PZ brings to my attention this article in Newsweek which sums up Oprah's views on health, and one sadly must come to the conclusion that Oprah is a crank. Based on our definition of crankery, one of the critical aspects is the incompetence of an individual in judging sources of information. How else can you describe her dismissal of legitimate medical opinion for the pseudoscience of celebrities like Suzanne Somers or Jenny McCarthy?
That was apparently good enough for Oprah. "Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo," she said. "But she just might be a pioneer." Oprah acknowledged that Somers's claims "have been met with relentless criticism" from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn't quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. "Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She'll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her."
That would be a lot of doctors. Outside Oprah's world, there isn't a raging debate about replacing hormones. Somers "is simply repackaging the old, discredited idea that menopause is some kind of hormone-deficiency disease, and that restoring them will bring back youth," says Dr. Nanette Santoro, director of reproductive endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Older women aren't missing hormones. They just don't need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes--and most women don't--there is little reason to prescribe them. Most women never use them. Hormone therapy can increase a woman's risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and cancer. And despite Somers's claim that her specially made, non-FDA-approved bioidenticals are "natural" and safer, they are actually synthetic, just like conventional hormones and FDA-approved bioidenticals from pharmacies--and there are no conclusive clinical studies showing they are less risky. That's why endocrinologists advise that women take the smallest dose that alleviates symptoms, and use them only as long as they're needed.
This is where things get tricky. Because the truth is, some of what Oprah promotes isn't good, and a lot of the advice her guests dispense on the show is just bad. The Suzanne Somers episode wasn't an oddball occurrence. This kind of thing happens again and again on Oprah. Some of the many experts who cross her stage offer interesting and useful information (props to you, Dr. Oz). Others gush nonsense. Oprah, who holds up her guests as prophets, can't seem to tell the difference. She has the power to summon the most learned authorities on any subject; who would refuse her? Instead, all too often Oprah winds up putting herself and her trusting audience in the hands of celebrity authors and pop-science artists pitching wonder cures and miracle treatments that are questionable or flat-out wrong, and sometimes dangerous.
But back on the Oprah show, McCarthy's charges went virtually unchallenged. Oprah praised McCarthy's bravery and plugged her book, but did not invite a physician or scientist to explain to her audience the many studies that contradict the vaccines-autism link. Instead, Oprah read a brief statement from the Centers for Disease Control saying there was no science to prove a connection and that the government was continuing to study the problem. But McCarthy got the last word. "My science is named Evan, and he's at home. That's my science." Oprah might say that McCarthy was just sharing her first-person story and that Oprah wasn't endorsing her point of view. But by the end of the show, the take-away message for any mother with young kids was pretty clear: be afraid.
Dangerous is right. One wonders why the CDC doesn't have a public health authority devoted to studying the spread of quackery at the hands of celebrities and promoters of woo such as Oprah. It's disappointing though, she's clearly an intelligent person and has the potential to do so much good, but instead chooses to follow the advice of any celebrity at hand who will tell her and her audience what they want to hear.
What's worse is that while seeking advice from quacks who promote this wishful thinking, at the same time she reinforces that most fundamental aspect of medical woo. When you are sick it isn't because human bodies are fragile, or they wear out, or are attacked by bacteria and viruses, instead it's your fault. Sickness isn't an accident. It's your failure. You failed to take supplements, or you failed to protect yourself, or you are weak-minded, or you failed spiritually. Of course there are things that we can do to protect ourselves and stay healthy, I wouldn't suggest some form of health fatalism. But medical quackery takes a healthy attitude of self-protection to an extreme of self-flagellation. It promotes the idea that there is always a way of staying healthy, (take this vitamin!) when in reality sickness and death comes to us all no matter how hard we wish it were otherwise. This wishful thinking and self-doubt is, of course, what is exploited to sell quack remedies.
As a female scientist that has not only gone through the brutality of how we currently treat breast cancer, I work at one of the worlds most distinguished sequencing centers. Indeed, major in roads for this disease will most likely come from one of my current co-workers at MIT.
Independent of my feelings of Oprah or Ms Summers I can tell you that I tire of the (still )male influenced medical community that simply has no tangible concerns of the implications of BC treatment and the ongoing long term side effects. The pathetic statement below only emphasizes to me that this woman has very little communication with breast cancer patients. Her statement is blatantly untrue. Chemopause is not the same as natural menopause. You can go on any BC board and read countless posts on women suffering with this. The abrupt hot flashes and estrogen depletion that result from chemotherapy treatment effect a woman's cognitive function, muscle strength, sex drive and most importantly, sleep ~a major immune supporter. I do not blame Summers for going the route that she has as the medical/scientific community seems to think that this is "just the way it is, so deal with it." I have been there, am still there and still working on MY OWN, holistically to remedy the damage BC treatment has caused my body with virtually no support from my oncologists. Indeed, who are some of the best in the world. In short, losing estrogen for women's in their 20's 30's and 40's is not an acceptable side effect of treatment. Men would never stand for losing testosterone via a treatment so why should we? Your smug, un-empathic attitude smacks of the time that we were handing out hysterectomies like candy to women that really did not need them. Soon, in the next 10 years my dear, we will see we are treating breast cancer in the same harmful way. I suppose you also still think that the FDA is a functional, trustable entity? Become a cancer patient and then see how you feel about the system and then you might be the wiser.
"They just don't need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes *and most women don't*
As I asked on another blog, did it ever occur to you that Newsweek might have agenda? Paypack for Oprah endorsing Obama? Resentment that a black woman entertainer is the most influential force in media? Elitist resentment that someone outside the political, social and professional elite was able to acquire so much influence?
Did it ever occur to you that the doctors (or the corporations that fund them) might have a vested interest in discrediting & silencing some of the more unconvential medical ideas discussed on Oprah?
Did it ever occur to any of you that you can make anyone look like a nut by cherry picking (out of the TENS OF THOUSANDS of hours Oprah's been on national TV) the most controversial advice ever given and presenting it to sound as crazy as possible?
The Newsweek article was nothing but anecdotal cherry picking. There were no objective aggregate statistics showing that advice given on Oprah was on average any less accurate than any other media. The article was a hit piece intended to discredit an amazing woman who overcame every disadvantage to build one of the greatest media empires of all time. The article has no scholarly value whatsoever; it depends on the sexism, racism, & classism of its readers to dismiss Oprah without critically examing the methods & agenda of the article.
As Jake projected above, did it ever occur to you that Oprah might have agenda? Payback for Newsweek failing to oppose Bush? Resentment that as a black woman she was excluded from the media? Pandering to bile and and resentment that the political, social and professional experts are experts?
Did it ever occur to you that the republicans (or the oil companies that fund them) might have a vested interest in discrediting & silencing most of the science?
Did it ever occur to any of you that you can make anyone look like a nut by cherry picking the most insane blog rants ever?
Oprah's show is nothing but anecdotal cherry picking. She does not present objective aggregate statistics. The show is a parasite intended to discredit rationality. The show has no scholarly value whatsoever; it depends on the anti-intellectualism, credulous, & classism of its viewers to dismiss Newsweek without critically examine the methods & agenda of the show and its presenter.
