Andrew Wakefield is a fraud!

January 5, 2011

Andrew Wakefield is a fraud. To many of you out there, this is not news at all. But today the British Medical Journal released the first of several close examinations by journalist Brian Deer that exposes Andrew Wakefield’s now retracted 1998 study published in the Lancet that analyzed twelve children as not just bad science but deliberately fraudulent.

Among many distortions, Wakefield altered the medical information of all twelve children including changing the dates their symptoms were first reported to fit his predetermined conclusions. For instance,  although the children were reported in the study to show their symptoms almost immediately after receiving the MMR vaccine, their medical records show some developed their symptoms earlier while others not for many months after vaccination (not unlike Jenny McCarthy, who claimed that her son appeared to lose his very soul almost immediately after vaccination but recently admitted it was many months later that his symptoms appeared).

And suddenly this has created a media firestorm on the side of good for a change. Everyone’s talking about this and it’s being called by many to be the biggest scientific fraud of this generation. Orac is even calling it the greatest scientific fraud since Piltdown Man. Dan Harris and Diane Sawyer were harsh in their report on ABC World News tonight. Then Sanjay Gupta went on Wolf Blitzer’s show and firmly declared the study a fraud. Elliot Spitzer and Sanjay Gupta interviewed JB Handley on CNN and were pretty tough on him. Handley said they hadn’t done the research and Spitzer blunted stated, “I think we have.” It was pretty awesome.

But nothing was better than when CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta, got the exclusive privilege of interviewing Wakefield himself and just ripped him to shreds.Not since Jon Stewart was on Crossfire was there a more epic smack-down on television.

Cooper pulled no punches, reminding Wakefield mid-conspiracy that it’s not just Brian Deer calling him a fraud but the entire global medical community and chastising Wakefield for using this interview to just plug his book. Unfortunately, Cooper wasn’t able to respond to Wakefield’s now frequent claim that his research has been repeated in five other studies around the world other than to simply say that this claim is false. But for those who are curious, here are the embarrassing facts about those five studies. Then after the interview, Cooper invited on Seth Mnookin, author of the new book The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear. Cooper said Wakefield refused to be interviewed with Mnookin there to ask questions, so now he and Gupta were just going to talk to Mnookin after the Wakefield interview. And I really started to think Anderson Cooper has been paying attention to skeptical blogs because they hit on just about every point, including whether the media has played into the perpetuation of the myth that vaccines cause autism by presenting a false balance.

This may have been the single biggest nail in the coffin on the anti-vaccine movement yet. It’s just a PR disaster for them. Just look at their flimsy response.

This idea that the entire world is against them and in on an evil conspiracy is, as Mnookin says, just laughable. And this is just a slam dunk victory for good science reporting and skepticism.

[UPDATE 1/7/11: Today, Brian Deer himself (the man Wakefield calls the “hitman” hired to take him out) made several CNN appearances that can viewed here and on Anderson Cooper here.]

[UPDATE 1/11/11: Seth Mnookin talks on American Morning here and Sullivan fact-checks Age of Autism’s defense of Wakefield here]

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The Fightin’ Hitchens

August 5, 2010
Christopher Hitchens speaking at The Amazing M...
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Several weeks ago, one of the most important intellectuals and prolific authors of our time announced that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. That man was Christopher Hitchens, journalist and author of such books as “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and “The Missionary Position,” a demystification and condemnation of Mother Teresa written by the man who the Vatican actually recruited to take on the title of devil’s advocate when the Catholic Church was deciding whether or not to declare her a saint.

Since Hitchens’ grave announcement, he’s written about it in the pages of Vanity Fair and many, including PZ Myers, have written about his courage in facing the very serious possibility that he may not live much longer.

But now Hitchens has appeared on television for the first time since the news of his cancer in an interview with Anderson Cooper and he’s as articulate and strong as ever:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.17.10

July 18, 2010
Illustration of internal parts of a cochlear i...
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1. Cochlear implant brings sound to deaf baby – Stem cells are curing the blind and now technology is solving deafness. Once again, science delivers the good. Click the link to see a video of this 8-month-old baby hearing sound for the first time.

2. Huff Po writer insists homeopathy works…even though she doesn’t know how – Well, I know how. It’s called the placebo effect. Rachel Roberts’ article basically amounts to a lot of anecdotes and appeals to the “I was a skeptic until I tried…” fallacy. There’s also a lot of unstated major premises like the one found at the end of this paragraph:

I admit I ruined that dinner party. I interrogated her about every detail of her diagnosis, previous treatment, time scales, the lot. I thought it through logically – she was intelligent, she wasn’t lying, she had no previous inclination towards alternative medicine, and her reluctance would have diminished any placebo effect.

