Jenny McCarthy and Oprah Winfrey: Two crappy tastes that taste crappy together on autism

I have to tip my hat to Kevin Leitch. I really do. He's done something that I couldn't manage to force myself to do, at least not completely.

He's subjected himself to the entire episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in which Jenny McCarthy showed up to plug her new book about her fight to "save" her child from autism, Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism.

Far be it from me to attack Jenny McCarthy for wanting to help her autistic son. Her devotion is admirable, and virtually all parents, other than crappy parents, want to help their children. The problem is that, in seeking to help her son, she's seriously drunk the Kool Aid and believes that vaccines contributed to her son's autism. Moreover, like so many parents, she's been subjecting him to a wide variety of "biomedical" treatments whose rationale is dubious at best and for which there is no good evidence of efficacy to try to "cure" his autism. Now, she's using her B-list celebrity to peddle a boatload of misinformation about autism, vaccines, and biomedical treatment. Kev's already covered her appearance on Oprah in detail; I just want to focus on a few key aspects. First, there is Google knowledge versus scientific knowledge:

No joke: McCarthy was cheered lustily by the studio audience for announcing that, after her son was diagnosed, she typed the word "autism" into the Google search engine, launching a courageous and audacious search for the truth. And what came up? Why, story after story about remedies and recoveries and other amazing stuff your pediatrician is paid handsomely by the CDC not to tell you about.

Luckily, Google employs an army of people whose only job is to make sure everything that pops up on the site is totally legit, although I probably should Google that sometime just to make sure it's true.

McCarthy spoke particularly of clicking on a link "up in the corner" (I believe those are what are known as "advertisements") and learning about the wonders of biomed.

And it's true. Just Google the word "autism" yourself. When I did it this morning, the first link that came up was Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a somewhat unreliable reference, but certainly better than most of the rest. However, look at those links "in the corner," which are, in fact, ads. What's there? Take a look:

And a number of others, some appearing OK, others like the conspiracy-mongering Generation Rescue. The great thing about the Internet is that information is more easily accessible than ever before. The bad thing about the Internet is that there's no filter. A lay person unversed in the science of a topic like autism has no reliable way of figuring out what is and is not reliable information, and all too often, for topics like autism, the reliable information is very difficult to discern from the tsunami of crap.

As Kev relates, Jenny McCarthy went on to say a number of things so breathtakingly stupid that even I have a hard time recalling anything dumber. Point one, straight from McCarthy's book:

And here's Oprah opening the show by quoting McCarthy's book (yep, she writes, too!) on the different reactions encountered when people learn a child has been diagnosed with cancer vs. diagnosed with autism. Surprising those reactions are so divergent, because as we've been conditioned to learn by Autism Speaks and others, autism is at least as terrifying as pending death.

Oprah also cooed approvingly when McCarthy defended biomed by saying, "Well, chemotherapy doesn't work for everybody either."

Ack! The stupid, it really does burn. (And I don't care if I use that phrase too often; in this case it's entirely appropriate.)

The difference, of course, is that there is good scientific and clinical evidence that chemotherapy works. True, it "doesn't work for everybody," but there is a huge body of data that defines who is and is not likely to benefit from specific chemotherapy regimens for specific tumors. We know what percentage of patients with particular tumors respond to specific chemotherapy regimens and the factors that make specific patients more or less likely to respond. We know how much chemotherapy can (or cannot) extend life for patients with different cancers. In contrast, there is no such enormous body of data for so-called "biomedical" treatments for autism. Sure, there are lots of glowing "anecdotes." However, because autism is a condition of developmental delay, not developmental stasis, anecdotes are essentially useless. Only well-designed, randomized, double-blind clinical trials can tease out whether any observed improvement is due to an intervention or to the expected development of autistic children. (No doubt, if her son grows up to be a fully functional adult, as many autistic children do, McCarthy will pat herself on the back for having "saved" him with all these dubious treatments.) Moreover, most of these biomedical interventions (chelation therapy, in particular) utterly fail to be scientifically plausible. Perhaps the best example of implausibility is Mark and David Geier's "testosterone sheets" idea and their use of a powerful anti-androgen agent (Lupron) to treat autistic children.

But the real stupidity came when the topic of vaccines came up, when McCarthy said her "mommy instinct" told her that the MMR had been a cause of her son's autism. Kev relates:

Then Oprah read a response she had received from the CDC (at least she took a stab at social responsibility by contacting the agency) that talked about the lack of scientific support for the idea that thimerosal triggers autism.

