J.B. Handley is a libelous douchebag

January 26, 2011

Lord of the Douchebags

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.

Moving on.

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.

He continues:

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:

I’d like to thank the AoA readers who made it this far, all three of you.

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!

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Anti-vaxxers showing sour grapes over Frontline’s ‘The Vaccine War’

April 28, 2010

Last night PBS aired an episode of the show Frontline titled “The Vaccine War.” The entire show is now available online here. And while not perfect, the show did a fairly good job of objectively and accurately reporting the facts. So of course the anti-vaxxers ain’t pleased.

Jay Gordon ain’t happy. How dare they not include any of his interview in the final edit? It must be a conspiracy!!!! A conspiracy, I tell you!!! Whoa there, Jay. Welcome to the world of television media, where producers have to find a way to fit many hours of content into a coherent one hour narrative. Did I bitch and complain when I never heard back from the Newsweek.com documentarian I gave a preliminary 10-15 minute phone interview to about the Stop Jenny McCarthy site? No. I’ve logged and edited hundreds of hours of footage myself, so I realize how fucking difficult it is to figure who you want to devote time to interviewing on camera and which footage you have to unfortunately leave on the cutting room floor.

But the best hissy fit of course goes to Queen Anti-Vax herself, Jenny McCarthy. The Huffington Post, with its non-existent journalistic standards, happily posted her unstructured rant. Her main point (and I use the term “point” loosely here) seems to be that Frontline promised that they’d conduct a fair investigation and she’s interpreted this to mean that they promised her they’d interview all those actual scientists on her side of the issue instead of making it a scientists versus parents story as they did. And of course it’s an unfair stereotype, though not for the reason Jenny thinks. It’s unfair because Jenny and her anti-vaxxer cult don’t speak for all parents. In fact most parents still believe in vaccinating their children. Jenny doesn’t even speak for parents of autistic kids, as most of them hate her guts to for repeatedly describing autistic kids as soulless, broken pieces of shit. Sadly, that side of the story didn’t make it on the show either.

But as for all those “scientists” who actively support the anti-vaxxer agenda? I can pretty much count them on two hands:  Wakefield, Gordon, Tenpenny, Blaylock, Sears, Mercola. And a couple who slip mind mind at the moment. And while not interviewed, Wakefield was represented in the show. The fact is that this is a war between those on the side of science and an hysterical cult of well-meaning scientific illiterates and ideologues. The science is squarely against Jenny and the show did an fairly accurate job of showing this.

Also worth noting  is that Jenny didn’t point out a single demonstrable fact that the show got wrong. No, instead she whined about how unfairly she felt she was treated by I guess not having the whole show devoted to her interview even though anyone can watch her interview and J.B. Handley’s interview in their entirety online and even though fairness would have excluded them and Barbara Loe Fisher as interview subjects entirely given their lack of expertise.
And that brings me to another amusing element of Jenny’s rant. She’s insisting that Frontline should have interviewed scientists on her side because she, Handley, and Fisher are just parents of autistic kids turned activists. Her point is that she, Handley, and Fisher are not qualified. Funny how their lack of credentials is only an issue to vaccine deniers when the cameras are rolling.
And Jenny further shows her contempt for her readers by bringing up the whole Paul Thorsen case, insinuating the outside activities of some minor player in just one of many studies that disproves her position is somehow relevant. What does Poul Thorsen allegedly stealing money from the CDC have to do with the science that shows you’re wrong, Jenny? This is nothing but a disgraceful dodge to avoid addressing the real issue, the science. But of course Jenny doesn’t understand the science, so she’s got to resort to red herrings and ad hominems. Again, she couldn’t find a single fact presented in the show that was demonstrably wrong.

Meanwhile the show pointed out serious holes in the anti-vaxxers’ claims. Anti-vaxxers fail to consider that autism is just as prevalent among the unvaccinated as it is the vaccinated, that there are at least as many cases where early autism symptoms had no timing coincidence with vaccines at all, and that boys are four times more likely to develop autism despite both genders receiving equal numbers of vaccines. According to the anti-vaxxer position, all three of these facts are IMPOSSIBLE!


