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'Bringing science back into America's sphere' hits a nerve

August 24, 2009 | 11:23 am

Vaccines500

In Saturday's Los Angeles Times, my article appeared, 'Bringing science back into America's sphere.' The piece is a Q&A with author Chris Mooney about his book "Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future," on how science has become less important to many Americans and the threats he and coauthor Sheril Kirshenbaum feel this poses to society.

We've received many letters and phone calls in response to this article and the issues he discussed: religion, Pluto no longer being considered a planet, vaccines, the Internet and how we go forward.

The health aspect of all this is the vaccines-cause-autism issue: Mooney discusses this at some length. He says there are many well-educated people who believe that vaccines caused autism in their children, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

We've created this post as an open forum for your comments.

What is your opinion on the vaccines-cause-autism issue? Do you think America is less scientific-minded than it once was? 

We welcome your feedback in the comments below.

-- Lori Kozlowski

Photo credit: Tim Sloan / Getty Images

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Comments (135)

I don't think that vaccines cause autism. There are several toxins in our common environment that are far more powerful in their possible effects than those in vaccines.

My parents, who were born around 1860, were scientifically much more literate than our current generation. When I traveled in the U.S., Japan and China during my teen years and later, the majority of people I became acquainted with were pro-science but not necessarily well educated, and understood the real world much better than the majority in our own country do now.

I read the piece bemoaning the failure of the public to appreciate scientific truth. You describe this attitude as "anti-intellectualism." One example you cite is the heated controversy over vaccines and autism. You tell us that "the science has come in and we can't detect the correlation between a rise in autism diagnoses and use of childhood vaccines. And study after study has been done."

According to your story, science has settled any questions about a link between vaccines and autism. So why don't the conspiracy theorists give up? Why are more and more parents scared about vaccinating their children?

Since I write for Age of Autism, which you tell us is "the vaccine autism site," I'd like to ask you how much of the science you've looked at regarding this issue. Reporters like to tell us about "the studies" that have supposedly settled the argument over vaccines and autism. I love to hear from any reporter who's actually read one.

Autism advocate Julie Obradovic examined the fourteen studies that are used to prove safety.
http://www.ageofautism.com/julie-obradovic/

Julie wrote, "Having read all of the studies several times, I can assure you they have not [disproved a link.] And regardless of what side of the debate you fall, that fact is indisputable. Studying 1 ingredient of dozens and 1 injection (given sometimes twice) out of a possible 35 before age 5 is certainly inadequate."

These studies are riddled with flaws and hopelessly tied to the industry that produces the products in question or they’re done by the agency with everything at stake in showing vaccines are safe. They will never settle the controversy. In Julie's words,

"Each and every study was conducted and/or funded by someone who patents, manufacturers, promotes, endorses, profits from and/or defends in a court of law vaccines."

In 2007, I wrote this piece about the studies used to disprove a link, Anne McElroy Dachel: Never Mind the Mercury


In truth, they've never done the appropriate studies to settle the issue.

There's never been a study looking at the children who were normally developing and suddenly lost learned skills and regressed into autism following vaccinations.

There's never been a study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children for autism rates. It would be simple to do and it would settle the issue once and for all. Officials oppose doing such a study, most recently Dr. Thomas Insel of the NIMH who testified before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on autism.
(See my story The Really Big Lie About Autism: Thomas Insel Testifies )

What's also missing in your story is anything about the growing number of top experts who do question vaccine safety claims. It's simply not true that only ignorant parents link vaccines to autism.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, former head of the American Red Cross, current health editor at U.S. News and World Report went on Larry King Live and on CBS News calling for more research into the possibility that vaccines cause autism in certain subgroups of genetically vulnerable kids. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/12/cbsnews_investigates/main4086809.shtml

More and more well-credentialed, independent scientists are producing the work that links unsafe vaccines to neurological damage in our children. Do a search for Dr. Boyd Haley, University of KT, Dr. Mady Hornig, Columbia University, Dr. Thomas Burbacher, University of WA; Dr. Mark Geier, President of The Genetic Centers of America and David Geier, Vice President of The Institute of Chronic Illnesses, and Dr. Jill James, University of Arkansas. They are just a few of the experts doing the research on vaccines that is never covered in the press.

Likewise, Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer in the UK, acknowledged the compelling evidence of a link between autism, bowel disease and the MMR vaccine. http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/health/article-376203/Former-science-chief-MMR-fears-coming-true.html

Look at the ad that ran in USA Today on Feb 12 and 29, 2008: Green our vaccines. And administer them with greater care. http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/080212.pdf . It shows what's happened to the vaccine schedule since 1983 and it lists the toxic ingredients like mercury, aluminum, and MSG commonly found in vaccines. It should be noted that there's never been a study done on the cumulative effect of so many vaccines, so soon on the health of a baby. It shows the dramatic increase in vaccines that directly coincided with the epidemic increase in autism.