McCarthy scoffed and said, speaking of her son: "He is my science."

That's right. Science doesn't matter. Only McCarthy's poorly informed ideas formed by the misinformation she found about autism on the Internet do. Of course, it's rather odd that this CDC response would have mentioned thimerosal, given that the MMR vaccine doesn't contain (and never has contained) thimerosal. It may well have been a canned response that emphasized mercury because mercury is the big issue in the U.S., not the MMR; however, its point nonetheless remains correct. There is no good evidence that vaccines, be they the MMR or thimerosal-containing vaccines, are associated with autism. McCarthy is likely blinded by a combination of confirmation bias plus the normal, albeit delayed, development of her autistic son. Now she's spouting ignorant tripe like:

The universe didn't mean for me to do anything else besides what I did. But if I had another child, I would not vaccinate.

Among other things.

In this culture, we tend to glorify a parent's struggle to help her child. We tend to believe that a parent knows her child better than anyone else. Often, this assumption is correct, and there are stories of parents whose doctors didn't believe that anything was wrong with their child who had to fight to get doctors to believe them. However, because of the powerful emotional bond between mother and child, these instincts can just as easily go awry, leading the mother astray and into quackery. This is particularly true in the case of a condition like autism, for which there is no "cure." Parents don't want to hear that, don't want to believe that, and thus become prey for practitioners pushing all manner of pseudoscientific or unscientific "miracle cures." Indeed, look at the number of parents who swear by Mark and David Geier's pseudoscientific and downright dangerous Lupron protocol.

This is what appears to have happened to Jenny McCarthy, who was apparently quite susceptible to woo. Indeed, she once ran a website for "Indigo Moms." The website was apparently taken down shortly before the release of McCarthy's book, perhaps to take away an obvious bit of evidence of her New Age credulity (and making me regret that, although I knew about the site, I never got around to doing a piece about it), but Joseph points to a source that tells us a bit about "Indigo Kids":

Jenny, who runs, is of the belief that Evan is a 'crystal child,' and she herself is an 'adult indigo.' This belief suggests that 'indigo/crystal phenomenon is the next step in our evolution as a human species.' Proponents also suggest that many indigo and crystal children are wrongly diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and autism.

There's more about what "indigo children" are here, and McCarthy herself has written about it here. In addition, Kristina Chew also discussed some of the woo found on the IndigoMoms website before it was shut down around the time McCarthy's book was released.

I think McCarthy's involvement with the "indigo children" movement shows all you need to know about her critical thinking skills. Of course, if she really thinks she is an "indigo adult" and thus part of the next step in human evolution, she probably has a very inflated view of her own reasoning abilities. Unfortunately, someone as credulous as she has sufficient celebrity to peddle her woo on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah Winfrey is sufficiently credulous to swallow this unscientific and unproven tripe, hook, line, and sinker.

ADDENDUM: Oh, no! I forgot. While flipping channels last night, I saw that she was on 20/20, too! She's everywhere! I wonder if she encountered at least a little more skepticism than she did on the lovefest that occurred on Oprah's show.


More like this

It really is all about the filter system. Our own, internal, mental, filter system. Sagan's Baloney Detector. You have to develop it or you'll constantly be taken in.

My wife was asking about hominid fossils last night, what they looked like, etc. and I thought, hey, we'll fire up the ol' Google and take a look around. Find some pretty fossil pictures, when they date to, where they fall on the tree and so forth. And I knew this before, but it was thrown into sharp relief last night, but any search on human origins yields a brilliant mix of actual science, sorta-based-on-actual-science presumption, and creationist literature.

So take a desperate person with a ton of emotions facing an uphill, perhaps unwinnable battle, and give them a system that presents an endless stream of information with no accounting for veracity and you get the McCarthy's of the world. It's hard not to. Not without an early and continual education and emphasis on critical thinking. The way we encourage parents to read to their children, we need to encourage parents to teach their children critical thinking skills. And for the rest of us, in our daily lives, we have to be vigilant and have intellectuall integrity at all times. When someone asks our opinion or engages us in a conversation about information and we have an opportunity (and the ability) to lead someone to real information, it is our duty to do so.

Okay, rant over.

Unfortunately, in the age of "information," the unlearned, the naive, the lay person, can reach the same information that the learned, the astute, the professional can. The charlatans, the pompous, the narcissist are the ones who misuse this information. Remember DCA?