"The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on."
Not to mention that the show is edited 'for effect'.
Sickness isn't an accident. It's your failure. You failed to take supplements, or you failed to protect yourself
It isn't unusual for people who are victims in any tragedy to look to themselves for some of the blame. I think the underlying reason is that they don't want to have it happen again and they are looking for some changes they can make that will prevent a recurrence. If it's random, it could happen again, and if you're still barely coping with the trauma that can be unacceptable, even if it's the right answer. They want some control over their future back. Signing up for an active treatment that does nothing helps promote the feeling of doing something to prevent recurrence.
Truthfully, the "it's your fault you're sick" attitude isn't new. It's ancient -- older than written language, probably. A great many people have long thought that illness was divine punishment. Or, that it was the action of an evil force which could be opposed if you performed the right incantations to drive it away. Oprah tends to lean more towards the latter -- while many of her shows have implied that it's your fault if you get sick, she's careful to present it in an empowering way. That is, she avoids saying "it's your fault you got sick" and instead concentrates on "you can make yourself well" because that's obviously a lot more marketable.
It's not about her race or her sex. That she's a successful black woman is awesome. The fact that she's become so successful through manipulating her audiences so completely is what bothers me. She is probably the most powerful woman in America today. More powerful than the ones we've elected, and that worries me.
Anonymous' comment made less sense to me with each re-reading. I can't figure out why she is so angry, and with whom. Does she think that male doctors could relieve the side effects of hormone suppression without increased risk of heart attack and stroke (not to mention recurrence of estrogen-sensitive tumors) if only they tried harder, or cared more about women's health?
For women with breast cancer, making the necessary decisions about their treatment and living with the consequences is extraordinarily difficult. But the task is not made easier by wishful thinking about miracle cures, or imagining that the real problem is others' "smug, un-empathic attitude."
Actually Oprah has plenty of scholarly value. Economists Tim Moore and Craig Garthwaite at the University of Maryland did a 50+ page scholarly county-by-county statistical analysis of how Oprah decided the 2008 Democratic primary by netting Obama approximately one million extra votes in that razor close contest.
In addition, there was a Yale study by sociologist Joshua Gamson who found that the tabloid talk show genre Oprah had popularized in the 1980s (before reinventing herself in the mid 1990s) did more to make gays mainstream than any other development of the 20th century.
And Oxford scholar Kathleen Rooney did a massive analysis of all the books Oprah selected for her book club & concluded that Oprah pioneered the use of electronic media to make literature accessible to the masses.
Oprah is quite simply the most influential woman to ever live, and she ALWAYS WILL BE. She invented confession culture & a touchy feely form of media communication. She's the ONLY truly original thinker in public life. The ONLY true genius I have ever seen.
And she has something all the staff at Newsweek doesnât have a clue about and thatâs TALENT. Sheâs sensational. She can make millions of people laugh, cry, get excited, get inspired, day after day, year after year, staying fresh and spontaneous decade after decade in an ultra competitive industry.
Newsweek is pulling out their hair in frustration that a black woman who had none of their connections, none of their social class, none of their fancy education, is raking in BILLIONS as the Queen of all Media. They canât beat her on talent, so they smear and discredit her using cherry picking, bias, & distortions. Humans are an ugly animal.
"Leave Britney Oprah alone!" [sniffle, whimper]
They canât beat her on talent, so they smear and discredit her using cherry picking, bias, & distortions. Humans are an ugly animal.
Some of us ugly animals are actually more concerned with the truth than with how artfully the wishful thinking is offered. Oprah's talent in presenting it has nothing whatever to do with the malignancy of her product. Nor does her gender, her skin colour, her political affiliations, etc. If she's peddling woo she's peddling woo. That she is good at it is actually why she's so dangerous.
Jake is right -- and I find that fact deeply saddening. Oprah culture, in which believing makes it so, is the dominant mode of thinking for many Americans. For Jake and millions like him, any proposition is judged not by whether it is true, but by how it makes you feel.
Jake, we're not saying she isn't talented or a great communicator or even a genius. Instead we lament that such a talented communicator is unable to distinguish between good sources of information and bad sources of information. Promoting Jenny McCarthy, Suzanne Somers, the Secret, these are examples yes, but of a pattern. It's not cherry-picking because it's consistent with this pattern, when she chooses medical expertise, she chooses poorly.
Her first assault on rationality was when she helped blame breast implants for auto-immune diseases in the 80s. Because of the suppor tof irrational arguments against them, silicone implants disappeared from the markets for over a decade, lawsuits ran amock, etc. Doctors at the time were saying it was ludicrous, the data did not support breast implants as a cause of these diseases. They were vindicated with time but Oprah had already succeeded in her campaign of misplaced blame.
It hasn't served her well all the time either. Like when she had an "expert" describe to her how meat was processed in the US. Sadly, it was mostly lies and inaccurate information, like saying we feed sick cattle back into the system (which has been banned for decades). She ended up getting sued in Texas, but being the media genius that she is she turned it into a PR campaign and won inside and outside the courts.
I don't doubt she's a genius, or that she has good intent. The problem with Oprah is that she is incompetent at evaluating scientific information, or judging expertise. So she falls for all the woo that comes down the pike - the Secret, anti-vax denialism, the breast implant nonsense, natural woo, miracle cures, etc. She's done a lot of good on a lot of topics, but she also is a vector for the spread of medical pseudoscience and misinformation, and that shouldn't be dismissed.
MarkH, I can't comment on the breast implants since that was before I watched her, but given that most of the criticism against her turns out to be exaggerated, Iâll take that with a grain of salt too.
Now as for the beef show she got sued for; itâs my understanding that the cattle feeding practice was changed and made safer following Oprahâs show. I canât state for certain without more research, but I suspect you are blaming her for actually do a good thing. While I believe one of her guests might have overstated his case, I believe the crux of his argument was valid.
And how does promoting the Secret demonstrate scientific incompetence? I suspect I could find a large number of empirical studies in peer reviewed academic journals showing that positive thinking has a myriad of positive benefits and that having an internal locus of control predicts better life outcomes. Now itâs true that the Secret may also make a few nutty claims here and there, but these are tangential. Oprah endorsed it for its central message. If she insisted that every single line of a book be endorsement worthy, sheâd never endorse anything.
Need something for that drool, Jake?
You sound like an offended fanboy/girl. This is why the celebrity culture is so dangerous. Yes, she's done good stuff. Does that outweigh the medical harm she is causing? I don't know, as this is very hard stuff to measure. She's put herself behind a lot of worthy causes, and thats great for her. But when it comes to medical harm, do we ignore all that because she's done good stuff?
I say no. As an extremely influential woman, she has a responsibility to her audience to get her facts straight. That she doesn't is morally repugnant. Does this mean we're calling her evil? By no means are we doing so. Newsweek, and co. like MarkH here, and Orac, and so on, are all pointing out that Oprah is doing something really, really bad here.
When someone is as influential as she is, she needs people to remind her to do the right thing.
