2011-01-08 08:19:26Interesting parallel: "Vaccination causes Autism"


A myth that has taken hold in the last few years is the idea that vaccination of children against infectious diseases has caused the recent increase in the rate of diagnosis of autism among children.

This idea has suffered every setback known to science - from contradicting studies and most recently to the discovery that the "seminal" papers on this subject were just made up from faked data. Like a zombie, it refuses to die, as fearful mothers cling desperately to the hope that they can ward off the unknown by avoiding vaccination. Unfortunately, this means that a substantial number of children are never vaccinated at all, thus exposing the entire populace to the risk of infection.

Sounds like something else we're dealing with.


2011-01-08 15:29:39Something to do once we've dealt with this whole global warming caper
John Cook

How does www.skepticalvaccination.com sound?:-)

in fact, let's go the whole hog. Websites like www.skepticalmoonlanding.com, www.skepticalevolution.com and www.skepticalobamabirthcertificate.com could be fun!

2011-01-08 18:03:35


To be serious (or anyway, more serious than I think you intend), I don't think we need to start up any new projects:

- I think the legs are cut off this vaccination issue, as the anti-injection concept is going to be confined to the alternative-medicine folks, who are a small minority.

- Anti-evolutionists: People just seem to be able to divide how they think about evolution from how they think about technology: It's dumb, but I think it means that anti-evolutionary concepts won't have any major impact on the future. It just becomes part of the education problem; in the US, we're having enough trouble teaching reading and arithmetic; once you get them into the understanding of algebra and basic science, I think they're over the issue or else have "isolated" it. So I think the issue is more-or-less harmless. (Knock on wood.)

- Obama's birth-certificate: I think this is also a fading "issue".

- Anti-moonlanders: Who cares? They are good for entertainment value.


No, the reason I bring up the anti-vaccination phobia is that I think that's going to be tamped down. Maybe we can learn something from the way that goes down.


2011-01-17 22:32:20A useful metaphor and a topical one


What is especially useful about the MMR vaccine scare is that it was recently - a very publicly - debunked by the British Medical Council last year. (It found that the lead author of the original Lancet article (Wakefield) had serious undeclared conflicts of interest. These included a plan to launch a venture on the back of the MMR scare that would offer new medical tests and "litigation driven testing". Wakefield predicted he would make more than $43 million from diagnostic kits.)

The original scare gained huge traction in spite of being rejected by the world's major scientific organisations, including the American Academy of Sciences. "Skeptics" insinuated that this was a case of the medical establishment closing ranks in defence of the status quo, and rounding on a brave 'maverick' who wasn't following the rules. A familiar line of attack. Internet blogging was instrumental in getting the scare over and whipping up public suspicion and fear.

The MMR vaccine scare is a classic, cut & dried example of how easy it is for a single individual to spread disinformation on a scientific topic via the Internet and via newspapers - newspapers that are hungry for 'news', and which lack the necessary expertise to examine controversial claims. Many people, including many journalists, think that if there is so much skepticism in the blogosphere about climate change,  there must be something genuine in the skeptic position. The MMR vaccine scare demostrates that it ain't necessarily so. If one doctor with a plan can create so much havoc (and endanger the lives of so many children) what can the combined might of the global oil and coal industries manage? Answer: just about anything.