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.…

Thanks to it, we have this gem from the "Reseources" section:

"Microwaved Water - See What It Does To Plants

Our gratitude to Marshall Dudley of Knoxville, TN for sharing his granddaughter Arielle Reynolds', experiment. Both Arielle's mother, Christina, and Grandpa have much to be proud of. Congratulations, Arielle, well done!

There is a science fair project that my granddaughter did for 2006. In it she took filtered water and divided it into two parts. The first part she heated to boiling in a pan on the stove, and the second part she heated to boiling in a microwave. Then after cooling she used the water to water two identical plants to see if there would be any difference in the growth between the normal boiled water and the water boiled in a microwave. She was thinking that the structure or energy of the water may be compromised by microwave. As it turned out, even she was amazed at the difference.

Followup: We have seen a number of comments on this, such as what was the water in the microwave boiled in. The thinking is that maybe some leaching took place if it was in plastic. It was boiled in a plastic cup, so this could be a possibility. Also it was not a double blind experiment, so she knew which was which when watering them. On top of that she was wanting the microwaved ones to do poorly, and although most scientists would dismiss the idea, it is possible that her thoughts toward each plant had an effect as well. Bottom line is, the results are interesting, and duplicate the results that others have reported (try Googling '"microwaved water" plants') more experiments need to be done with better controls and as a double blind study. But this was a simple 6th grade science fair project, and was never intended to be anything more than that.

The plants were genetically identical, they were produced from graphs from the same parent plant, so that variable can be eliminated.

See more photos at the website.



Totally disagree with the first word of this statement: "Unfortunately, in the age of "information," the unlearned, the naive, the lay person, can reach the same information that the learned, the astute, the professional can."

I think it is great we all have equal access to information, especially to information held by the "elite." The unfortunate is not the access to real information, but the blending and lack of clear and imediete demarcation between actual information and bullshit.

Also "The charlatans, the pompous, the narcissist are the ones who misuse this information. " for evil. Everyone misueses information, it's just these are the ones exploiting the misuse. The "the unlearned, the naive, [and] the lay person" misuse it constantly, which is "unfortunate."

Hence the need to teach critical thinking skills. We all have the right to real, actual, information, no matter what our cognitive skill set may be. It would behoove us as a species though to equip everyone with the multi-tool of skepticism and critical thinking.

New Age and most CAM beliefs are a manifestation of schizotypy (magical thinking, disorganized thinking). These people are incapable of science or critical thinking.

By Eric Gisin (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

Ezekiel, you are absolutely correct. The "unfortunately" meant for the misuse of information both by lay persons and professionals. The availability of information allows the charlatans to be much more effective in their misdeeds.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

Great overview. Thanks for the link. Note, however, that Kev's blog now has many different writers. That particular entry was written by Qchan63.

I don't think talk show hosts have ever been shown to be great scientists!

Halfway off topic - I have a parrot, and read the write-up about Alex the parrot entirely. As a parrot mother I do not think any parrot is as smart as a 5 year-old. But I was interested to see that a therapist in California who works with autistic children used the model/rival technique used on Alex to work successfully with autistic children.

I'd feel better if the parents who are busy doing all these weirdo things to their children would focus on behavioral techniques (which I DO NOT consider Woo) to help their children function better.

While it is true that the ubiquitousness of information is a double edged sword, what I find both alarming and depressing is that now ignorance and superstition (in its many forms and shapes) is becoming not only accepted again it's the fact that ignorance and superstition is now being GLORIFIED.

To paraphrase an old saying: Don't be ashamed of ignorance, but don't be proud of it either, just get rid of it as fast as you can.....

By Sigma_Orionis (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

If you go on the CDC website is states thimerosal use to be in MMR Vaccines but was removed in 2001. Also she said pediatricians are not educated on the symptoms of Autism not that they were holding information and she said she was for Vaccinating children maybe not so many shots at once. I appreciate someone bringing attention to Autism. Maybe if there were more awareness earlier my son would have been diagnosed earlier and he would not have gone through hell in the first few years of school. Even after numerous visits to his doctor he was not diagnosed. Now that he has been we have been able to change the way he is taught and he is doing very well. If parents knew some of the symptoms they may have better luck with their doctors. I take it you do not have a child with Autism.

Would one really expect anything actually substantive from Jenny (whose main achievement in life is being attractive enough to pose for a skin mag) other than to believe in and then proceed to parrot pseudo-scientific claptrap?

If you go on the CDC website is states thimerosal use to be in MMR Vaccines
but was removed in 2001.

Please provide evidence that thimerosal was ever in the MMR vaccine.