It would be nice if this issue only involved the science, but it doesn't. Hundreds of individuals at the CDC, the FDA and elsewhere have waivers because of direct financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

On July 25, 2008, CBS Evening News featured the report by Sharyl Attkisson, How "Independent" Are Vaccine Defenders? . It described the far-reaching influence of the drug industry over the medical community.

And then there's the question of responsibility. Ask yourself, who will be held responsible if it is clearly shown that through complete oversight failure a generation of children has been exposed to unsafe vaccines with devastating results. There are lots of people with everything at stake in this.


Finally, the numbers.

Autism is an epidemic. Latest numbers put the autism rate at one in every 100 children. .

A once rare disorder is now so common that everyone knows someone with an autistic child and no one can reasonably tell us why.

California's numbers are a disaster enfolding right before your eyes......
Autism in California increases twelvefold [Contra Costa Times ...
http://www.epilepsy.com/newsfeeds/view/6387
“Tidal Wave” of Young Adults with Autism about to Flood Cash ...
http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/06/tidal-wave-of-young-adults-with-autism-about-to-flood-cash-strapped-california.html

The Contra Costa Times covered this story, but not papers like the LA Times or the San Francisco Chronicle. How bad will the figures have to get before it becomes a front page story at the Times?

I wrote this piece May 1, 2009 on what autism is doing to our country. http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/05/on-media-pay-no-attention-to-that-tsunami.html
ON MEDIA: Pay no Attention to that Tsunami.
I end with a section on the actions of the CA State Senate concerning autism.

The words of Laura Bono of The National Autism Association are a grim forecast for the future: "As those children reach adulthood, the U.S. is ill-equipped to care for them. Not only do we not have enough services for adults now, the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. Frankly, we don't know what we're going to do."

Anne Dachel
Media editor:
AGE OF AUTISM http://www.ageofautism.com/

Un-scientific or anti-scientific attitudes are rooted deep in American culture. They are related to the idea that everyone's opinions are equal, and everyone should be free to choose their own beliefs. Our democratic ideals are closely related to that idea, as are some other wonderful aspects of American society. On the other hand, that assumed equality of value of opinion, whether informed or ignorant, provides a powerful wedge for extremists to drive the most outlandish ideas into mainstream debate. Religion is part of culture; and in some cases, such as evolution, religious beliefs conflict with science, and religion makes use of that wedge. In other cases (such a global warming) politics drives the wedge.

As a scientist, I don't have an easy answer. Certainly scientists shouldn't adopt authoritarian strategies to make their case. Perhaps we could appeal to another part of American culture: the idea that everyone listens to everyone else, thinks hard about what they say, and moves forward.

When you elide parents reporting adverse vaccine events and their sequelae with people who insist on the literal truth of the Bible, you are just playing rhetorical games - there is no comparison. When "scientists" tell parents who report these events to go away they break every ethical rule, they warp the science and fix the evidence base. The first sign that they were doing their job would be if they listened rather than got hot under the collar. What is happening is just a social control technique, and despicable bullying.

Bad science has as much a role to play in Americans' distrust of "big science" as any other reason given.

HELLO CATHOLICS: The Pope endorsed the teaching of evolution in catholic schools YEARS ago!

I am a former scientist (molecular geneticist) and now a parent to a son with autism, who had speech and eye contact and several words until age 18 months. He received 5 vaccines on one day, and then became ill, lethargic and irritable. He lost all speech and eye contact. I question the live viruses given in both the Varicella and Measles vaccine (MMR) in that they cause neuro-inflammation in a subset of genetically predisposed children. I am really tired of listening to those in my (own) scientific community take an authoritative stance that there is absolutely no connection between autism and vaccines. I have studied those 'studies' and they are either paid for by the very vaccine companies themselves or filled with flaws in sample size, testing methods, conclusions. No researcher has studied the neuro-inflammation in infants when given 36 vaccines before their 2 year birthday. No researcher has studied all vaccines or combinations of vaccines. Safety studies/clinical trials on single vaccines- yes- but we aren't giving our children just one vaccine are we? No, in fact, we have 150+ vaccines in clinical trials just waiting to release to the pediatric population. I am not anti-vaccine. I believe in vaccines for life threatening illnesses. However, are we going to have vaccines for every infectious pathogen? Considering that 1 in 3 Americans have suffered adverse drug reactions, and the emerging field of pharmacogenomics, why are we not applying the same science to vaccines? Because vaccine manufacturers do not have to worry about lawsuits. They are immune, thanks to the tax you pay on each vaccine that goes into a federal bank account to award families in VAERS. The system is broken. Further, to insist autism is 100% genetic is 100% flawed and biologically implausible. How do go from 1 in 10,000 children with autism in 1990 to 1 in 100 children today? Better diagnosing? Not.
Look around. There are autistic children everywhere- shrieking, having meltdowns at the mall, flapping their arms, crying and not able to speak. My son was one of them.
Today, with biomedical intervention he is recovering and can now speak. I don't know what his future holds. I have not vaccinated my second child and he is healthy at age 5 with no illness. Autism is a tidal wave that will hit our nation's already fractured healthcare system. If 1 in 100 children are not enough to warrant a crisis in our government, how many...1 in 50, 1 in 20? At this rate, we will all see those statistics in our lifetime.

