The question regarding the vaccine-autism hypothesis has been asked and answered; vaccines don’t cause autism.
I start my post by reiterating this fact not because it bares repeating (because again, it’s a fact), but because that walking advertisement for abortion named J.B. Handley insists that that sentence drives him nuts (funny because it implies he isn’t already nuts, but I probably shouldn’t say that as it might hurt a future libel case against him). And people as despicable as J.B. Handley ought to be unhappy as often as possible.
Well, Handley has just posted another piece of propagandist garbage over at the official home of propagandist garbage, Age of Autism. He begins by announcing that he’s going to teach his readers a little “Science 101″, ironic as he’s not a professional scientist, is by all measurable standards scientifically illiterate, and because every single reputable health organization on Earth completely disagrees with his now utterly discredited scientific beliefs, based largely on research that has proven both erroneous and fraudulent.
Handley’s attempt to get around this fact is to make an argument from authority, cherry-picking the small number of fringe individuals who agree with him, who happen to have the title of “doctor”, and who don’t have any professional background in a related field or relevant research published in a reputable journal. For instance, in this article, he cites Bernadine Healey, a cardiologist. Last I checked, neither vaccines nor autism were related to matters of the heart. But of course anti-vaxxers will point out that she was the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Of course she also has a history of going against the scientific process and being wrong. She’s demonstrated a willingness to put politics ahead of her scientific credibility. After being appointed head of the NIH, scientists started leaving in record numbers because of the politicization of scientific agendas such as the ban on fetal-tissue research because the Republican administration believed it encouraged abortion. She even lobbied against overturning the Bush Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, despite her previous support of it. There were charges of her mishandling a scientific misconduct case. And of course she was also a member of The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC):
The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, is an industry-funded lobby group which promotes the idea that environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science”, which should be replaced by “sound science”.
Initially, the primary focus of TASSC was an attempt to discredit research on Environmental Tobacco Smoke [passive smoking] as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community—especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents. It subsequently advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates, and pesticides. Later still, they extended the role of TASSC to Europe using Dr George Carlo. TASSC used the label of ‘junk science’ to criticise work that was unfavorable to the interests of its backers.
So it’s quite ironic then that the anti-vaccine movement so frequently accuses their scientific critics of being like the scientists who were infamously in the employ of Big Tobacco in order to promote the tobacco industry’s propaganda while they happily cite the claims of so-called doctors who were in fact lobbyists paid to deny the environmental impact…of smoking!
Just let that one sink in for a minute.
This is the great doctor who J.B. Handley has decided knows better about vaccines and autism than every reputable health organization on Earth, a doctor who lobbied for the tobacco industry. And though I shouldn’t even have to point this out, what medical education does Handley have that equips him with the skills necessary to distinguish good science from bad? The answer of course is none. He’s got no greater expertise to make that call than I do. But whereas I recognize how the scientific process is designed to weed out false conclusions and I am humble enough to stand behind the conclusions of people with decades of professional experience who have earned great reputations for their work, Handley arrogantly believes he knows better than everyone and simply endorses anybody who happens to reinforce his bias…even if they were once paid by the tobacco industry to deny the environmental dangers of tobacco.
Next, Handley straight out libels Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) and Dr. Paul Offit, singling them out as “liars” who feed “the hungry lie” as he calls it. Funny how at no point does he reference the fact that every reputable health organization on Earth holds the exact same position as them and so he is implicitly calling them all liars. He calls the ASF, “Alison Singer’s basement-dwelling autism organization” as he always does as if this is claim alone somehow discredits the facts she presents. It doesn’t. It’s just a classic J.B. Handley attempt to poison the well. He also claims Alison Singer was “fired” from Autism Speaks though I can find no record of anyone affiliated with Autism Speaks verifying that claim. And since only Singer’s ideological critics over at Age of Autism seem to be making such a claim, I’m inclined to write it off Handley and Age of Autism’s “hungry lie” that purely comes from their constantly operating propaganda spin machine. But if I’m wrong and this claim can be traced back to a legitimate source, someone please give me the source and I’ll happily make a correction.
Then he finally gets into his Science 101 portion. So he gives an example:
If you are trying to figure out if smoking hurts, helps, or kills people, you need a group of people who didn’t smoke
Or you just ask your friend, Ms. Healey who will probably tell you smoking doesn’t hurt people at all.
And, here’s my first giant point:Without a real control group, the conclusions of a study on the potential harm of a drug are 100% useless.
Can we all just agree on that? If you have a study, and everyone either gets a whole pill or a half a pill, do you have a control group to compare the outcome to? Of course you don’t.
Yes, studies generally require a control group of some form but I can tell already that he’s about to use control group and double-blind synonymously as there are no shortage of studies with control groups that disprove Handley’s beliefs while there aren’t any double-blind studies, usually the gold standard, for good reason.