You won't be able to, because it never was.

TC, perhaps you should tell us exactly which CDC webpage tells us about the MMR containing thimerosal (there used to be one that said it never contained thimerosal, but it has disappeared)

Then go back to this webpage: ...
and tell us why it says:

"Mumps, measles, and rubella M-M-R-II
(Merck & Co, Inc) Free Never contained Thimerosal"

... Did you notice the phrase "Never contained Thimerosal"?

Are you referring to the ACIP meeting minutes wherein one of the members, who addressed the issue of thimerosol in vaccines, stated that "thimerserol was removed from most childhood vaccines in 2001..."? He never mentioned MMR specifically; the phrase doesn't imply that all vaccines had contained it.

Orac, to repeat a phrase of yours-"the stupid, it burns!"

While recognition of autism has improved, and one might say "over improved", in the last ten plus years, I am skeptical of the benefits of it, and the Jenny-Big O show illustrate that. I believe there is such a fear of the dx that parents lose any smarts they were born with. As an older autistic who grew up without any of the interventions available, or a proper dx until my later years, I think despite my difficulties, I had it better than the kids today. I cringe at the attitudes and attempts of people to fix their kids, the desperate need to somehow attain the child they should have had.

And add onto situation the strange and desperate ideas people grasp onto to get by. How did science get such a bad rap, or is it truly a "marketing" problem as someone once said?

YOU guys are so stupid its unbeleivable, I cant beleive some of you losers have advanced degrees. Every study that the IOM used was fudged,google Dr ayoub and see his lecture. Even some of the doctors who witnessed this pulled out of the whole IOM thing because its a scam.

YOU should be ashamed for forcing kids to take 100x the EPA's safe level of mercury, are you that stupid? YOU claim to be scientists, then learn how to properly design a study.

1) the people conducting the study should have no conflicts of interest.

2) the study should compare about 3,000 with no thimersol exposure to those with 1991 levels of thimersol.

Until that study is done its a debatable issue. NO wonder the general public and many other more competent scientists don't have any respect for you people, they respect kevin Trudeau, a convicted felon, more than they trust this small group of idiotic scientists that thing its imposssible for the government to lie to them.

Drink 100 times the EPA's safe level of mercury, its good for you!

I honestly think you guys are struggling in all aspects of life, I couldnt imagine any good looking intelligent girl touching any of you losers with a ten foot pole, the few freinds you have probably hate you, I mean you guys are just all around losers/cranks that are pretty much hated by any normal intelligent open minded person.

On 20/20 she came across as a reasonable person - she only advocated for a diet that does not include wheat or dairy products. As long as a child is getting calcium and Vitamin D supplements I don't have a problem with that. A pediatrician who advocates this diet was also on the show. You have to wonder if she was silent on the vaccine stuff during the 20/20 segment due to fear of controversy, or if she has realized how improbable it is. Maybe she was faking reasonableness, who knows.

By Texas Reader (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

Rjaye I'm not trying to fix my kid. Are you a parent? Do you know what it's like to have your child kicked out of daycare and suspended from school several times just in elementary school? Or having to quit your job because no one will keep your kid. Not understanding why my intelligent child who looks to be like any other child would have a tantrum like a 2 year old that would last for an hour and have to be restrained by his teachers until I get to his school. I hardly think I should just let him get through life without some intervention. Since his dx he is enrolled in an autism program in his school and is excelling. Did you live like that as a child? Were you able to sit in a lunch room with two hundred kids or did the noise seem so unbearable that you would run out holding your ears and go into a tantrum. If so did you know that by wearing a weighted vest it makes the noise seem normal and now my child can eat lunch with no problem? I could ask you a hundred questions or give you a hundred examples why I choose to intervene. He's lucky to have someone like me. Not someone who wants to fix him but someone who wants to help. Until all of you who criticize parents for wanting an answer or for calling people stupid for asking questions you should have to walk in our shoes. Knowing what caused my child's Autism won't change a thing for him but my help someone else. As far as vaccines I'm not against them. I don't like giving them so many at one time. I only commented because I happened to watch Oprah that day which normally I wouldn't because I'm not a fan. So I know that Jenny McCarty is being misquoted on this website. It would be nice if someone like you who has lived it could shed light on some question parents have instead of calling us stupid for caring. I don't know how old you are but you mentioned you are an older Autistic but schools now are over crowed and a lot of teachers don't give a crap and children without Autism have a hard time getting an education. And I got the child I was suppose to have. His Autism makes him who he is and he is a wonderful person who will one day be a great success. He may be a science nerd but that what he loves!!