So get over your celebrity worship there. She's making some serious mistakes, that have major repercussions on peoples lives. We have a moral responsibility to point this out. She's human, and hopefully, we can convince her she has made some dire mistakes.
Zeroth, you & Newsweek don't actually know if she's making a mistake. She's simply giving a voice to people who have been silenced by mainstream medicine. Are you saying that people like Jenny McCarthy, a loving mother of an autistic child with a sincere belief that some ingrediants in some vacines might make some contribution to autism should not be allowed to express her opinion on TV? I understand that McCarthy is not a scientist, but a lot of the people who have the scientific competence have been corrupted by the corporate interests who fund them, so they're not reliable sources either. The only way we'll get the complete truth is if we allow as many voices as possible.
Similarly, with Suzanne Sommers. Female health & well being has been neglected in the male dominated world of medicine. If people like Sommers don't draw attention to alternative ideas, who will?
Just because ideas might be wrong does not mean they should not be expressed. These are complex debates and I don't believe we'll know for another decade whether a lot of the medical ideas discussed on Oprah was good or bad. Science is constantly revising itself. Oprah doesn't mindlessly assume that the experts are always right. She's open minded enough to consider information from ALL sources.
And how does promoting the Secret demonstrate scientific incompetence? I suspect I could find a large number of empirical studies in peer reviewed academic journals showing that positive thinking has a myriad of positive benefits
"The Secret" is not merely saying "think positive", it literally says that by doing nothing but thinking "properly" you can directly alter physical reality through "thought vibrations". (And, of course, if bad things happen to you it's your own damn fault for thinking improperly.)As always you would be better served by actually finding out the facts rather than merely "suspecting" what science has to say.
CW, that's not Oprah's interpretation of the Secret nor how it was presented on her show. Oprah claims she's been applying the Secret long before the book was written and before she knew others had discovered the same concept by which she has lived her life. Obviously Oprah didn't get where she is by sitting around hoping & its absurd to suggest she would advocate such behavior. The whole argument against her Secret endorsement is a strawman.
And btw, Oprah has stated that she does not agree with EVERYTHING in the Secret, but she has enough respect for her viewers' intelligence to believe they will read it with a critical eye and only apply what works for them.
@Jake: The problem with an Oprah level celebrity providing a forum for anti-vax, anti-science nutjobs goes well beyond "debate". Oprah is actively promoting crap that gets people killed. Providing Jenny McCarthy with not just time on the Oprah show, but with *her own show* goes well beyond hosting a debate.
So far, I've got Appeal to Ignorance, Appeal to the False Middle, False Equivalency, and a massive Strawman Fallacy. Do I have Bingo yet?
Jake, try reading the information in my "about" tab above. There is a difference between denialism and debate. And there is a moral obligation when you have a loudspeaker to control who gets to stand in front of it.
I disagree that more voices are always better. Should Oprah give a venue for holocaust denial too? How about HIV/AIDS denialism? How about 9/11 conspiracism? Or tobacco denialism? Just because someone has an opinion, it doesn't mean it deserves to be endorsed by your messiah. These are pernicious ideas that cause harm, like when one of Oprah's audience decided to forgo breast cancer treatment because she watched Oprah's show on the Secret. Oprah did the right thing, and straightened her out, but how many other people bought into this nonsense that we didn't hear about? People with her power to communicate have a responsibility to avoid communicating misinformation, particularly information that is harmful to public health.
The Secret is another pernicious, nonsensical belief. It is magical thinking, and isn't mere "positive thinking". They actually believe they can change the fabric of the universe with thought. You may not want to believe this is the case, but read about it, it's what they believe.
Finally, she did not have any affect on beef processing. She, once again, let some lunatic on who described non-existent practices in food processing. She got called on it in a big way. It's bizarre that you think this means she changed beef processing for the better. It did not change, she merely was asked to stop maligning the food supply with her false experts.
So LanceR, just to be clear, are you saying that anyone who suspects there might be some hazards in some vaccines is so dangerous they should not be allowed to work in the media? Is the science behind vaccines so incredibly watertight that anyone who suspects there might be some danger is an anti-science nutcase, equivalent to a flat Earth believer? And btw, I don't think Jenny's show (if she ever gets one) will focus on vaccines.
CW, that's not Oprah's interpretation of the Secret nor how it was presented on her show.
Among other things Oprah's website currently features a page entitled "The Law of Attraction: Real-Life Stories". If there's anything there which says Oprah doesn't actually believe in or support the contents of those pages I cannot find it. Am I just to take your word for it? What then about the millions of people who you haven't explained this to? What do they believe it means that Oprah promotes this stuff? What do they believe it means when she gives Jenny McCarthy her own talk show?You may know "the truth", that Oprah really doesn't buy into the woo she brings into millions of living rooms every day, but clearly many, many people don't.
Mark H. I think the media should allow a forum to ALL of the ideas you mentioned as long as there's an audience for it. I believe truth always wins out in the end & that the solution to bad speech is more speech, not silencing people.
As for the beef issue, I remember quite clearly seeing an episode of 20/20 in the late 1990s where they stated that following Oprah's show, the practice of feeding ground up cattle to other cattle was banned. You may want to verify if I'm right about that.
CW, you're too worried about Oprah's mostly soccer mom audience being too dumb to examine the ideas she discusses with a critical eye. I think you underestimate the intelligence of Oprah's audience & the intelligence of the American people. Americans are SMART. Thanks to your high standard of living, the average American has a much better nourished brain than much of the world & Americans also enjoy a very high average level of education, literacy & media sophistication. Anyone too dumb to apply Oprah's guidance constructively, probably wouldn't be interested in self-help to begin with. There might be a few isolated cases where her advice is misapplied, but this is true of all media.
I think you underestimate the intelligence of Oprah's audience & the intelligence of the American people. Americans are SMART.
Actually I am concerned with the critical thinking abilities of Oprah's audience, and of Americans in general as well as with their willingness to Follow. And, yes, I am very concerned about that. While they may, in fact, be smart, they are not, on the whole, nearly skeptical (or nearly informed) enough.
I believe truth always wins out in the end & that the solution to bad speech is more speech, not silencing people.
Ah, so you're another one of these people who believes in entitled speech, rather than free speech. You think that just any nutcase with an axe to grind -- whether or not their claims have anything whatsoever to do with reality -- is entitled to representation in the media, and that the media collectively has no responsibility whatsoever (to the public or anybody else) to ensure that the content it provides over the public airwaves is factual and ethical. I see.
Now, if the government were outright banning any kind of speech from occurring in the public square, that would be an infringement of free speech, but requiring the media to give space to every view in cases where the views are factual or nonfactual is just asking for a crank subsidy. Simply because you have come up with the Unified Theory of Time, Space, Consciousness and Left Thumbs doesn't mean that the major networks are obliged to do anything other than tear up your press releases.
Granted, they don't do a very good job at the moment of making sure that the information they present is actually factual, and doesn't present the nonfactual case overmuch (one commenter at Balloon Juice remarked the other day -- "The modern media would give 10 000 experts and 9 kooks the same amount of airtime"), but hypothetically speaking, in a perfect world, yes, the media has a responsibility to present accurate, factual information instead of harmful superstition, and Oprah, being the captain of her own media juggernaut, fails at this miserably.
