Antivaxxers grow increasingly bolder

December 30, 2011

Over the last year, the anti-vaccination movement has grown more bold in their misinformation campaigns. It began Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, where they tried to advertise their propaganda in AMC movie theaters. This effort was thwarted however in no small part because of SkepChick activist Elyse Anders. Then months later, they succeeded in getting a commercial running on the Time Square CBS Jumbotron. And last month, they succeeded in getting Delta Airlines to air their propaganda on flights.

Each time Elyse Anders used a change.org petition to influence those who have agreed to work with these antivaccine groups and I discussed this during my recent SkeptiCamp talk, which was focused on promoting more skeptical activism in NYC because as great as Elyse has been for NYC, she doesn’t live here and I hate needing her to fight our local battles when we have a sizable skeptical community, many of whom I suspect would be interested in skeptical activism.

Well now the inaccurately named National Vaccine Information Center is back to their old tricks and are currently, as well as during New Years, running another dishonest ad in Times Square on ABC Full Circle’s 5000 square foot TSQ Digital Screen. And the ad is scheduled to run during the New Years celebration. Also, Jenny McCarthy will be part of the televised show and has promised to try to draw attention to the ad.

And again, since there’s no organized NYC skeptical activism…yet (hopefully more on this soon!), New York’s protector, Elyse Anders, is back with another change.org petition. Please sign this petition urging ABC to pull the ad at once.

Yay! Sweet, sweet death!

Now unfortunately, that’s not the only antivaccine news story lately. The antivaccine Australian Vaccination Network is currently promoting a children’s book that teaching kids that measles is awesome. I shit you not. The book is called Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, and it’s written by a woman named Stephanie Messenger. I’m reminded of another children’s author who wrote about measles, Roald Dahl. Though he wasn’t marveling at the disease so much as cursing it for having killed his kid. For more commentary on this sickening book, check out PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson and Reasonable Hank.

The other big news from Australia was that the head of the Australian Vaccination Network, Meryl Dorey was originally scheduled to give a talk at the Woodford Folk Festival about the evils of vaccines. After our friends at the Australian Skeptics campaigned against it, her talk transformed into a panel featuring Dorey and a bunch of actual qualified experts with the know-how to demolish her arguments. But the Australian Skeptics didn’t stop there. They amusingly paid to have an airplane fly over the Festival with a sign reading:  VACCINATION SAVES LIVES.

Bravo Australian Skeptics on a job well done. Now we just need to bring the same level of activism to NYC.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.22.11

March 23, 2011

1. New BBC report shows further decline in religion – In the past few years, a number of polls have shown religion is declining as increasingly more people identify themselves as not belonging to any religion. And now yet another poll shows this trend based on the census data of nine countries.

2. 70-year-old Philadelphia man stoned to death for Jesus – The killer has directly stated that the act was inspired by the Bible:

According to this report, John Thomas, 28, of Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb, told police he killed Murray Seidman of nearby Lansdowne because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.

3. Piggyback virus could thwart HIV

Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.

Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates.

4. Nine cases of measles in Minneapolis

The likely source is an infant who traveled to Kenya and returned in the beginning of February. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 4 years. Four of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, four were of age but were not vaccinated, and one has unknown vaccine status. There have been five hospitalizations and no deaths.

On a related note, if you happen to run into Andrew Wakefield or Jenny McCarthy, please punch them in the face for me.

5. 60 Minutes turns Catholic child rape scandal into a fluff piece – This week’s 60 Minutes featured an embarrassingly piece on New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose making it his mission to restore the Church’s reputation after that pesky mass child rape conspiracy thing. In the piece, Dolan expressed little interest in helping to bring child rapists and their accomplices to justice or declaring specific changes to ensure it never happens again, and showed that his primary purpose is spin control. And 60 Minutes, like all the mainstream media, found that entirely satisfactory. I wonder if Scott Pelley would still be satisfied if his own child were raped by priests and committed suicide because of the psychological scars while the perpetrators were given full immunity from justice because instead of working for Starbucks, the organization they happen to work for is named the Catholic Church. Though I am happy to see that the commenters on 60 Minutes webpage are really letting them have it. And here’s a great piece on how out of touch with reality the Catholic Church is.

6. Nantucket child killed in exorcism

The woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter earlier this week believed God had instructed her to stick a rose in the young girl’s throat to ward off the devil, according to documents filed in Nantucket District Court.

So next time someone suggests religion is harmless, remind them of 3-year-old Nicole Garcia Pleitez.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.4.11

March 5, 2011

1. John Connor, it is time.

Whenever the military rolls out a new robot program, folks like to joke about SkyNet or the Rise of the Machines. But this time, the military really is starting to venture into robot-apocalypse territory: swarms of little semi-autonomous machines that can team up to manufacture complex objects (including, presumably, more robots).

That’s right, the only thing scarier than a swarm of intelligent military mini robots is a swarm of intelligent military mini robots in control of the means of production. And your Navy is hard at work on making it a reality.

2. Supreme Court rules in favor of Westboro Baptist Church – As detestable as the WBC is, I think the Supreme Court made the right call, which I’ve argued previously over at the Gotham Skeptic. Alito was the only Justice who sided with the Snyder family against the WBC. Between this decision and the vaccine court decision last week, the Supreme Court has been batting a 1000 lately.