Are you ever going to stop lying about autism you mother fucker?

By Mercury Militia (not verified) on 22 Sep 2007 #permalink

Dear Ms. Norman:

Thank you for the link to your site and the comment. Except for one statement, it was an excellent summary stated in language most laypeople can understand. The one statement I think you're inaccurate on was:

"I'm not saying that vaccinations can't affect the onset of autism. I don't have any data on that. I do know that the prevalence of autism is skyrocketing, from 1 in 2000 a decade or two ago, to about 1 in 150 currently. Obviously, something is going on."

Promethus on the "A Photon in the Darkness" blog (which Orac has linked to under Skepticism and Critical Thinking) recently discussed the "autism epidemic" issue. There's a lot of reasons to question whether the increase in the reported rate is real, or if it is due to changes in the definition, increased reporting, and other reasons. However, that said, it's also a lot easier to get the politicians to increase the research funding and educational funding for a condition affecting 1 in 150 than 1 in 2000. However, ensuring that the funding goes to things that may help or actually show the cause(s) instead of junk, is a different problem.

Dear TC:
I can answer "Yes" to most of your questions. I'm not trying to "fix" my son. I want him to be able to enjoy, as much as possible, the type of life that most people take for granted. There are no miracle cures. It takes a lot of hard work, patience, and trying different therapies to see which ones help. Before any therapy is tried, my wife (his step-mother, who's a teacher) and I thoroughly check them out. Unfortunately, because of all the junk science claims, this takes a lot of time, since you have to trace the claims back to their source data (or until it's clear that the claims have no scientific foundation). I've learned that it's important to check the back ground of those who make the claims, which means going behind the grand sounding names so many charlatans use. You also have to cross-index the "new therapies" that are being touted. Very frequently what is done is to re-name a discredited idea or therapy (kind of like "New and Improved" being added to a detergent box). That it didn't work the first time doesn't improve it's effectiveness by changing the name.

Dear Cooler:
Either you haven't read the IOM report, or don't understand it, or don't want to understand it. While I don't have a science degree, I have taken 1 undergrad and 3 grad courses in statistics. I also reviewed most of the studies the IOM relied on and those that were rejected. The IOM correctly rejected the studies that it did -- they were crap.
Also note that Denmark removed thimersol from all vaccines about 10 years ago. That has made no difference. The apparent rates are "increasing" there (quite likely for the same reasons Promethus discusses) at pretty much the same rate as in other countries in which thimersol either was removed from vaccines later, or which have not completely removed it. So, the data is available which covers the same ground as the study you suggest, but without doing human experimentation. There is no debatable issue. Instead of wasting time and money on the study you suggest, those resources should be devoted to research to identify more effective teaching and support services (and for teaching the teachers and aides), and to identify the genetic bases (note the plural) of ASD.

Dear Mercury Militia: Please take your Rx as prescribed. The voices will go away.

On a side note, Kevin Leitch needs to get himself some permalinks.

P.S. Great post, Orac (comme toujours) -- linked to it on my blog.

TC: I am a parent of a classically autistic boy. You won't see me offer up descriptions of my son that seem designed to elicit pity, though.

Either way, what does any of that have to do with the scientific argument at hand?

I don't know how old you are but you mentioned you are an older Autistic but schools now are over crowed and a lot of teachers don't give a crap and children without Autism have a hard time getting an education.

Do you have data on that? The special education population in the US has not really grown that much compared to the general population of children. Maybe there's some growth because intitutionalization has fallen out of favor, thankfully, but not a whole lot.

Cooler, what in the world does your mercury conspiracty/toxic whatever have to do with the MMR? It cased you missed it: The MMR does not have thimerosal, never contained thimerosal... and would be rendered useless if thimerosal were ever added to it.

But, then again... cooler is the same guy who believes in the Illuminati and the Tooth Fairy.

Ignore him.

@wfjag: actually, it's Mr. but that's OK, I get that a lot...

I agree that I was a little loose in my "something's going on" statement. The "something" could very well be a shift in diagnosis pattern, or in definition of "autism" or in awarenes, or something else.

I'd much rather have efforts focussed on things that have some basis in science, rather than the ravings of an ex-playmate. Still, she makes for good TV, as long as the volume is turned down.


I am sorry you took my statement so personally, and while I think an apology may be due, I won't give it and not mean it.