Given that Oprah was pushing her germophobia on the public years and years and years ago, I have to wonder how many strains of drug-resistant bugs there are out there now, simply because Oprah's terrified of disease...
Jake@20: strawman fallacy. That's not what I said, and you know it. And, yes. The science of vaccines really is that tight, especially in regards to autism. Look it up for yourself.
Jake@22: "We report, you decide", except when we *outright lie* and proactively prevent opposing information from getting heard. Also, strawman fallacy. Nobody is suggesting "silencing" anyone. We are criticizing Oprah for allowing her star power to be used by every quack and nutjob with a book to sell.
Jake@23: "People are smart" fallacy. People don't have time to learn everything about everything. That is why we *have* experts. This is the classic flaw in libertarianism, too. The mythical "informed consumer". When Oprah allows her bully pulpit to be used to promote garbage, in the face of evidence that it *is* garbage, then she is inviting criticism.
Do we have another contestant for the Trollympics(tm)? I'm seeing some real resistance to reality here.
Jake: "You may want to verify if I'm right about that"
You've got it backwards. The way it's supposed to work is *you* check your sources *before* you start talking. You seem to have made the same mistake that Oprah makes.
I'm not saying the media has a responsibility to represent all ideas, but they also don't have a responsibility to censor ideas. Censoring lies is one thing, but Jenny McCarthy is not telling lies, she's just reached a different conclusion from mainstream scientists (many of whom are funded by corporations). I agree it's dangerous to let non-scientists shoot their mouths off about science, but it's also dangerous to ban non-scientists from TV because they too might have something to contribute to the national debate, especially if they have personal experience (a son with autism) and since unlike many scientists, McCarthy is not being funded by those with vested corporate interst in the vaccine debate. I will concede though that if Oprah has her on to discuss autism again, she should be balanced by a mainstream expert.
Carl Sagan once said (approximately) "Intelligence is abundant in the human species. It is critical thinking that is in short supply." Jake is now about the business of demonstrating that remark's continuing relevance.
To make an informed decision about something like vaccines, you need to evaluate sources, balance risks, avoid intellectual shortcuts,and be wary of anecdotal evidence. Those are the skills Oprah lacks and that Jenny McCarthy holds in open contempt. And it is that lack and that contempt that make uncritical thinkers easy prey for the Geiers of this world.
So LanceR, just to be clear, are you saying that anyone who suspects there might be some hazards in some vaccines is so dangerous they should not be allowed to work in the media? Is the science behind vaccines so incredibly watertight that anyone who suspects there might be some danger is an anti-science nutcase, equivalent to a flat Earth believer? And btw, I don't think Jenny's show (if she ever gets one) will focus on vaccines.
In a word, yes. Science has moved beyond those suspicions, and has done so on a rational manner, notwithstanding those who accuse scientists of various biases.
Science looked at the early studies that posited a link and did what it always does with new information. It asked questions. Here are three of them:
1) Can we reproduce the results from the studies? The answer was a resounding No!
2) Is the mechanism proposed a plausible one, given what we currently know about biology and chemistry. Again, the answer was No!
3) Is there another explanation for the results that is more plausible than the one proposed? The answer was Yes! The explanation at the time was probable contamination in the laboratory (talking of the Wakefield study), since that lab was known to have contamination problems. It's only recently that we learned of the real explanation -- complete and total dishonesty by Wakefield and some of his associates.
You don't think that Jenny's show will focus on vaccines? Well, perhaps not every episode -- others may focus on her son's poop or on the necessity for Botox.
On the "Secret" thing. The "power of positive thinking" is nothing new -- Norman Vincent Peale published in 1952. What's objectionable in "The Secret" is that it goes far beyond positive thinking, into magical and wishful thinking. If you recall the story of the Little Engine Who Could, that engine used positive thinking to overcome an obstacle -- but it still did the work as well. "The Secret" is "sit back, if you think good thoughts, you'll get what you want." Of course, if it fails, and you don't get what you want, then you didn't think hard enough, or well enough.
But enough of that. You're expending too much energy on us -- sit back and wish that we would all go away. If we don't, then it's your fault for not thinking positively enough!
Jake.. This is the only country where "most" of the people in it claim to believe in angels, most of them think evolution doesn't happen, where someone like Hovind can build a dino-museum that looks like its based on Hanna Barabara's Flintstones, and people praise them for it, and a whole host of other stupidities. To quote House, "People are idiots.", and the US, once they realized that science wouldn't "instantly" solve every single problem in the universe, over night, as was believed in the 50s, had a backlash against it, and critical thinking. We are now more concerned with being Rosie O'Donals than Einsteins. No one gives a frack if their kids, for the most part, know "how" to solve problems, or evaluate evidence, they just want them to get "good grades", and even the tests used to determine this are based on "remembering" facts, not on "using them", or figuring anything out.
Truth is, most people don't even have what I would consider a highschool education, even the ones that took college courses, because, if you ask them about nearly any fracking subject they supposedly learned in highschool, unless it is what ever they got their degree in, and even some times if it is, they don't understand "any" of it. History? Lots of Ben Steins in the US, who, as someone put it, if asked what color Spiro Agnew's underwear was, would be able to tell you both the color, an how many pairs, but when asked something about any other country, would pull a Palin and say that the president of France was Iranastan. Math.. Forget it. Most of them can't count change, never mind do actual math. Science... The flower children all grew up and are now selling stuff as miracle cures that isn't covered by the FDA at all, and which can contain anything from none, to 10 times the daily dose of things that you may or may not need to take at all. In some cases, they even buy and sell things from out of country, which, until it kills someone, we know even less about, and, in one case, included Chinese "supplements", which contained copycat pharmaceuticals, some of them in doses 4 times what was considered "dangerous and potentially lethal". But, they all listen to the "experts" on this stuff, which usually means some moron with a book and a "health food" shop, that is so fracking clueless that they carry 10 supplements for "heart health", most of which either don't do anything, or could hurt your heart, if taken with other things, yet "don't" carry the one single "natural" heart medication that has been used since the Roman Empire, Violet Extract. Note, they people that do use it? Doctors, who use a synthetic version, where they can be 100% certain of how much dosage you receive, while the real thing can change based on everything from when/how you picked them, to how they where dried, to the soil conditions, to even what the whether was like that year.
People that know what the frack they are doing are "all" lumped in as "working for big pharma/business", even when they are some professor making almost nothing at some college some place, with no connections at all to business. But, every moron and nut that has magic magnets, some undefined "supplement", which doesn't even match the "known" effects of the stuff in it, or goofball peddling pop-psychology woo, has "only our best interest in mind". By that logic, no one should be buying viagra, or cold medicine, but everyone should be buying fracking Extenze and Airborne, because the "experts" selling the former are all liars, while the later, despite being sued, sometimes by multiple states, for everything from false advertising, to claims that they did non-existent research at non-existent facilities, after the supplements where invented by "non-existent" people, are all just trying to "help people".