Question #1: Can vaccines harm some people?
You know the answer is “yes” and I’m sure some of you will want to qualify this answer by saying, “but it’s a really small number of people.” Whatever.
Wow, he HAS been listening after all! It’s miracle that it only took the guy ten years to recognize that medical science isn’t black and white. Of course you got to love that extremely articulate dismissal of the importance of this fact: “Whatever.” What you and I would consider to be a rather important detail that makes the difference between one person in a million being seriously harmed and many orders of magnitude more than that Handley feels he can flippantly brush off as no big deal.
Question #2: If one vaccine can harm some people, do you think six vaccines given at the same time will do more or less harm?
Error. Not enough data. It’s not the number of vaccines that would make the difference but the amount of antigens and other ingredients in those vaccines. And we happen to know for the fact that the amount of antigens in the vaccines is much less now than it used to be. The immunologic load has dropped from 3000 components in the 7 vaccines used in 1980 to less than 200 in the 14 vaccines recommended today. I know, J.B.. I know. “Whatever.” Who needs actual details when you can flippantly brush aside any inconvenient facts.
OK, fine, I stacked the decks a bit on #2, but this is a point lost on many.
Yeah, it’s lost on people who actually care about the truth and child safety more than ill-conceived ideologies.
It’s exceptionally likely that if one vaccine can cause some harm, six vaccines will cause more harm to more people, the question is if that harm is exponentially or geometrically greater, and it’s perhaps the most important question of all.
No, weren’t you paying attention. The question is what is the immunologic load in the vaccines. That’s the most relevant and important question here. The first rule of toxicology is that dosage makes the poison. How many times do we have to explain this to you?
Question #3: Do we know the health outcome of children who receive the US vaccine schedule compared to a group of children who don’t? Said differently, do we have unvaccinated controls anywhere?
Um, actually that’s two questions. Can’t you even count?! But as J.B. would say with the maturity of the characters in Clueless, “whatever.” To answer the first question 3, yes, we do. And to answer the second question 3, yes, we do. From Steven B. Harris, MD: in Japan—300,000 people simply stopped vaccinating with MMR until by 1993 they’d stopped vaccinating entirely. Not only did the rate of autism in the completely unvaccinated children fail to decline but it actually went up. Further, we compared vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in Denmark and found no distinction in autism rates. We also know autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls despite both receiving the same vaccines on the same schedule. If one identical twin has autism, the other twin has an 90% chance of also being autistic, regardless of vaccination. Fraternal twins or siblings of individuals with autism have a 50% chance of also being autistic, regardless of vaccination. New Jersey has the sixth lowest vaccination in the U.S. but is number one in autism. And ever since we dropped thimerosal from most child vaccines, autism rates have seemed to increase. By every reasonable standard we can think of, we can find no relationship between vaccines and autism. If anything, our studies show vaccines may decrease the autism rate.
Of course, we AoA readers all know the answer here: a blazing NO, which makes those who repeat the hungry lie, like Alison Singer and Paul Offit, blazing liars.
Ha! That’s because Age of Autism readers are being systematically lied to by folks like J.B. here. That’s like basing your ideas of reality on what Fox News viewers think. And the “hungry lie” to borrow Handley’s silly phrase, is that the kind of studies he and his ilk demand are unsafe and unreasonable as they’d literally endanger the lives of thousands of children.
“Feigned exasperation” is the latest strategy from those feeding the hungry lie…
And earlier in his article:
This lie, it really drives me nuts. More, and I can say this and mean it, anyone who repeats this lie is immediately my enemy.
Oh, the irony!
- None of the studies compare anything but vaccinated children to other vaccinated children
False. I refer you again to those 300,000 unvaccinated Japanese and the Danish study as the two most famous examples. You know the Danish study, J.B. That’s the one you dismiss out of hand because one of its minor contributors happened to commit a crime that that is completely unrelated to the study itself. And they say McCarthyism is dead! And again, I refer you to this article by Leart Shaka that directly addresses your pathetic argument as well as your very next argument:
Of the 36 vaccines US children receive, only 2 of those shots (the MMR given twice) have ever been compared for their relationship to autism, and then only with otherwise vaccinated children.
First it was the MMR. So we studied it and found no link. So then you moved on to the thimerosal and we found no link there either. So then you just made up another vaccine-related hypothesis, and another, and another. The one thing that is consistent here is that it’s always about the vaccines even though no credible evidence suggests they have anything to do with autism.This is just a constant game of move the goalpost. We can never exhaust every possible combination of vaccines and vaccine schedules to satisfy the anti-vaccine movement. It’s just perpetual wack-a-mole when our resources would be better spent exploring real leads.