I had to think about your comment and what I wanted to say, and why. I grew up in an era where there were no special services for anyone. People with Downs' Syndrome were institutionalized, as were many autistic people who were misdiagnosed. So to read about so many people so desperate about what they can and can't get for their kid is odd to me.

So my school had me tested as much as they could without getting my parents' permission. They tried to get my abusive, alcoholic parents to get me further testing. My parents didn't believe there was anything wrong they couldn't beat out of me, and so refused. The result was that I was pulled out of class or separated from the other students and left to study on my own.

This was probably the best thing for me. It kept me from people who didn't understand, and in a quiet environment where I could study what I wanted. This continued throughout school. I think if I had gotten the diagnosis then, I would have been institutionalized, because there was nothing else. Institutionalization is the worst thing for most people on the spectrum.

Also, I have dealt with worse things than an autistic kid. I'm dealing with one now, who's eighteen yo, and had the most blazing meltdowns. He kicked the windows out of my sister's car at seven years old. But it was nothing compared to the horrible diseases my parents suffered before they died, and I took care of them, and was there when they passed.

So, when you come to this site, and see the comments, I respond the way I do because most parents don't want the answers adult autistics give. They want a problem fixed. They want their kid to be able to be social, and act a certain way, and while many of us become social, many of us don't and it's because of how we are wired. We grew up with people pointing out what was wrong with us, or how behind we are, or clueless, and even with the most caring of parents, that feeling comes through.

As for teachers not giving a crap, since when have they ever cared? There are many good teachers, a ton of middlin' teachers, and then there's the jackasses who are only there for a check. When I grew up, the average class size was thirty five. How does that rate with now? In high school, it was closer to forty. Does that compare?

We do need more research into autism, but I wish the money would go to those areas that show promise and perhaps come up with therapies that would actually help autistic people, and not areas that haven't panned out or provided useful data. This is what I want to see happen--and not have monies spent on the greasy wheel because of politics.

So while you are obviously emotionally devoted to your child, are you focused on the best possible treatments or grasping at straws? It is one thing to fight to get the education a child has a right to, but to criticize someone for implying certain parents are stupid because they are willing to try any snake oil that comes up the pike is missing my main point. Parents are not automatically saints because they fight for their children. Sometimes they do things that harm their children. It happens all the time.

Okay, now I can say I'm sorry. You are doing your best, and expecting that which your child is due. I generalized when I shouldn't have. I will be more specific in future posts.

Would I be crass and crude if I pointed out that in your "children of the new Earth" link, she admits to chain smoking while pregnant and suggested that this may have contributed to the kid's autism?

Wait, does smoking while pregnant cause autism in kids?

If a kid on the spectrum did any of the gross stunts Jenny has done on film, we would hear all about how horrible autism is. But it's OK because she is 'normal' and just doing it for money? Maybe Jenny needs Lupron/chelation to turn her into a Shakespearean actress.

I'll have to say Orac, it took longer for the anti-vax kooks to get worked up than I expected. Comment #12. I figured with all the attention that McCarthy has gotten the last few days that they'd be in here comment number one or two. You know they have you on their alert system. However, it is nothing new from them.

Do they really want to hitch their wagon to the Indigo Child movement? Of course they do. Woo begets woo that supports woo.

Dear MISTER Norman:
Sorry about that.

You do ask a good question -- and one that unfortunately that has been more the subject of hype and stupidity (if not out right deception) in its presentation to the public than appears to normally be the case. Prometheus' discussion is one of the clearer ones, that doesn't take an extensive background in statistics to follow. And, unlike the hysteria mongers, he tries to be an honest scientist who's trying to keep an open mind on the issue.

Unfortunately, he isn't the typical commentator (or, at least, the kind of commentator who gets time in the popular media and press). Rather people like Dan Olmstead are far more common. That, also very unfortunately, is far too true of what frequently passes for science reporting in the popular press. Olmstead, a former UPI reporter (whose current employment status is unknown), who doesn't understand something basic like what a r squared means in statistics (or, that a r squared approaching 1 is almost unheard of) gets attention by crying "it's an epidemic!" However, scientists, who can explain that the supposed "rate increase" may simply reflect the changed disgnostic critera of ASD, more wide spread knowledge of the ASD, and other factors, are ignored.

That isn't to say "something" isn't going on. But, even if it is, the simplistic assertions of autism being "caused" by ethylmercury exposure or vaccines have not been shown to have any support to be worth diverting time and research resources to. The genetic research is showing promise of both identifying causes, and suggesting therapies that will help people diagnosed ASD have a better chance to be able to function in the world so that they can have the type of life neuro-typical person takes for granted.