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.25.10

February 26, 2010

1. A new study suggests acupuncture is good for depression in pregnancy. . .or does it?

In other words, acupuncture specific for depression produced an effect that was not different from that of one of the controls. But by creating a group that combined non-specific acupuncture (ineffective) with massage (effective), they were able to create a composite that was ineffective, and then they compared the experimental group with the composite. But that doesn’t change the fact that acupuncture for depression was no better than massage.

Have the authors shown that acupuncture specific for depression is effective for treating depression in pregnant women? I don’t think so. If it offers no advantage over massage, we can forget about acupuncture and simply offer depressed pregnant women a day at the spa. It is no less effective and probably far more enjoyable.

2. Smile or Die:  How positive thinking fooled America and the world – In her new book, Barbara Ehrenreich presents the evidence of numerous studies demonstrating that positive thinking has no effect on survival rates. She also provides testimonies that suggest that possibly great harm comes from this false hope.

Pity, for example, the woman who wrote to the mind/body medical guru Deepak Chopra: “Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise and supplements, the cancer keeps coming back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps re-occurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it does get harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude.”

New Age mysticism may sound harmless enough but here is a great example of how dangerous such irrational beliefs are.

3. A gene mutation is linked to autistic symptoms in mice – Once again, this is research that would not exist if J.B. Handley, Jenny McCarthy, and their anti-vaccine cohorts were making the decisions because they have zero interest in exploring the genetic basis for autism.

4. Stem Cells restore sight to blind mice – I feel like this news story is a rerun. Anyway though, once again this is research that might not have existed if George Bush was president.

An international research team led by Columbia University Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. This strategy could potentially become a new treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a leading cause of blindness that affects approximately one in 3,000 to 4,000 people, or 1.5 million people worldwide.


This Week in Epic Fails 2.10.10

February 11, 2010

1. Utah passes bill allowing women to view heartbeat of their 3-week-old fetus before abortion – Hope the anti-choicers are happy with the result because 3-week-old fetuses don’t have heartbeats:

Before HB200 cleared the chamber in a 53-15 vote, Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to delete language he believed to be flat-out false, referring to viewing the heartbeat of a fetus at three weeks.”It is not medically accurate,” Litvack said. “It’s not possible. It does not exist.”

Litvack read from a physician’s e-mail that said you could expect to see embryonic cardiac activity at about six weeks from the woman’s last period.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, the bill’s sponsor, disputed Litvack’s claim.

“There are arguments on both sides of the issue,” Wimmer, R-Herriman, said.

I’m sure there are, Carl. The problem is that reality is only on ONE side, the side that says that there isn’t a human fetus on Earth that has a heart at 3 weeks, let alone a heartbeat.

2. Left Brain/Right Brain demolishes J.B. Handley’s latest moronery – Yup, Handley trots out the old “too much too soon” gambit and gets a detailed response explaining precisely why it’s complete garbage.

Oh, and speaking of anti-vaccine lunatics. . .

3. The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN–that’s really their acronym, hehe) is being audited – It couldn’t happen to more deserving folks:

THE BANGALOW-BASED Australian Vaccination Network will undergo a full audit by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing following complaints it has been unlawfully fundraising.

Charity inspectors are expected to soon visit the organisation’s office to examine records and interview staff to check if it has been operating in breach of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991.

Awwwwwwww! That’s a shame, a damned, damned shame.

4. Evolution Fucked Your Shit Up: The World’s 50 Freakiest Animals – Step right up, folks. And welcome to the greatest show on Earth. See the Sea Pig, the snake with legs, the Aye-Aye (which I called the MonkeySquirrelRodent a year and a half ago), the Hairy Frog, the Human-Faced Carp, the Axolotl, the Chinese Giant Salamander, the Thorny Devil Lizard, the Hagfish, the Seadevil, the Goblin Shark, the Purple Frog, the Pygmy Marmoset, the Sea Dragon, the Tarsier, the Angora Rabbit, the Blobfish, the Wrinkle-Faced Bat, the Dumbo Octopus, the Liger, and many more–they’re all here!!!!