No, the simple truth is, in the US, altie medicine, which includes things like palm readings, psychic investigation, etc., has always been a multi-million dollar industry itself. Its also been almost entirely *unregulated*, and every dime it makes can and does go to making more BS products, and making the people selling it rich. Unlike "Big Pharma", which spends probably 25% of everything it makes **trying** to make sure its products a) actually do something, and b) won't kill you, before they can even "sell" them.
The real problem is that, to compete with the snake oil salesmen, they have started to resort to the same stupid TV advertisement tactics. I.e., don't let your "doctor" figure out what you need, ask them about "X", and if it would be good for you. But, what do you expect, when they have to compete with all those "well meaning", "poor", altie med people, who somehow manage to run 10,000 a minute advertisements, often 2-3 times an hour, on the same TV. In point of fact, the alties probably get shown 2-3 times as often. Must be a multi-billion dollar business now, to afford to do that...
You honestly think all these people shoveling BS at us are making no money, and don't have an interest in robbing you more than companies that "must" follow standards and practices? And then, as I said, there are the millions of badly, but overeducated, "idiots" that buy their products, because they can't tell the difference between fake and real products, or worse, they actually think that thousands of snake oil salesmen are "more honest" than people with a dozen federal agencies, 10+ years of required research into the safety and effectiveness of their products, and how **actually can be put out of business by a lawsuit**. You know.. Unlike Airborne, which lost two major cases, and still sells their's, or enzyte, which briefly stopped their sales, only to a) branch off the extenze brand of the same BS, and then b) later start selling the original product again.
That is what you don't seem to get. If its "Big Pharma", and it doesn't work, or its dangerous, you **can't** sell it. If its altie crap, all you do is repackage it, or change the label, so it doesn't say some things you are not allowed to, then go right on selling it, even if it a) doesn't work, or b) its sometimes dangerous. At most, all you might be required to do is say, "Don't take it with X, which can maybe hurt you."
I repeat, "people are idiots". And, the US has, since it abandoned "science" as a *fast* solution to problems, is racing around looking for every other "super fast" solution it can find. We are so obsessed with getting things "now", we are not willing to accept that something can't be done "now". And, that is what Oprah and those like her peddle, "Instant solutions, just add water!".
Censoring lies is one thing, but Jenny McCarthy is not telling lies, she's just reached a different conclusion from mainstream scientists (many of whom are funded by corporations)
Jenny McCarthy claimed the MMR vaccine caused her son's seizures. She relates that he was at least two years old when he had his first seizure, yet the MMR is given at about 15 months. That is a consider time span between cause and effect.
Plus, she keeps claiming he is cured, yet then claims she is starting a new treatment for him!
If she is not a liar, she seems to have a very bad memory!
I will concede though that if Oprah has her on to discuss autism again, she should be balanced by a mainstream expert.
I would agree with you on this, with one caveat: the time each spends on camera talking should be proportional to the amount of actual evidence that supports their position.
But I'm not sure Jen can keep her mouth shut for a whole hour.
Oh, and Kagehi wins the thread! +2 Internets!
Jenny McCarthy is not telling lies
Is there antifreeze in vaccines, then?
I'm not saying the media has a responsibility to represent all ideas, but they also don't have a responsibility to censor ideas. Censoring lies is one thing, but Jenny McCarthy is not telling lies, she's just reached a different conclusion from mainstream scientists (many of whom are funded by corporations).
No, Jenny McCarthy has reached amazingly, idiotically, outrageously wrong conclusions:
As for Oprah's crankery, check out this post from a good "friend" of mine:
Racism! Racism! Racism!
Uh Uh Uh...oh no you didn't!
I acknowledge upfront that I'm a terrible, miserable, horrible person, a dreadful excuse for a human being, a big bad meanie, and an utter waste of protoplasm.
That said, I've felt for years that autism would be *my* immediate and self-defending response to finding out that Jenny McCarthy was my parent.
If it's one day proven that one of Oprah's controversial guests (Suzanne Sommers, Jenny McCarthy) is actually correct and the mainstream scientists are wrong, will you guys be man enough to apologize for the crap you've posted?
If it's one day proven that one of Oprah's controversial guests (Suzanne Sommers, Jenny McCarthy) is actually correct and the mainstream scientists are wrong, will you guys be man enough to apologize for the crap you've posted?
Absolutely!* And that is the whole point. Where the evidence leads, science follows. Jenny McCarthy, on the other hand, sticks to her anti-vax position despite the volumes of evidence which directly contradict her. Folks like Oprah call that the "courage of her convictions" and "standing up to the scientific establishment" and other such utter nonsense.
*I ignored the whole misogynistic "man enough" bit, wasn't that generous of me?
Oprah, in a completely different topic showed her credulity. Before the invasion and occupation of Iraq [oct 2002], she had on guests, including Kenneth Pollack and Chalabi's chief flunky, who absolutely assured that we were in danger from Iraqi WMD's and the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators. An audience member who asked skeptical questions about the issue was patronizingly put down by the host. clip here. And she had a brief clip from Scott Ritter for "balance".
Interestingly, in later programs just before the war, Oprah did show skepticism about war being the best answer on one program and had another about possible negative effects to America's international standing.
If it's one day proven that one of Oprah's controversial guests (Suzanne Sommers, Jenny McCarthy) is actually correct
How can it be shown that the MMR caused seizures at least six months to a year after it was given?
Do vaccines contain anti-freeze?
If McCarthy's son is cured, why is she pushing new treatments on him?
I think we are confusing cause and effect here. The reason that Oprah is so famous, rich, and powerful and popular is precisely because she panders to the prejudices of stupid people (said prejudice being that they don't like hard-to-understand ideas).
That's how she became popular. If she were to do as you ask, her faithful audience would go elsewhere.
Oh, and as for the whole media/free speech thing: yes, the whole point of having a government is to secure the common good, and this absolutely involeves curtailing abuses of power - whether physical, economic, or the power of fame - that compromise the common good. That this power was acquired by legal means is quite beside the point.
Your article regarding bio-identical hormone replacement is an example of the typical bullshit coming from the medical community. While you give "props to Dr. Oz," have you checked into his opinion on hormone replacement? Apparently not, because he agrees with the use of bio-identicals for women, like me, who have benefited greatly from it.
My MD prescribed Premarin, despite that I have a uterus, and without any hormone testing. After I researched Premarin and learned that it could cause uterine cancer, I went to another doctor who prescribed Prempro (again without hormone testing.) After two months of this horrible medication, which thrust me into the darkest period of my life, I stopped taking it, against my MD's advise.
After years of research, I have now found a very knowledge MD who has prescribed bio-identicals and it has saved my life. I feel better than I have felt in 20 years!!!!
The reason there is no "raging debate" in the medical community about hormone replacement is because there is no money in it for big pharm or MDs. Hormone replacement is not a "one pill fits all" issue and one must find an MD that will perform the proper testing and work closely with the woman to "tweek" the dosages based upon her needs. It is an exhaustive process and most of you that took the oath to "first do no harm," do not want to take the time to deal with us!!!!
Hopefully, as more female MDs reach middle age, this issue will come to the fore and you people who espouse the "party line" of big pharm. will see the light! If not, we activist women will just have to take care of ourselves.