I'm concerned that the ex-centerfold will generate support for diverting that time and research resources back, just about the time it looked like that many-headed hydra had been killed.

Good riddance, isn't this the crux of the entire problem? A good number of Americans are so totally willing to lap up this celebrity pity party kind of crap that it totally interferes with even the vaguest understanding of accurate scientific principals. (Call it the "if Oprah said it, it must be right" syndrome, if you want.) The woo levels here are nauseating!

Thankfully there are people like Orac around to see through all the hype, insanity, stupidity, and B.S.! When I read stuff like this I just want to scream, "Get your heads out of your collective behinds and read some legitimate research!" Of course, the hard part is finding that research and information amidst the overwhelmingly huge pile of woo that preys on the desperation of parents. Keep at it, Orac...sometimes you're the only voice of sanity against this crappiness!

By medrecgal (not verified) on 24 Sep 2007 #permalink

First Celebrities do not write books. Check that, most celebrities do not, or are incapable of writing a book on thier own; that laborious duty is performed by a hired ghost writer.
Once again more of the Joan of Arc syndrome displayed by celebrities diluded enough to believe that since they are so successful they must have something inportant to say about a subject that they just suddenly become engulfed.

This type of thing is often displayed when people get cancer and other life threatening illnesses; the need to make the world more aware of what has suddenly become thier personal problem.

More importantly, is this a child she conceived with Jim Carey?
If that is the case, based on Mr. Carey's Super Hyper Activity Disorder which he has managed to turn into a successful comedic career is it any wonder there might be something genetic??????

By Uncle Dave (not verified) on 24 Sep 2007 #permalink

I'm sad to report that soon after the airing of the Oprah ep with McCarthy, I saw a huge spike in searches for "are vaccines bad for you" and "vaccines cause autism" on my blog... and I'm a tiny blog and have only ever mentioned the issue once! Just gives you a sense of how fast and far that program can spread fear and woo to incredulous people all over the country.

And John Best reaches a new level of stupid I hadn't seen previously from him.

Really, JB, think about it: How could some fraternity rule the world? Educate me as to the steps they have to go through to get something accomplished, and why none of their underlings ever, ever speak. Ruling the world is an administrative nightmare.

Years ago when when it was suggested that stress could cause physical ill to the suffer of such stress, the idea was ridiculed. Now after further understanding, hmmm.... it turns out stress actually can effect the body. Just because the science isn't there doesn't mean it isn't true.

God I love Cooler! How's this for rational debate?

"...I couldnt imagine any good looking intelligent girl touching any of you losers with a ten foot pole..."

Game, set, and match, my friends. Cooler has won. There is no coming back from this. MMR causes Autism and your girlfriends are ugly. End of debate.

By SmellyTerror (not verified) on 24 Sep 2007 #permalink

Throw in a bit of argument to the future: Predicting that the evidence will prove his currently unsupported conclusion.

It amounts to "someday they'll invent a fairy detector and they'll show you!"

Just because the science isn't there doesn't mean it isn't true.

But in this case, the science is there. Lots of it. It just doesn't support the prejudices of the anti-vax mob.

Thanks Smelly Terror... I usually ignore cooler, so I missed this gem "...I couldnt imagine any good looking intelligent girl touching any of you losers with a ten foot pole..."

Personally I'd be freaked out if some girl tried to touch me! Ewww, eek... sorry I am a committed heterosexual without a "Y" chromosome! Dear cooler is so out of it that he thinks all of those who post here have a "Y" chromosome!

YOu fools are always make personal attacks against others, calling people cranks, stupid, gullible, total woo's, whats wrong with giving you people a taste of your own medicine?

Besides if you read my post, the personal attack came after I told you how a properly designed study should be done to resolve this mercury debate, since you people know nothing about science, scroll back and get educated.

As far as my attacks I still stand by them, I do think you guys are pretty miserable people that have trouble making friends, usually I would keep those observations to myself, but since these blogs are all about name calling, calling people "cranks" "denialists" "wingnuts", I couldn't help join in the fun! I love it its all good fun! I learned all this name calling from you guys, anyways, and if thats the way you want to play I'm game, but I'm good at these exchanges, because the stuff I say about your personal lives is probably much more true than your personal attacks on people like me that just want properly designed studies, not to just mindlessly except what the governemnt, CDC and the Drug companies tell them.

So cooler; Let's say an organization such as SafeMinds helps the CDC design a study. Would you be more willing to accept the results of such a study? Just curious.


