I am saddened by the knowledge that, for some people, evidence is not good enough. Maybe they have a political agenda that they are trying to push, or maybe they are gullible. Maybe thet feel like they have to hold onto their beliefs for some other reason. Maybe it’s just easier to blame something on environmental casuses than to think about ideas like genetic mutation.
I am, of course, talking about the autism/vaccines debate that has been goung on for about ten years now. Never have I seen so many good people stand up and fight against frauds and charlitans trying to lure people with false claims and pseudoscience.
The fact is, none of this seems to matter. Steven Novella has a post today about a new study that adds to the research showing that the preservative thimerosal is not correlated with autism. This is great, but it really doesn’t matter. The AntiVax groups and spokespeople don’t really care about autism. They care about pushing the idea that vaccines are unhealthy. Take Andrew Wakefield, for example. His first AntiVax statements didn’t even relate to autism, but to Crohn’s Disease. Wakefield then presented that the MMR vaccine causes autism. When he was shown to be a crackpot who accepted money from ambulance-chasers to conduct his “research,” the story came back, this time with the ethylmercury preservative Thimerosal as the culprit. All hell broke loose, withassholes like David Kirby coming out of the woodwork claiming that the government was poisoning our children. When that lost its flavor, they turned back to MMR, but this time the spokesperson was a media-hungry wench concerned mother, Jenny McCarthy, and evidence was replaced with “mother’s intuition.” You want to know about mother’s intuition? My mother asked me every day of my high school career if I was using drugs, because she was sure I was. I never used until college.
No ammount of evidence matters for these people. They don’t even care about autism. They only care about vaccines being bad. And I fell for it! When I first read the Robert Kennedy article, I was all in. Then I read the science, and thought, gee, Kennedy must be mistaken. Little did I know that this was no mistake. This was a concerted effort on behalf of a few activists to supress science.
You want to know how completely screwed up these people are? California banned the use of thimerosal in 2001. David Kirby later stated, “If the number of three- to five-year-olds [with autism] in the California [health care] system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis.” Later when evidence came out of California and European Nations which had banned thimerosal in the 1990s which showed that thimerosal had nothing to do with autism, Kirby backpeddled, saying “the committee gave a preponderance of emphasis on epidemiological evidence and rather, I would say, gave short shrift to the biological evidence.” Apparently epidemiology is only okay when David Kirby thinks it will back him up. Does this sound like someone who is looking after the interests of parents, or someone who is trying to line his fat wallet? I’ll bet David Kirby has more to gain from telling you that vaccines are bad than I do by telling you that vaccines are safe.
But none of this matters. They will find more reasons to hate vaccines, even if they have to give up the autism link. In the meantime, Here’s a lecture I went to in December in Arlington, VA. It’s 5 parts. Here is part 1.