Why would her reluctance diminish the placebo effect? And when people start just making up random assertions, I find that Dr. Cox has the only appropriate answer.

3. Researchers make cancer more mortal

Washington State University researchers have discovered a way to help cancer cells age and die, creating a promising avenue for slowing and even stopping the growth of tumors.

“Hopefully, we can make cancer cells die like normal cells,” says Weihang Chai, an assistant professor in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences and WWAMI medical education program in Spokane. “Basically, you make the cancer cell go from immortal to mortal.”

4. Argentina passes gay marriage – Argentina’s senate voted 33-27 for gay marriage, making it the first country in South America to legalize same-sex marriage.

5. Antidepressants in the water make shrimp suicidal – This is a tragic story given that it has serious consequences for the ecosystem but I can’t help but find the concept of shrimp suicide funny. Is it just me?

6. $cientology goes to war with Anderson Cooper – After Cooper’s investigation into the Church’s physical abuse allegations recently, this was to be expected. Fortunately, the cult isn’t as powerful as it used to be and, like so many of their other retaliation attempts, will almost certainly blow up in their faces. Nothing can stop The Anderson Cooper!

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James Ray is a dispicable human being

July 2, 2010

Back when the story first broke, I’d written about the arrest of The Secret’s James Ray following the deaths of several individuals taking part in his sweat lodge workshops. Now Anderson Cooper has done a great piece following up on the story.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

James Ray is a dispicable human being, posted with vodpod

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Another devastating week for Scientology…and it’s only Monday

March 29, 2010

Tonight Anderson Cooper began his week-long expose on $cientology, Scientology: A history of violence. Last year saw a series of exposes on the cult from the local California news on KESQ-TV but those were only about 10 minutes each night. And of course the St. Petersburg Times in Florida has been running a long series of reports for the last several months. But now we’re talking about CNN! And not only that but each installment of Cooper’s series will be hours long.

Additionally, Cooper’s savvy enough to put the focus in the right place, less on all the Xenu stuff and more on the actual reported abuses. The reason this is important is that many people have already heard at least a little bit about the Xenu stuff and a lot of religious moderates and liberals have started to be turned off by the mockery of $cientologists’ “beliefs,” naively thinking the issue is just about a weird, goofy religion. It’s not. $cientology is not a religion and bares virtually no resemblance to one. Alleged $cientology churches look remarkably like office buildings inside and out and no actual prayer or meditation takes place in their “churches. ” $cientology is more of a multi-level marketing scheme that figured out long ago that they can get away with a lot more by wearing the costume of religion. But whenever being a religion is inconvenient such as when religious people accuse them of being anti-Christian or whatever, then they conveniently switch their tactics and insist that it’s all just a self-help program and that members are free to be both $cientologists AND Christians, etc.

But the real story about $cientology is not a religion gone wild (I know. It’s redundant). No, the real story is the slave labor and child labor that goes on in the Sea Org, the psychology denialism, the bogus medical treatments, the disconnection policies, the mind control tactics, the nearly forced abortions, the cruel and unusual punishments to enforce discipline, the whole Orwellian nature of the cult.

And not only will all this including interviews with former members be seen in living rooms across the country (and by tomorrow around the world via the internet) but as I’ve reported before an anti-$cientologist film is getting big press in Germany, where the cult is officially regarded as a criminal organization. In response, $cientology has rather amusingly announced their plans to make a rival film.

But something tells me they won’t be hiring J.D. Shapiro to write the script. Shapiro was the unfortunate individual responsible for writing the origin screenplay for Battlefield Earth. Shapiro, possibly the only non-$cientologist involved in the film, now apologizes for the film and humorously recounts how he got involved in the project, his weird experiences with members of the cult, how he got fired from the project, and how he had little to do with the most objectionable parts of the film. Also included is the transcript of the speech he gave when he bravely accepted the Razzie award for the film.

Oh yeah, and the AP has picked up the story about Marc and Claire Headley’s lawsuit against against $cientology over the treatment they received in the Sea Org.

All this pretty much guarantees that this will be in the hall of fame of worst weeks in the cult’s history.


The response to Obama’s decision to include Rick Warren in his inauguration

December 19, 2008

First, here is Obama’s defending his decision:

Well, he’s right about one thing:  he has been consistent regarding his stance on gay equality but he’s been consistently opposed to it on account of the sanctity of the dictionary.

On Anderson Cooper:


Now Obama has also tried to defend his decision by suggesting Rick Warren has led the evangelical movement in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis. And here is science blogger Abbie Smith of ERV’s response to that.

In the interests then of open-mindedness and consistency, then perhaps Obama should allow bigots of every type to speak at his inauguration. Holocaust denier David Irving could give a speech, followed by Fred Phelps. It’ll be a party.

Barack, the Religious Right WILL NEVER LOVE YOU. Stop trying.