Admit it - "cooler" is a "sock puppet" of yours that you use to humiliate the vaccines-cause-autism crowd.

Nobody could really be that stupid.


Cooler a sock puppet? With all that promoting of vaccines-cause-autism, 9/11-was-an-inside-job, and denial of HIV-causes-AIDS, I would think being cooler would be a full-time job.
Oh! Maybe cooler is Orac's evil twin, born in the harmonic time cube and sent to spread word of The Secret!

Available free in todays NEJM:

Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years


Background It has been hypothesized that early exposure to thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines and immune globulin preparations, is associated with neuropsychological deficits in children.

Methods We enrolled 1047 children between the ages of 7 and 10 years and administered standardized tests assessing 42 neuropsychological outcomes. (We did not assess autism-spectrum disorders.) Exposure to mercury from thimerosal was determined from computerized immunization records, medical records, personal immunization records, and parent interviews. Information on potential confounding factors was obtained from the interviews and medical charts. We assessed the association between current neuropsychological performance and exposure to mercury during the prenatal period, the neonatal period (birth to 28 days), and the first 7 months of life.

Results Among the 42 neuropsychological outcomes, we detected only a few significant associations with exposure to mercury from thimerosal. The detected associations were small and almost equally divided between positive and negative effects. Higher prenatal mercury exposure was associated with better performance on one measure of language and poorer performance on one measure of attention and executive functioning. Increasing levels of mercury exposure from birth to 7 months were associated with better performance on one measure of fine motor coordination and on one measure of attention and executive functioning. Increasing mercury exposure from birth to 28 days was associated with poorer performance on one measure of speech articulation and better performance on one measure of fine motor coordination.

Conclusions Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years.

The study relating to autism will be out next year.

Judging by the response on parenting message boards, which are going absolutely nutso with people posting about how they won't take their child for their next vax appointment so that it won't be made autistic by the evil mercury in the MMR, I think this particular show will be the tipping point for the US vaccination rates.

Even people who had the newborn hep B vaccine, formula fed by choice, circumcised, etc (which shows they don't have much critical thinking skill) are now hysterical about vaxes.

Anyone want to open a book on how long till a major measles outbreak?

you obviously don't know what it's like to live thru what she's gone thru you dont know what its like to have to live your life for your child. to have to put your whole life on hold. to eat sleep and breath anxiety.

the reason mom's support her is because she apeaks exactly what we live thru everyday. how can you blame her for what she's done for her son. you don't know how it feels to go from dr. to dr. brushing you off, with a don't worry your son will grow out of it, mis dignoses, too busy to care, overloaded, hands tied my the system, uninformed doctors!

the school system does the same.

the government organizations fallow behind

research studies lack the funding.

husbands can't deal, rather just bail. leaving the mothers with no back support to carry her weight and the weight off her child where hope is a shatterd.

so before you judge something that gives us some hope.

remember how many things are proven effective in science then all wrong. aspirin is good for the heart then bad then good.

i cant tell you how many times a dr. has tried drug after drug on me first i had lupus then arthritis now i have fibromylgia??? isn't that worse than what jenny is trying to do? how about pain clinics that pump people full of narcodics because theres nothing better they can do???

at least she is trying and giving us mothers a voice. which is more than i have seen all the drs. do in my lifetime!!!

By guinevere negrete (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Guinevere: I know what it's like to live through what Jenny McCarthy lives through, because I have a son with autism. I do not, however, believe in any way, shape, or form that vaccines caused his autism. Yes, she speaks of the heartache and frustration we feel as parents to these kids. But for such idiotic assumptions to be taken as the literal truth by millions of Americans is simply ludricrous. I am not looking for a scapegoat for my son's disability. I have a brain, and I use it. I read the bonafide medical scientific literature. I do not believe the conspiracy theories about vaccines. The CDC is not trying to poison our children, and my son is neither an indigo or a crystal. He is a person, who through no fault of his own, was born with a disability. As his mother, I do not go on Google and look for miracle treatments from half-baked ads about "curing" his autism. I inform myself from credible sources, and I focus on the things I know will help him, such as therapy and social interaction. I am heartbroken just like any other mom of an autistic child. But I have not lost my reason and common sense along the way.

Guinevere, go over to to find more moms, dads and others who would be more than willing to help give you much more support than Jenny ever could!

I once had someone at a Rennassiance fair tell me I was an Indigo child. I disagree, though. I was a nasty, self-centered little brat as a kid, not some misunderstood fount of wisdom.