just a theory. However, the theory has a plausible mechanism of action, explains all the unexplained facts about autism, subsumes several other theories, implies simple prevention, and is easily disprovable—all components of a useful theory. A genetic lesion (abnormality) in some component of the vitamin D system—a lesion vitamin D’s unique pharmacology could overcome—would explain why monozygotic (identical) twins are highly affected while fraternal twins are not. Varying brain levels of activated vitamin D during later life would explain why some identical twins get severe disease while others are barely affected. Falling vitamin D levels over the last 20 years due to sun-avoidance explain autism’s rapid increase in incidence during that same time. The very different effects estrogen and testosterone have on vitamin D metabolism may explain why boys are much more likely to get it than girls are. Lower vitamin D levels in blacks may explain their higher rates of autism. The vitamin D theory has tenable explanations for all the epidemiological features of autism.”

  37. #37 Chris
    June 16, 2009

    Jeff, do those autistic children with vitamin D deficiency also show signs of rickets? Or do they show the same level of symptoms for lack of vitamin that mercury poisoning that autistic children are supposed to have (mercury poisoning is also called “Pink Disease” because the skin turns pink, or magenta — have you seen any pink children in the special ed. classes?). Anyway, give us real data, not the writings of another maverick doctor.

    Oh, and also do not shift the focus, remember this is all about Dr. Jay Gordon!

  38. #38 Aunty Woo
    June 16, 2009

    Jeff,
    Even before we get started on the science of this claim, the fact that Dr Cannell can’t even get his scientific terminology correct is worrying. Its not a theory, its a hypothesis.

  39. #39 D. C. Sessions
    June 17, 2009

    The optimal incidences of certain diseases? No one knows.

    And yet you base your practice on maintaining that level by adjusting vaccination rates. Lower rates when there isn’t enough of the disease, more when the disease is too much.

    One thing that is certain is that there are organisms which have lived symbiotic relationships with humans for as long as there have been humans.

    So what are you doing to bring back body lice among your patients?

    Eradicating all microorganisms would be absurd.

    Nice straw man there. Or are you suggesting that this applies to those of us who don’t mourn smallpox?

    Perhaps we have erred in choosing which bugs to eliminate.

    Are you running for office?

    A more specific answer for polio, probably zero.

    So you’re vaccinating against polio now?

    For HIB, also zero.

    Are you vaccinating against HiB?

    Measles, as was recently elucidated in the PARSIFAL Study, may be a questionable candidate for eradication.

    Nice evasion. Is the current rate of measles too high or too low?

    You also are well aware of the decision most European countries have made about not vaccinating against chickenpox. And you probably also know about similar decisions regarding HPV vaccination.

    So you agree with European countries on vaccination policy? Nice appeal to authority.

    Please stop being so smug and unpleasant. It doesn’t make you look more knowledgeable.

    C&C warnings are customary.

  40. #40 Orac
    June 17, 2009

    s I read through this site and even Orac’s site, I often find posts which enlighten me. It’s just that it’s really hard to handle all the name calling and ad hominem attacks. Orac takes delight in accusing me of feigning a “soft” approach. I really do feel that something’s very wrong right now. There has been an explosion in childhood autism and other disorders coinciding with increased vaccinations and coinciding with lots of other things. My observations and experience lead me to strongly suspect that vaccines are part of the problem.

    That’s the problem. You have a hypothesis (well, if you can call that mish-mash of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience a hypothesis) based on your personal clinical experience, but you have no science to support it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop you from continuing to make statements like “vaccines cause autism” as though they were true and you had evidence other than your own selective memory to back them up.

    You keep claiming to be science-based, but you prove every day that you are not.

  41. #41 Pareidolius
    June 17, 2009

    Dr. Gordon, what are Orac, Pal and the rest of the scientists over here supposed to do with this “olive branch” you consistently claim to proffer? Do you expect them to say nice things about you personally, like “hey, ol’ Jay’s a swell guy and he makes a mean Manhattan”? Or do think they should make nice with some statement like “Say, maybe we’ve been too closed-minded, Dr. Jay might really be onto something with this autism/vaccine thing” . . . ’cause you know they’re not going to say that. They’re not going to even think that until you show them some actual science. The actual science you now admit you don’t have. Do you get why people might be tempted to ridicule you? You seem utterly clueless about how you appear. You seem a nice enough fellow, I imagine a mild mannered practitioner, probably wearing a cardigan. And you seem genuinely torn up about why all these folks are so darned mean over here on the Science Blogs. Like Ranson and Kreider said . . . scientific research (the hard, expensive stuff) first, grand public announcements (the famous-guest-expert-on-Oprah stuff) second. Just remember to put the cart behind the horse . . . oh, that’s right, that particular horse has been beaten to death and won’t be pulling anything anywhere.