Mother nature is a mad scientist!

Made of pure cute


More anti-vaccine news and the “Age of Wakefield”

February 9, 2010

1. Autism LINKED to vaccines? Nah, just kidding. – It’s just further evidence of autism’s genetic roots. Researchers have discovered that unsurprisingly, advanced maternal age increases the likelihood of autism:

Advanced maternal age is linked to a significantly elevated risk of having a child with autism, regardless of the father’s age, according to an exhaustive study of all births in California during the 1990s by UC Davis Health System researchers. Advanced paternal age is associated with elevated autism risk only when the father is older and the mother is under 30, the study found.

And the alleged increased rate of autism makes more sense when you consider how medical science is allowing more and more women to procreate well into their forties. Of course none of this can explain every single case of autism but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Of course J.B. Handley would rather we all stop wasting our time, money, and energy on that worthless genetic research and perpetually investigate vaccines till the end of time. Sorry J.B. but we prefer to investigate avenues that will actually result in decreasing the rate of autism.

And in a related story. . .

2. England & Wales see 36% rise in measles – That’s the largest number since the monitoring scheme was introduced in 1995.

Health Protection Agency experts said most of the cases had been in children not fully vaccinated with combined MMR and so could have been prevented.

. . .

More than 600 of the 2008 measles cases occurred in London, where uptake of the vaccine for MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – is particularly low.

Public confidence in the triple MMR vaccine dipped following research – since discredited – which raised the possibility that the jab may be linked to an increased risk of autism.

Thanks Andrew Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, et al. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

3. Age of Wakefield – As I’ve reported before, the Age of Autism blog seems to have completely transformed itself in the Andrew Wakefield Defense Campaign website. Ever since Wakefield’s disgrace has been made official, close to 100% of the blog entries on the page are about spinning Wakefield as a persecuted martyr at the hands of the evil science mafia conspiracy. This is best illustrated by visiting their page but is also very evident when looking at the I Speak of Dreams blog, which has made a mission out of collecting blogs, both positive and negative, discussing the Wakefield scandal since his disgrace had become complete.

This blog, Skepacabra, makes at least one appearance on the list. But what’s abundantly clear is that while the blogs supporting the Lancet’s decision to retract the Wakefield story come from a multitude of sources spanning many backgrounds and sites including many actual medical professionals, those found in defense of Wakefield are almost exclusively from Age of Autism or at least from authors who regularly write for Age of Autism. There’s AoA regulars Kim Stagliano and David Kirby posting on the Huffington Post, a Fox “News” interview with AoA editor Mark Blaxill, CNN’s interview with Stagliano, well-established loony and non-doctor Mike Adams blogging over at his Natural News site. Then just a handful of obscure blogs and a whole mess of posts from Age of Autism directly.

So while this does a decent job of illustrating precisely where the campaign of misinformation spread, I do have to admit that there’s one thing on the I Speak of Dreams site that bugs me. I find it somewhat disconcerting that Debbie Schlussel and I agree about something. But at least I can be slightly comforted by the fact that Schlussel’s criticisms almost exclusively involve hurling sexist insults at Jenny McCarthy instead of well reasoned arguments.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.1.10

February 2, 2010

1. $7000 talking sex robot – I’ve blogged before about Roxxxy, the world’s most sophisticated talking female sex robot. Now CNN’s talking about it (her?):

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone “skin,” she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct “personalities,” from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers’ preferences.

We knew this day was coming and now that time seems to have arrived when we can build robotic women who can converse and fake orgasms.

2. Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.

Outstanding!

