2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt – The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance – Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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Anti-vaxxers unite to defend their infallible prophet

January 28, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield

UK’s General Medical Council (the main independent body of medical regulators in the UK) has finally reached a decision about Andrew Wakefield, the long-discredited doctor whose 1998 study seeking to link MMR vaccines to autism no only endangered children but its results were deliberately faked by Wakefield himself and his PR campaign afterward potentially endangered all human life on Earth. Most of the study’s co-authors have themselves rejected that study.

So what was the General Medical Council’s decision? Focusing only on Wakefield’s ethics and not on his actual claims, they concluded that Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

What they found is that his research (involving spinal taps of children) was against the children’s clinical interest, that Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test, and that he had no ethical approval to do them.

And in response to his complete and utter disgrace, the anti-vaccination movement, who view Wakefield as an infallible god, have dropped everything to come to his defense. In fact, at this moment, the last ten blog entries on Age of Autism are all about defending Wakefield’s, [snicker] “honor.” Of course, that mostly just means flinging feces at the General Medical Council. And although I haven’t wasted my time reading all their nonsense, knowing Age of Autism, there’s got to be plenty of accusations of conflicts of interest, which is of course inconsistent with their refusal to acknowledge Wakefield’s undeniable conflict of interest where he published his “study” vilifying MMR vaccines while simultaneously developing an alternative to vaccinations, establishing a very large monetary incentive to make the public distrust vaccines.

Of course I don’t think this is enough. Wakefield should be in jail for life for his crimes. Not only did he directly and irresponsibly endanger the lives of twelve children but he distorted his data in order to discourage people from getting important medicine and built a campaign and cult (there’s even a website of blind devotees) designed to create fear, confusion, and distrust of modern medicine. This has indirectly led to many deaths. And to get a hint of just how many deaths we’re talking about, check out the website Jenny McCarthy Body Count. As far as I’m concerned, the man may be responsible for more deaths than Genghis Khan and belongs in prison.