  42. #42 Chuck
    June 17, 2009

    Science-based medicine is the horse that pulls nothing when it comes to proven causes or proven treatments for ASD individuals. The current theoretical genetic causes will only explain away single digit percentages of the diagnosed ASD population and science-based medicine currently has nothing else to publically offer. We are going nowhere fast with that horse.

  43. #43 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 17, 2009

    Cross-posted from ORAC’s site.

    Real science lives, breathes and changes. It accepts that today’s ideas and hypotheses might be cast out and disproved tomorrow. Your science, as you so aptly put it, ORAC, is just “crotchety.”

    This morning’s hike ended with a nice conversation with my nearly-89-year-old friend John, a geology professor Emeritus at UCLA. He reminded me, “The best geologist is the one who has seen the most rocks.”

    All of you here have little except numbers, nastiness and no real experience or wisdom to back up your sterile beliefs. Get away from the keyboard and have a look at the problems in the pediatric community. You’ll see why some of us are willing to support yet-unproven hypotheses, weather your viscious ad hominem opprobrium and move on to try to help children. You just sit there and quote hidebound old numbers. Shame on you for being so narrow-minded.

    Best,

    Jay

  44. #44 LanceR, JSG
    June 17, 2009

    Ah, yes. The “you’re narrow minded” attack.

    For someone who decries ad hominem attacks, you sure throw them around pretty freely.

    Side note: you seem to be misunderstanding what an ad hominem attack really is…

    Saying “You’re wrong, and here’s the evidence, and BTW, you’re an idiot.” is not ad hominem. Rude, yes. But not fallacious.

    Saying “You’re wrong because you’re an idiot.” or “You’re narrow-minded, so who can believe you?” *IS* fallacious.

    Having “numbers, nastiness and no real experience” does not prove anyone wrong. You may not like their tone, but you obviously cannot refute their arguments. Your “yet-unproven hypotheses” have been soundly disproven. Repeatedly. Yet you continue to cling to these outdated, completely wrong ideas.

    Who is “crochety”? Pot? Meet kettle.

  45. #45 Karl Withakay
    June 17, 2009

    “The best geologist is the one who has seen the most rocks.”

    And this is true because it has a folksy sound to it and an 89 year old geologist said it?

    I submit that that statement is invalid in the first place, argument by authority, argument by assertion, and applying it to anything other than geology is essentially an argument by analogy, and therefore not logical support for your position.

    Stephen Hawking hasn’t spent very much time behind telescopes, so I guess he can’t have too much worth saying about cosmology as compared to Phil Plait. (With all due respect to the awesome Bad Astronomer.)

  46. #46 Chris
    June 17, 2009

    Congratulations, Dr. Gordon, there is now the first case in 15 years of measles in West Virginia. The child is an unvaxed two year old. You must be so proud.

  47. #47 khan
    June 17, 2009

    DR J FID (friend of infectious disease)

    As a non med or science person may I say that you (& your ignorant brethren) scare the crap out of me.

    I am almost 60, & have to worry about all the germ vectors you & other cranks are encouraging.

    Thanks a whole lot ‘doctor’.

  48. #48 Joseph
    June 18, 2009

    There has been an explosion in childhood autism and other disorders coinciding with increased vaccinations and coinciding with lots of other things.

    @Dr. Jay: I’m not sure if anyone else is impressed by argument from assertion. What exactly is the evidence that there has been an explosion in childhood autism, as opposed to simply the number of diagnoses of autism?

  49. #49 Joseph
    June 18, 2009

    The theory that vitamin D deficiency, during pregnancy or childhood, causes autism is just a theory. However, the theory has a plausible mechanism of action, explains all the unexplained facts about autism, subsumes several other theories, implies simple prevention, and is easily disprovable—all components of a useful theory.

    Would a prediction of this hypothesis be that if it rains more in a given year, more children will be diagnosed with autism, say, the next year? If so, I can tell you it’s easily falsified.