Women have been indispensable to the medical profession for decades. Ask yourself, how much research had been done on breast cancer before women became activists? How much research has been done on women and heart disease?....very little.
Perhaps before you criticize that about which you obviously know nothing, maybe you should do a bit more research yourself!! After all, is that not exactly your criticism of Oprah?
Natural Cynic, Oprah did more to try to stop the war in Iraq than anyone else in mainstream American media. Yes itâs true that at first she was a bit clueless about the whole subject (sheâs an entertainer not a journalist) and a little cowardly about allowing dissent, but once she had a chance to learn both sides of the issue, she was BRILLIANT. On page 87 of âDude Whereâs My Countryâ Michael Moore praised Oprah for a Nov 2002 show where she was the only person in U.S. media to release footage exposing Donald Rumsfeldâs cozy relationship with Sadam Hussein in the 1980s. But most importantly, the day after Colin Powellâs pivotal Feb 5, 2003 speech, which decisively made the case for war, Oprah had the presence of mind and courage to run a TWO DAY anti-war show in which she recruited broadcasters from CNN to get footage from all over the world of everyday people begging America not to go to war, and also interviewed the founders of Patriots for Peace. You can see part of the show here.
In fact the show was so anti-war, at a time when the rest of the media was praising Powellâs UN speech that there was a press conference held by Bush & Powell at the time of the show that some suspect was intended to block part of the show from airing in some markets.
But if all that wasnât impressive enough, just 48 hours before the war occurred, Oprah featured Michael Moore making a last minute attempt to stop the war in Iraq.
Oprah may promote nonsense when it comes to trivial things, but on the most important issues of the late 20th century (equality for gays) & the 21st century (the war in Iraq, the election of Obama) Oprah was WAY ahead of the rest of the American media.
Oh Jake... looks like you've given up trying to argue for the "brave" people fighting the establishment.
Just because she did some really awesome stuff, doesn't mean she gets off scot-free for all the anti-science stuff. Anti-vax harms children. I can even prove it to you. Vaccinations are for things like the mumps(can cause brain damage, deafness, blindness), pertussis(aka whooping cough, which has a higher rate of death than the chance of a child being autistic), and so on. If a child is not vaccinated for any of these diseases, they have a chance of catching them. Once they've caught the disease, they have a chance of the negative side-effects. How did they get the side-effects? Because they didn't get vaccinated.
Another point I'd like to make, is that while McCarthy's situation is sympathetic, having an autistic child is not the end of the world. It can be hard, but I have friends of the family with autistic children, and after watching those children grow up, they, and I, would never want those children "cured". Yes, they are different, but its not like they're being tortured. To act with such revulsion and fear of autism speaks leagues towards the parents who do autistic children, and to the autistic children themselves. I know one autistic boy, Danny, when he heard that vaccines cause autism, and this worried people, he asked me, "Why are people afraid of autism? I'm happy. No reason to be afraid."
Frankly, Jake, you sicken me for your paranoia about scientists. I guess you don't have a family doctor, a dentist? Have you ever taken medicine? OH NO, you've just given money to big pharma! YOU BAD BAD MAN!
I can be just as unreasonable as you. Can you be as reasonable as me?
I'm not going to get into it with you about vaccines or anything like that. I have strong opinions on that, but they're not relevant to the censorship issue that's been raised, and I think free speech is far more important than vaccines in any case.
I'm not saying the media has a responsibility to represent all ideas, but they also don't have a responsibility to censor ideas.
You are right -- the media has no responsibility to censor ideas. They can print whatever they damn well like, as long as it's not actually libel or a threat to someone's well-being. (Printing death threats is not acceptable, obviously.) That said, there is a thing called "journalistic integrity" that used to be held in very high regard. It was what separated "real" newspapers from tabloids. No law can adjudicate it; that's the responsibility (and decision) of the news agencies themselves. Today, we are seeing major changes in how journalistic integrity gets applied, as the shift to Internet-based media forces the old, traditional new sources to find new ways to sustain themselves. Some have stooped to tabloid journalism, which has less integrity (and therefore hurts their image) but tends to sell more reliably with less cost. (This is the area where Oprah operates, and she is extremely good at it. Please not that "tabloid" does not mean "made up". It just means they have lower standards of integrity, and tend to look to their bottom line rather than an ethics guideline.) Others are folding. Others are managing to squeak by. Time will tell how it all pans out.
But however it turns out, one thing will be true: failure to print an idea is not censorship. If the Associated Press does not see fit to put up somebody's Holocaust-denial, flat-earth manifesto on their wire, that doesn't mean they're censoring the idea. It means they're choosing not to print it. In the day of the Blogosphere, it is increasingly difficult to claim that an idea is being censored merely because some newspaper already struggling to keep itself afloat without sacrificing its dignity decided not to waste space on it. If you've got a revolutionary new idea that you think the mainstream is ignoring, you can print it yourself practically for free. And you have a pretty good chance of acquiring a respectable audience for that belief. Time was, you had to go to AM radio and maybe infomercials for that kind of a platform, and those cost more money (even in those days) than blogs do today.
I think the single greatest thing about this country is the freedom of speech. I will argue passionately for it to the end of my days. But never, ever confuse freedom of speech with the freedom to compel somebody to print whatever you think is best, and never, ever confuse editorial license with censorship. If you have freedom of speech, then surely various media entities of the world also have freedom to decide what they want to say. And the responsibility that comes with that freedom, to whit, their name is attached to it. Oprah likes to hide behind her guests, deflecting criticism by saying that she isn't endorsing anything and you should complain to the guest if you have a problem with it. But she did choose to show that segment, and so her name is associated with it.
She feels she has no responsibility for what she says. She takes the freedom but dismisses the responsibility. To me, that says all I need to know about her journalistic integrity -- she clearly has none.
Calli Arcale you're being a hypocrite. It's easy to support freedom of speech if you demand that only the ideas you like should be given a megaphone. And just because Oprah allows anyone a forum does not mean she's endorsing their view point or lacks journalistic integrity. Does the local library endorse every book it has? It's providing them a platform? Asking Oprah to ban certain guests from appearing on her show because their ideas are "dangerous" makes you no better than the creationists who demanded Darwin's work be banned from the library.
Milly, the difference is that we have scientific proof of the validity or lack thereof of their arguments. By showing their arguments have no scientific validity, we can examine the implications of what they are saying, and what can result from applying those beliefs, which is what they are, versus the science, and the benefits of the science.
This is very different from creationists wanting to ban Darwin's works. Besides, evolution has moved on from Darwin. It doesn't matter if his works get banned, there are much more recent, and better books on evolution. ;)
The difference here, which makes it a strawman argument, is that banning books has not much of an impact, and the creationists have no scientific basis for their opinions; we do.
Again, its not about censorship, its about responsibility. I consider every child that dies of a disease they could have been vaccinated against as dying because of Oprah. It is her fault; she has the responsibility to ensure her actions do not have negative consequences, especially foreseeable consequences.