To quote Shaka in the article I just linked to:
This sort of tactic is similar to going up to a detective investigating a murder case and saying “I think you should conduct a search of that vehicle there” and if he agrees and nothing is found, you go back to him and say “OK, but did you search….that vehicle over there” and so on and so on, pointing to vehicles just because you think there may be something there. How seriously do you think you’d be taken by the detective?
But back to Captain Crankypants:
It’s absurd, really, how little work has actually been done, despite the feigned exasperation that’s oft-repeated.
Actually, autism research is arguably the health issue being studied the most right now. Handley, I should point out, isn’t doing any of that research. He’s just sitting on the sidelines complaining that it isn’t moving fast enough for him. Well sorry J.B. but science is a lot of hard work. It isn’t like dusting crops. It’s a trial and error process where scientists are mostly flying blind. We’ve been researching cancer a lot longer than autism and we still haven’t unlocked all the mysteries behind what causes all cancers.
But, really, please, do not take my word for it.
No really, don’t take his word for it. That’s the only thing Handley has said so far that I completely 100% agree with.
I’m going to now waste my time, and plenty of yours…
But that’s what you’ve been doing all along, wasting other people’s time.
nd go through every single study, in the order presented, that sits on the Autism Science Foundation’s site, and let you be the judge. Please, if you are a doctor or a scientist, please comment, feel free to argue and prove me wrong. Please, I mean it.
No, he doesn’t. What he means is that he’s going to editorialize as he pretends to objectively go through the studies that disprove his ideology and that every reputable health organization on Earth finds persuasive, and then he’ll demand that you reach the conclusions he’s attempting to impose on you while offering empty platitudes about not wanting you to just take his word for it, but if you then do disagree with him, he’ll do what he does with all his critics, accuse you of being a pharma shill, a liar, a baby-eating cannibal, and/or a whore who delivers oral sex to Dr. Paul Offit –all of these accusations have in fact been made or at least implicitly endorsed by Handley himself against various critics in the recent past.
Much as it pains me, I’m going to comment on each of the 20 studies
Actually, despite his claim that he’s going to waste his time (and apparently thinks educating others with his version of reality is wasting your–another thing I agree with though it’s odd for him to suggest that educating the public, what he claims to be doing, would be a waste of their time)–despite his claim that he’s going to waste his time commenting on every study, he’s really just recycling the already debunked pseudo-refutations he’s had up for years at his fourteenstudies website, a website so old that it was named fourteen when now the studies directly refuting the anti-vaccine claims is twenty.
Now if Handley isn’t really going to waste any of his time copy and pasting his old, debunked pseudo-refutations, I’m not going to waste my time refuting them when various science bloggers have already done so for most of those studies here, here, here, here, and here. And you can find responses to JB Handley’s response to one of those refutations here and here. But again, one thing Handley suggests that I agree with is don’t take his word for it. If you find any of his claims really compelling, contact Handley’s critics among the scientific community and ask them for a rebuttal to his claims. I’m sure Paul Offit would be happy to take a few minutes of his time educating an inquiring mind. And Steven Novella and David Gorski would definitely not mind taking the time to answer the criticisms. Someone makes a claim? Check the response from the other side. Then go back to the first party and get the rebuttal to that. Then go back to second party and get a rebuttal to that. Back and forth. That’s REAL research. Don’t take people on one side of an alleged controversy at their word.
Of course, Handley don’t really expect you to read everything he wrote critically. He apparently thinks no more highly of the intellect of his readers as I do:
So yeah, he’s just drowning his mostly scientifically illiterate readers in what superficially seems like in depth scientific criticism but doesn’t actually either expect them to understand any of it or expert them to show the commitment to even read it all. But hey, it’s long and he says he’s debunking all these twenty studies that every reputable health organization on Earth finds compelling…so that’s good enough, right.
Oh, and then he lists his key points from the article, saying these points are things his readers “know for sure.” What happened to, “don’t take my word for it”?
Then he invites his critics to respond:
Haters, feel free to chime in.
…which is hilarious because Age of Autism is notorious for censoring all comments critical to their claims. And in fact, not a single critical comment can be found in that article, which is rather extraordinary when you consider the fact that every article addressing this issue on independent sites have no shortage of debating on both sides.
But what can you expect from a guy who posts as his actual scientific credentials:
J.B. Handley is the father of a child with autism, the co-founder of Generation Rescue, and a contributing writer for AoA.
Even I have a better bio line on my Examiner page.
So despite the dishonest invite, since I can’t comment on Handley’s piece on his page, I’d appreciate if someone could pass a message along for me. You tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth to go fuck himself!
- J.B. Handley: Attacking the AAP over vaccines…again [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com)
- JB Handley of Generation Rescue on CNN (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)
- Fact checking the Age of Autism’s defense of Andrew Wakefield (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)