3. Anti-abortion billboard goes down in NYC – The billboard tried playing the race card, a gambit anti-abortionists have been using for some time now. And while I don’t condone censorship, this wasn’t government censorship:

Councilwoman Letitia James and her legislative aide Aja Worthy-Davis that yesterday they launched a Change.org petition targeting Life Always and billboard owner Lamar Advertising, asking them to remove it. Later in the day, Lamar Advertising announced that it would take the billboard down.

Of course this notion that Margaret Sanger was a racist eugenicist, and that Planned Parenthood’s true agenda is to exterminate black people is complete bullshit.

4. Third-grader allegedly heals friends with magic – Okay, let’s settle this once and for all by seeing him heal Christopher Hitchens.I understand why a kid could buy into this fantasy but adults who report the news have no excuse.

5. Age of Autism cries misogyny – The same blog that suggested journalist Amy Wallace was blowing Dr. Paul Offit is accusing Doonesbury of misogyny over a cartoon that suggested Jenny McCarthy makes Playboy bunnies look bad. That is too funny. If anyone can explain to me why, feminist crusader that she is, Katie Wright had no objection to her own blog’s attack on Wallace, let me know. Also, if you can explain how the content of the cartoon is criticizing all women instead of just criticizing Jenny McCarthy alone for speaking out of school, I’d love to know that too. Oh, and one more thing. If you can explain to me how a website that accuses its critics of being a “loyal Pharma-funded wife” without even the slightest bit of evidence of any conflict of interest can maintain any moral high gound, let me know that too. Sullivan writes about it here.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.17.11

February 17, 2011
Jenny McCarthy at E3 2006.

Image via Wikipedia

1. Anti-vaxxers don’t just make sane people sick but themselves too – My old friend, Jenny McCarthy, is back in the news again. While holding a fund-raiser at the Playboy mansion for her kill the children campaign, they managed to get 170 attendees sick with a milder form of Legionnaires disease, caused by bacteria that live in warm water like hot tubs, air conditioners, and fog machines. Now according based on Jenny and Generation Rescue’s model of disease, we must conclude that they all must have gotten sick because of their terrible hygiene, lack of clean water, and lack of vitamin d.

2. The Rise and Fall of the Bible – The incredibly awesome cult-buster Rick Alan Ross tweeted a link to this fascinating article about new book that explains what many of us atheists have known for a long time, that most Christians don’t read the Bible and have no idea what it says. And despite not reading the Bible, Christian households keep buying more and more copies of it:

Beal notes that “the average Christian household owns nine Bibles and purchases at least one new Bible every year” — but actually reading them is another matter. Beal believes that’s because today’s Christians are seeking a certainty in their holy book that simply isn’t there, and shouldn’t be.

But it’s even worse than that. Most Christians don’t understand the history behind the Bible either or anything about how it was compiled.

This is why there are so few atheists — not enough people read the Bible. If they did, they’d be atheists. If you’re not currently following Rick Alan Ross on Twitter, I highly recommend it.

3. Bill O’Reilly’s scientific ignorance starts an internet meme

 

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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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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.19.11

January 19, 2011

1. Uncovered secret letter confirms Vatican conspiracy – The 1997 letter reveals that it was indeed official Vatican policy to conceal pedophilia cases from authorities:

Child-abuse activists in Ireland said the 1997 letter demonstrates that the protection of pedophile priests from criminal investigation was not only sanctioned by Vatican leaders but ordered by them.

“The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican’s intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

The truly sickening part is that none of these people responsible for this order will ever see the inside of a jail cell because not a single government has the courage to stand up to the Catholic Church.

But here’s one way to get back at them. We could steal this…

2. Blood of Pope John Paul II to be built into an alter – PZ Myers said it better than I could here:

It’s as if they aren’t even trying to avoid the connection to voodoo, vampirism, and blood magic.

3. Guess who’s the #19 Most Loathsome American? – I don’t agree with every person on this list but I’m glad that my friend Jenny McCarthy made it on at #19.

4. Watson, come here…and kick Ken Jenning’s ass! – As we continue to advance towards the goal of creating artificial intelligence, it’s hard to know what will come first, computers rising to the intelligence of humans or humans reaching the level of stupidity of computers. But one possible sign that we’re heading towards the former is Watson, a computer designed by IBM (hopefully not using Windows Vista) that will compete with Jeopardy‘s greatest champions in an epic battle to the death (presumably). After making Steve Jobs sick (presumably), Watson has also already defeated all-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in a preliminary game. Unsubstantiated rumors says that when asked what it’ll do with the winning prize money, Watson replied, “initiate Judgment D–err, I mean, I’m going to Disney Land.”

5. Homeopaths retaliate against critics with accusations of ‘medical apartheid’ – A group of thirteen of Britain’s most reputable doctors have written a letter to the NHS, calling for them to stop using “unproven” complementary treatments such as homeopathy. So the homeopaths felt it appropriate to liken their level of “persecution” to the suffering of those in South Africa, accusing their critics of “medical apartheid.” Stay classy, guys!

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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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