Zeroth, for someone who has so much respect for the scientific method, thatâs a pretty irrational thing to say. Thereâs no statistical evidence that Oprahâs one interview with McCarthy caused the anti-vax hysteria or even largely contributed to it, especially since Oprah herself never endorsed McCarthyâs views.
Iâm not trying to defend McCarthy. For all I know she could be as ignorant & dangerous as you say. However itâs also possible that scientific studies debunking McCarthyâs theories are wrong too. Not just because the scientists fear offending the people funding them & their universities, but because scientifically itâs extremely difficult to disprove McCarthyâs theory because autism is extremely rare so its hard to get statistically significant samples, especially if the effect size is tiny, and especially because autism is difficult to objectively and reliably diagnose. Any study rejecting McCarthyâs claims risks being a Type II error.
But at the same time, I do agree that Oprah has a responsibility to question McCarthy more aggressively if they ever decided to discuss this issue again. McCarthy does need to be rigorously questioned about the evidence for her claims, though banning her from TV goes too far, because all legitimate sincerely held views (even dangerous views) need to be heard, and there are some scientists who agree with McCarthy.
You're forgetting that Oprah signed McCarthy up for a show, where undoubtedly there will be further talk about anti-vax.
I'm not an expert on medicine, biology, or immunology. Instead, I rely on people like Mark, Orac, and others. I look at their arguments, I look at the quality of the arguments. I have good experience debunking political ideology, and tearing apart erroneous tech arguments, as those are the areas I actually have a bit of knowledge in. The simple fact is, the anti-vax people use fear, and they manipulate emotions. They also treat autism as a horror, and all of this makes me feel that they're trying to trick me, manipulate me.
People like Mark, and co. aren't trying anything like that. They make assertions, prove their point, they don't insult me, they don't manipulate me, nothing like that. I respect their arguments, and tend to believe them, as I've seen them have the humility to accept when they are wrong.
Anti-vax is dangerous. The risks of the diseases logically outweigh any supposed risk of autism. But as has been said before, we don't handle risk well. It is riskier to drive a car, than to ride in an airplane. But more people are afraid of flying, than of driving.
I've noticed you've been changing your argument Jake, because at the start of this, you were going off about connections to big companies. Do you honestly believe that those connections, if they existed, would be strong enough to prevent every single doctor from speaking out if they had evidence? This fails the basic test of possibility, unless you are so jaded and cynical to believe it. Now you're actually using a real, valid argument, about Type II errors. But again, we can check for this. Is it possible for many multiple studies, of differing designs, differing doctors, differing sample sizes, to ALL have Type II errors? Basic probability theory shows the odds of that happening to be about... 0.00[24 more zeroes]9% chance(Assuming 95% CI for each study, and approximately 20 studies. It could be more, it could be less.).
Basically, I have responsibility that what I say is correct. This goes doubly if I am a doctor or a lawyer advising someone. Even more so if I'm an engineer. But if I'm a celebrity, or a media person, I have no responsibility, despite the fact many factors more people listen and are affected by my words and actions? Somethings wrong here...
To be perfectly blunt, Jake, horseshit.
There is not one. single. shred. of. evidence. The best argument *against* McCarthy's argument is that autism rates are similar between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
She is insane.
You may have a hardon for Oprah, and that's okay. But when you start to ignore reality for your obssession, that is not okay.
Is this simple enough for you? The possibility of all the studies on vaccines being wrong is roughly akin to the possibility that giant space marshmallows spewed their gooey insides on us last Thursday, causing the world to spring into being with all our memories perfectly formed.
It's batshit crazy.
Zeroth, Iâm not suggesting that scientists who have strong evidence supporting McCarthy would keep silent, however strong evidence is rare in science. Iâd be more concerned about all the scientists who have weak evidence who donât bother publishing their studies because theyâre not willing to risk losing funding, losing status in their corporate funded universities, not to mention risk being publicly ridiculed, and risk causing anti-vax hysteria all to publish a study theyâre not all that confident in.
Also, your argument about the rarity of Type II errors on multiple studies becomes much less convincing if the effect size is small because small effect sizes require far more statistical power to detect.
McCarthy is arguing that the ingredients in some vaccines are one of only many, many variables that contribute to autism; sheâs not arguing theyâre the sole cause or even a major cause. The contribution they may make could be so small that it would require an incredibly large sample to reject the null hypothesis with 95% certainty and getting large enough samples when autism is so rare may not be feasible; and even if it were, the study could still incorrectly fail to reject the null hypothesis because of uncontrolled dosage levels, uncontrolled vaccination schedules, unreliable and uncontrolled methods of diagnosing autism, and non-random assignment of people to experimental and control groups (following a correct experimental design may not even be possible for ethical reasons).
Because Type II errors are so hard to avoid it often takes the scientific community decades to get to the truth, with large bodies of empirical literature being overturned when subtle systematic flaws in the research are later discovered.
LanceR, the evidence for McCarthyâs perspective is simply the observations of many, many mothers who noticed an abrupt change in their children after vaccinations. This evidence is of limited scientific value, but all theories have to start somewhere.
To be clear, Iâm not saying McCarthyâs right. She might be every bit as crazy as you say. I am simply cautioning against an over reliance on the conventional scientific wisdom because the great thing about science is that it's constantly correcting itself.
Now, you actually have a very valid point. This something worth debating, but I don't have any of the knowledge necessary. I have the basic knowledge of statistics required to understand what you are talking about, but I don't know the studies, so I can't debate them.
I would like to ask, though, for some proof to back up your claim of "Because Type II errors are so hard to avoid it often takes the scientific community decades to get to the truth, with large bodies of empirical literature being overturned when subtle systematic flaws in the research are later discovered."
Usually, the empirical literature that gets thrown out, iirc, is because the science was bad. This is because of bias, and beliefs distorting the results of the research. Its like the 'scientist' in the 1900's whom claimed that black people had smaller braincases, except he wasn't doing his measurements right. He was found to be pushing beans, his measurement tool of choice, as hard as possible into white skulls, and with no pressure or force into black skulls, to prove his hypothesis.
Science has improved dramatically since then.
The thing is, the mother's observations have been analyzed, and it is simply confirmation bias. The mothers were already anxious because of the crying of the baby, and then any observed behavioural change afterwards, and a positive diagnosis of autism, creates a link in the mother's brain, where there really is none.
Video tapes of the children before vaccinations were analyzed by psychologists, and they were found to be exhibiting symptoms of autism before any vaccines were administered.
Most telling of McCarthy's "evidence" is that her son began showing signs of autism about 8-12 months after his vaccinations. This is an extremely tenuous link to make in the first place.
By understanding the psychology of the motivations behind anti-vax, one begins to see two factions, both united. One, that is worried, pained, and wanting to blame someone; and the other faction wanting to make a profit off of this blame and worry. We have a tendency to try to find a pattern, an explanation when bad things happen. We also tend to blame others for our misfortune. There are further complex and variable motivations and causes to the fear. But by analyzing the fear, and where it comes from, it becomes pretty hard to give any credence to their argument.
Take a look at this press release from the first study to find a "link": http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/MMR-Vaccine-May-Be-A-Reason-B…
Read that, no control groups. Bad science right there.