  50. #50 Ranson
    June 19, 2009

    @Joseph

    Orac actually covered a study correlating autism and rainfall last year.

  51. #51 bob
    June 19, 2009

    Jay sez: “This morning’s hike ended with a nice conversation with my nearly-89-year-old friend John, a geology professor Emeritus at UCLA. He reminded me, “The best geologist is the one who has seen the most rocks.””

    It’s fun to spend time with old professors, Jay, and it’s nice that you’ve realized this. However, what they say is NOT gospel. If you knew anything about logic or reason or science, then this would be abundantly clear to you. Of course, no one here needs more evidence that you’re just about helpless when it comes to those pesky little issues.

    As an example, I used to dine with an eighty-someodd year old professor while in undergrad. He would sometimes say things that, by today’s standards, are rather prejudiced (usually sexist, occasionally racist). I guess I should have believed him? After all, he was a brilliant and experienced eighty-year-old academic.

    You’d be a laughingstock if you weren’t so dangerous. Please stop contributing to innocent peoples’ needless deaths.

  52. #52 Chris
    June 19, 2009

    Ranson:

    Orac actually covered a study correlating autism and rainfall last year.

    So did someone named Joseph:
    Is Precipitation Associated with Autism? Now I’m Quite Sure It’s Not.

    and
    Is Precipitation Associated with Autism? Apparently Not.

  53. #53 suzanne westfall
    October 26, 2009

    I for one don’t believe vaccines are safe. 10 years ago my beautiful daughter (age 17 at the time), was required by the state of TN to get a second MMR. Within two weeks it induced chronic fatigue. When school started three months later she could not hold a paintbrush or pencil because of carpal joint inflammation, dropped out of dance, karate, theater, and was sleeping three and four hours a day after school. That was the first year she had ever had acne outbreaks and has suffered from them ever since and now other skin disorders.

    She got a few of these acid peels that enlarged her pores on her face, and of course the acne keeps coming back along with other weird skin stuff, dermatitis, and her feet and hands peeling. I believe the vaccine has somehow caused hormone disruption causing the acne.

    Her personality has gone from cheerful to suicidal. There are certain people, and a large percentage, that makes it irresponsible by the FDA to classify vaccines as safe. The side effects need to be more pronounced before hand. If I had known that all of this would happen, from a frickin’ vaccine, I would never have given it to her.

    It’s something that science doesn’t need to prove. I know it in my heart, without reservation, that that MMR vaccine has done terrible damage to my beautiful daughter.

  54. #54 Chris
    October 26, 2009

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    One would have to have a more convincing biological explanation to connect the MMR to your daughter’s issues. Personally, I think the MMR is safer than putting acid on the face. But that is just me.

  55. #55 Leslie
    December 10, 2009

    “Do you know what else has ‘exploded’ in the past few decades? The closing of the institutions that disabled children were warehoused in (they were often called the School for the Feeble Minded), along with the schools for the deaf and blind (which had to be expanded in the early 1960s due to the rubella epidemic). Isn’t it terrible that our local program for the deaf went from serving almost a hundred kids twenty years ago is now down to just one classroom of less than ten? Must be the fault of those evil vaccines!”

    Y’know how some couples try to increase the odds of their children being born deaf (selecting a more-likely-to-end-up-deaf embryo after IVF if they’re a straight couple, selecting a deaf man to donate sperm if they’re a lesbian couple, etc.)? I wonder how many of them would actually *believe* what you just mockingly said…

  56. #56 Leslie
    December 10, 2009

    “to ‘nerd culture’ increasing the reproductive opportunities for Aspies leading to greater numbers of aspie and autistic children being born.”

    …and perhaps leading to greater numbers of children born without any genes for ASD but pressured to behave as though they do have ASD (“stop crying about being lonely, only neurotypical sheeple want to have friends!!! shut up and study, people won’t respect you if you flunk so they must respect you if you have nothing to offer but good grades!!!”).

    I had to put up with some of that stuff myself growing up. Nobody in my family has been diagnosed but my parents and some other relatives are from one of those study-study-study-study cultures (heck, my mother was the first in a long, long line of women to even use social skills to find a mate instead of being forced into an arranged marriage) that sure seems to *want* “high-functioning” autistic offspring even if they don’t use the A-word.

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