Vox responds

A few days ago, I fisked the antivaccination posturings of a certain "Libertarian Christian commenator" regarding the Geiers' claim that mercury in the thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is a major cause of autism. Many of the comments predicted that Vox wouldn't respond. (Personally, I was hoping that he would but, based on his nonresponse to my earlier fisking of his antivaccination nonsense, figured that he probably wouldn't.)

Guess what? He actually did respond. Although I don't want this to turn into a prolonged blog exchange, I figured that, since Vox went through the bother to respond, I should at least make a brief response.

Basically, after calling me and one of the commenters in the thread "ladies" (thus once again revealing his misogyny by his apparent belief that calling me a "lady" is somehow an insult), Vox confirmed what I said about his objections to vaccines in that they are clearly not due to science:

And as I have stated numerous times in the past, my opposition to the current vaccine schedule is not due to any adherence to existing theories as to WHY particular vaccines are harmful or precisely HOW they are harmful, but due to the political and legal structure behind the vaccine schedule which logically suggests that vaccines are far more harmful than parents or doctors understand.

In other words, there's no science behind his objection to mandatory vaccination, and Vox can't back up his claim that vaccines are "far more harmful than parents or doctors understand." Thanks for admitting that, Vox. By the way, you're starting to sound like mercury antivaccine warrior extraordinaire Lenny Schafer, who similarly has all but admitted that there is no science behind is claims that mercury causes autism and that his goal is to persuade in the courts and the political arena.

Vox continues:

This, combined with the way that obviously unnecessary vaccines are aggressively marketed to politicians and school districts, is far more persuasive to me than the many unscientific surveys of surveys that are used in the absence of genuine double-blind experiments with a control group to "prove" the safety of mercury in particular and various vaccines in general. The studies that Orac criticizes may well be scientifically questionable; it is certain that many of those which are cited to contrary purposes are. If Orac would like to try "fisking" away the logic of VAERS, the various related Congressional acts and the millions of dollars paid out in damages, I'll be happy to respond to that.

In other words, Vox's objections to vaccination are not based in science. He claims that many studies cited to "contrary purposes" (i.e., to show vaccine safety and efficacy) are questionable, but notably he doesn't cite a single study that is questionable and, more importantly, explain, based on study design, why it is questionable. Instead, in essence, he just claims that studies used to support the efficacy and safety of vaccines are as bad as the Geiers (which at least he concedes might have flaws), suing argument by assertion rather than argument with the evidence.

As for the VAERS database, before going there, Vox should check out these references for the utility of using the VAERS database for any estimates of actual vaccine injuries:

The Geiers go dumpster-diving again
How vaccine litigation distorts the VAERS database

If this were the famous old Uncle Remus tale, Brer Orac would be saying to Brer Vox, "I don't care what you do to me, Brer Vox. [Note: conveniently 'Vox' rhymes with 'fox']. You can use any other data you want, but please don't throw me in dat VAERS briar patch, Brer Vox!"

The result would be the same as the end of the Uncle Remus tale.

And, finally:

What's amazing about these logic-free lightweights is that they seem to think I have some inexplicable motive for opposing the vaccine schedule, when the reality is that it was the obvious dishonesty of health officials and others defending the need for the schedule that first got me interested in learning why those who were delivering what I considered to be an obvious public good should need to hide behind Congressional immunity and lying press releases.

In other words, Vox's objections to vaccines are not based on any science, but rather his suspicions about that public health officials have been dishonest. Of course, Vox neglects to provide an example of such "dishonesty."

I for one am glad that Vox cleared all that up for me so nicely. Now maybe he'll take the time to answer Tara's and Mark's fisking of his misinformed implication that the mumps outbreak in Iowa somehow constitutes evidence that the mumps vaccine doesn't work.

After all, he is a Mensa member. It should be child's play for him.

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Being a "Christian Liberatarian" he probably objects on the grounds that anything "mandatory" (=lack of freedom) and "public" (= secular humanism) must be bad, and went around looking for confirmation.

Also, I'm going to guess that "20 vaccinations under the age of two" would be pulled out of someone's arse.

Not exactly a response to this post, but it looks like you have an unclosed "center" tag somewhere in your blogstream there, Orac. Right below your "I am Influenza" quiz post everything is centered.

"Christian libertarian" is, IMHO a euphemism for 'christofascist'.

Holy Jebus... Reading the kind of uninformed absurdity coming out of the mouths of VD and his commenters, I can't help but wonder if there's even any point to responding to the garbage that's over there.

Yes you are reaching lurkers. I read this stuff but never post. All the Orac posts I have read about autism/mercury/the geiers came in very handy recently when the subject came up with my sister, and she now believes that the autism/mercury stuff is hooey. That is good because she is one of those center-of-the-network people who influences a large number of friends and acquaintances. (Unlike moi, -a compulsive information consumer and very un-social.)

I feel kind of left out last time I had nasty words with Vox he never called me a "lady" he just suggested that I was either a homosexual or a lover of homosexuals. Both PZ and yourself get to be ladies, I'm only a "gay-lover".

Perhaps he'll call you a "Brassy Bitch".

"He claims that many studies cited to "contrary purposes" (i.e., to show vaccine safety and efficacy) are questionable, but notably he doesn't cite a single study that is questionable"

Orac, You have seen evidence to explain why the studies the IOM relied on in 2004 are questionable. Why not just acknowledge the fact that those studies are invalid? You can follow up that acknowledgement by saying "it still doesn't mean vaccines cause autism" and you'd be correct. But at least you'd show that you were impartial enough to highlight flaws in studies that support your argument.

Given your unwillingness to reply to me on your Kennedy bashing blog I'm not holding out much hope that you'll acknowledge flaws in those studies but one can always hope.


Just because the studies the IOM relied in had flaws does not mean they're invalid. The IOM report (if you actually read it) clearly spells out the limitations of epidemiology in general and those studies in particular. However, because there were multiple studies from different locations all saying the same thing, it was clear that there was a reasonable probability that thimerosal exposure is not a causal factor in autism.

It is a long way from saying "there are limitations and drawbacks to the CDC study, Madsen study, et al." to "these studies are invalid and useless".

By anonimouse (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink


Do we really need to go over this again? The VSD study was called neutral by the lead author. The unpublished early versions of it showed a tremendous correlation. The VSD study clearly did not produce a result "that thimerosal exposure is not a causal factor in autism."

The Danish studies are ridiculously flawed and they are invalid. You can't possibly change the test criteria in the middle of the study and then attempt to rely on those results. If the Geier's were the ones who published those Danish & Swedish studies you would be all over it.

David, which Danish studies are you talking about. The flaws you mention are only in one of the studies, and I have addressed why that particular study still shows that there is no correlation between autism and thimerosal.

Also, even if all the studies are flawed, there is still no evidence of a link, and there is explanaition of how such a link would work. Medically it doesn't make sense, since it's known that autism is caused by a genetic component.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

"David, which Danish studies are you talking about. The flaws you mention are only in one of the studies, and I have addressed why that particular study still shows that there is no correlation between autism and thimerosal."

Kristjan, this topic has been discussed to death at this blog: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/03/the_geiers_go_dumpsterdiving_…

But here are the critiques of those "studies":




"Also, even if all the studies are flawed, there is still no evidence of a link"


"Medically it doesn't make sense, since it's known that autism is caused by a genetic component."


You're using SafeMinds as a reference.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Apr 2007 #permalink