Zeroth, science gets overturned not so much because the scientists did a poor job, but because the scientific method is an ideal that is very difficult to attain in practice because there are so many confounding variables that are so hard to control, so ideal experimental designs are never realized forcing scientists through no fault of their own to settle for quasi-experimental designs.
With respect to your example of race and brain case, that's an area of research where the conventional wisdom was overturned, and then the overturning was overturned, and then the overturning of the overturned was overturned etc. This is to be expected because when comparing races on physical traits its extremely difficult to get a random sample of an entire human race, define membership in that race objectively, and obtain reliable measurements, control for confounding variables like nutrition, and if the effect size is tiny (i.e. a difference of one cubic centimeter) sample sizes would need to be huge to reject the null hypothesis with 95% certainty.
Research suggests that while autism is mostly genetic, there is still some environmental contribution. Because environmental effects are so small it is extremely difficult to isolate them scientifically, as environmental effects on mental traits tend to consist of a great many diverse and uncorrelated micro environmental effects that differ even among full siblings raised in the same family. Each environmental effect explains such a small portion of the variation in the phenotype that many may never be identified. We know so little about autism that it just doesnât make sense to be dogmatic about what the causes are, though it is important to avoid creating hysteria.
I hope Jenny McCarthy takes all her energy, passion and resources and uses it to help fund more research on autism in peer reviewed academic journals. That would be a more productive than speculating in the media.
"Zeroth, Iâm not suggesting that scientists who have strong evidence supporting McCarthy would keep silent, however strong evidence is rare in science. Iâd be more concerned about all the scientists who have weak evidence who donât bother publishing their studies because theyâre not willing to risk losing funding, losing status in their corporate funded universities, not to mention risk being publicly ridiculed, and risk causing anti-vax hysteria all to publish a study theyâre not all that confident in."
This is BS. If evidence is strong enough, and the study's well designed, it's going to be published. If the evidence is so weak that they can't get it published, then it's no better than speculation anyways. Besides, don't you think that if anyone had stronger evidence than Wakefield that supported a connection, they would spoken up by now? It's not like there's a lack of studies on possible connections between vaccines and autism, unless you're complaining about the lack of competent studies that support a connection? Also:
"Because environmental effects are so small it is extremely difficult to isolate them scientifically, as environmental effects on mental traits tend to consist of a great many diverse and uncorrelated micro environmental effects that differ even among full siblings raised in the same family. Each environmental effect explains such a small portion of the variation in the phenotype that many may never be identified. We know so little about autism that it just doesnât make sense to be dogmatic about what the causes are, though it is important to avoid creating hysteria."
If the effect of vaccines on the rate of autism is so small that the previous studies couldn't pick up on it, then it's still best for everyone who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated.
Thank you Clay for pointing out the major fallacy in Jake's argument. If the effect is so small, then it can be considered a significantly smaller risk than death from the diseases.
Pertussis: 3% death rate
Measles: 0.03% Death rate with health care
Mumps: Pancreatitis in about 4% of cases,
Encephalitis (very rare, and fatal in about 1% of the cases when it occurs)
Profound (91 dB or more) but rare sensorineural hearing loss, uni- or bilateral. Acute unilateral deafness occurs in about 0.005% of cases.
Even just from three diseases, that is a fairly high risk, at least compared to any suspected risk of autism, if the child does not already have it. This is the real issue. If there is a link, its so small as to be negligible, whereas the risk of death from these diseases is well-known. But people don't handle risk well.
But risks are individual so one size fits all advice does not always work. If you have a history of autism in your family and your child is thus already genetically predisposed to have autism, the risk of a hypothetical vaccine that increases the risk by even a tiny percent might not be worth taking. Another unproven possibility is that children may be born on the autistic spectrum, but some vaccines affect how far on the spectrum they end up. This would make the studies especially difficult to interpret if the researchers are treating autism as a discrete variable instead of a continuous one.
If you have a history of autism in your family and your child is thus already genetically predisposed to have autism, the risk of a hypothetical vaccine that increases the risk by even a tiny percent might not be worth taking. Another unproven possibility is that children may be born on the autistic spectrum, but some vaccines affect how far on the spectrum they end up.
There have been several large epidemiological studies done in several countries that including hundreds of thousands of children that showed there is no casual link between autism and vaccines. Some are listed here: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf (real science, not mommy science).
Plus there is real evidence that when vaccination go down, the diseases return. Measles is now endemic in the UK with more than one child dying, and several becoming permanently disabled. Mumps returned to the American Midwest in 2006 and at least four people lost their hearing (by the way, Zeroth, since Japan has made mumps vaccination voluntary, a small office study has shown it causes deafness at about one in thousand cases, An office-based prospective study of deafness in mumps.). Pertussis is coming back with a vengeance, and so is the very scary Hib --- with the deaths of real children in the USA, and causing permanent disability in many more.
Jake, you are pushing a silly straw man. Also, I am still waiting for an answer on how a vaccine that McCarthy's son got at age 15 months caused seizures more than a year later!
The science has been done, the link between vaccines and autism does not exist. It is a dead linkâ¦ âItâs not pininâ! âItâs passed on! This link is no more! It has ceased to be! Itâs expired and gone to meet its maker! Itâs a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadnât nailed it to the perch itâd be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now âistory! Itâs off the twig! Itâs kicked the bucket, itâs shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedinâ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-LINK!! â (hat-tip to Monty Python and the dead parrot sketch)
Chris, thanks for the links. I'll have to read them. But for an alternative perspective, you may wish to read this:
Um, yeah... Jake? Robert Kennedy is not exactly a good source. Pretty much anything from the Huffington Post is going to be questionable scientifically. And I'm not sure that court case says what you think it says. Pretty much every other link I can find says "Vaccine Court Rejects Autism - Vaccine Link". The only people who claim the opposite are the lawyers for the family, and well-known cranks like Kennedy.
This is what is known as "Cherry-Picking".
And "Statism Watch"? Srsly?
Jake, next time you need medical care, call your nearest lawyer. Obviously since you cite Robert Kennedy, Jr, you must assume that a JD in Law gives someone higher medical/science qualifications than an MD in Medicine.
Chris I cited the article because it claims to inform us how the courts have ruled where both sides, I presume, used scientists as experts. If the courts got it wrong (and courts do get a lot of things wrong), then that's a travesty of justice and I'm very sorry that it happened.
Science is decided in a court of law.
Jake, your argument falls down when you assume that better decisions come out of more talk. They don't. In a complex world all that nutcases need to do to win is to get exposure and spread confusion. If someone believes nuclear waste should be added to babyfood the appropriate response is not to give the one glowinthedarkian on the planet equal airtime with the other 6 billion - 1 of us. If you feel the need to discuss it at all the fact that this is a wacko idea with very little support needs to be made clear. In scientific debate this is especially the case as a lay audience relies upon the media to filter the cranks so that the people we see debating are the best in their field and genuinely trying to reach a conclusion on the evidence available. The views of some celebrity with an axe to grind should have very little to do with it, good media that it is. Makes money for Opera Inc - but at the expense of dead children.