3. Medical researchers working on a pill to treat Fragile X

Chances are you’ve never heard of the target — Fragile X syndrome — even though it’s the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, estimated to affect almost 100,000 Americans. It’s also the most common cause of autism yet identified, as about a third of Fragile X-affected boys have autism.

Now a handful of drug makers are working to develop the first treatment for Fragile X, spurred by brain research that is making specialists rethink how they approach developmental disorders.

. . .

“We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities,” predicts Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, a study site.

This is exactly the kind of research that will one day defeat autism but from which ideologues like J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue have publicly called a waste of money because they’re obsessed with fruitless vaccine research. Autism is a genetic disorder and our be hope of treating it besides behavior therapies is manipulating the genes.

4. Henrietta Lack’s immortal cells

In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

. . .

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

5. Christians literally claim monopoly on aid in Haiti – Now while that might sound like a good thing, according to a voodoo priest, believers are being discriminated against in their efforts to help and deliberately prevented from getting much-needed aid to followers of their religion:

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

6. Point of Inquiry podcast gets new hosts – Now that D.J. Grothe is leaving the Center For Inquiry (CFI) to take on his new role as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, he will no longer be hosting the CFI’s weekly podcast series Point of Inquiry. And now his replacement hosts have been announced:  Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow and Robert Price. For the most part, these are all strong picks. Of course, regular readers may guess that the one person I’m iffy on is Chris Mooney. While I do continue to read and enjoy his blog, The Intersection, one issue that I strongly disagree with him on is his condemnation of so-called “New Atheism” or “militant atheism” as well as his insistence that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  And for this reason, he seems like an unlikely choice to represent the Center For Inquiry, whose secular goals often coincide with that of the more aggressive atheists. Though maybe I’m wrong and his perspective will ultimately just foster more challenging discussions. I hope all three the best of luck.

7. American Atheists trying to buy naming rights to Superbowl stadium for 1 hour? – I think this sounds like a really dumb idea and a total waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. It would be one thing if they were to buy naming rights to the stadium during the Superbowl or hours before it, but–no, come to think of it, it would still be a dumb idea.


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.26.10

January 27, 2010

1. Studying the attention spans of flies may lead to insights in ADHD and autism – Remember two years ago when Sarah Palin laughed at fruit fly research. . .and everyone who knew anything at all about science proceeded to laugh at her. Well here’s another reason why.

An Australian-German team of scientists at Freie Universität and the Queensland Brain Institute in Brisbane, Australia, has found a way to measure the attention span of a fly. The findings could lead to further advances in the understanding of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism in humans.

And that laughter extends to J.B. Handley, who I reported yesterday has called legitimate scientific research into autism a waste of money, insisting instead that research dollars should go towards trying to prove his already debunked hypothesis that vaccines cause autism.

2. Rationally Speaking podcast is now available to download – The New York City Skeptics now have an official podcast, Rationally Speaking, which is hosted by Biologist/Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and a friend of mine, Journalist Julia Galef, Check it out.

3. Vote RachieDr. Rachael Dunlop, who once interviewed me for The Skeptics Zone podcast (ep. 51), is now in a head-to-head competition with the certifiably insane Joseph Mercola for the number one spot in the Health category of the ShortyAwards, voted by Twitter users. You can vote for her here. Mercola has even gone so far as to childish call Dunlop “fat” and “Big Pharma’s wet dream.” Classy guy.

4. New study further suggests flattery works. . .but I’m sure not on people as smart and clever as you

What this research suggests, however, is that the implicit positivity we experience as a result of viewing these images could play an important role in what we reach for when standing in the liquor store staring at a freezer full of cheap beer. You may not know why, but you’d feel pretty good about a Bud right now. And while you feel certain to you that your preference is not due to those silly ads (just like it might seem obvious to a manager that they didn’t promote a candidate because he brings her donuts every morning), perhaps it is the certainty with which we dismiss these kinds of manipulative and deceptive appeals that allows them to hold such sway.