Science? When analyzers of (industry-funded) studies find not only 'methodological flaws' in them but flaws so obvious that they would have to have been on purpose - to come up with the desired outcome - that's science? When the vaccine mfgrs started using aborted fetal tissue in their vaccines, and didn't do the studies to determine what might be happening with that DNA; and if it got incorporated in the child's DNA/genome, would that cause an autoimmune response, or oncogenesis - that's science? When GPs stop taking feedback from parents and rely on CDC pronouncements about the safety of vaccines - the body that is also charged with the implementation of the vaccine schedule - that's science?

Science has come a miserable second in this whole matter. The winner? Politics.

It is not true that "Pluto is no longer considered a planet." Many
people know this is a matter of an ongoing debate and that the view
that Pluto is not a planet is only one side of this continuing
controversy. Only four percent of the IAU voted on this, most of whom
are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately rejected
by hundreds of professional astronomers in a formal petition led by
Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission
to Pluto. You can find that petition here:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest/

You can also find audio transcripts of a three-day conference, the
Great Planet Debate, held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Lab in Laurel, MD, in August 2008, here:
http://gpd.jhuapl.edu/ . The discussions at this conference make it
clear that the demotion of Pluto is not a done deal and is not
accepted by many in the scientific community.

Members of the public who reject Pluto's demotion have sound
scientific reasons for doing so. What they know is not that "Pluto is
no longer considered a planet" but that some astronomers, for vague
and largely political reasons, have tried to impose this controversial
view on the rest of the world and have ignored even opposition within
their own scientific community.

EXCELLENT post by "Well educated autism parent and researcher."

Thank you!

My letter to Lori, et. al which ran on Age of Autism today:

Lori, Chris and Sheril,

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism.

I saw Lori's piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don't seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing "science" as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public.

I feel like you may have confused actual hard "Science" with "things that most scientists think", as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been (and most assuredly still is in many places) wrong.

Chris and Sheril wrote: "...today this country is also home to a populace that, to an alarming extent, ignores scientific advances or outright rejects scientific principles."

I would put it to you that it may not the "scientific principles" that are being rejected, but the principles of the scientists.

When my son regressed into autism following his 18 month shots and I spent a year trying to reconcile all of the contradictory positions of my own pediatrician, the AAP, the CDC, HHS, the "science" you say exonerates vaccines from autism causation, the whole of the research out there and the facts of my own son's case, what I found was a ridiculous mess.

What you keep referring to as "science" is making contradictory statements all over the place. It resembles nothing like the thing that "Science" is actually supposed to be, the methodical study of phenomena to figure out what is ACTUALLY, TRULY happening.

Yet the statements that scientists make claiming that all the vaccine/autism questions have been answered, that all the possibilities have been explored and that people should just kill what intellectual curiosity and concern for child safety that they have left and move on? How is that "Science"? How is that not laughable?

Case in point from Lori's article: "science has come in and we can't detect the correlation between a rise in autism diagnoses and use of childhood vaccines. And study after study has been done."

Yet "science" has never done a simple study that took a large group of vaccinated children and a large group of children whose parents chose not to vaccinate them, and compared them for autism incidence! Yet you suggest that it is time to let the vaccine/autism question go? The FIRST study that "science" should have done, still has never been done! And it may take an act of congress to actually make "science" do something it apparently really does not want to do. And that is only the beginning of the studies that have not been done.

Not to mention the fact that "study after study" is picked apart by other researchers, and even by lay parents, but those critiques are ignored by people like you who don't want to follow the actual scientific method. This same bizarre conversation is carried out over and over:

Mainstream science: "Here is a study... look no vaccine/autism connection".

Autism community: "Hey... look here... you guys forgot to carry the 3. Wait... half of our kids' medical histories are in the exclusion criteria!".

Mainstream science (now with their back to the autism community and facing the microphones): "Awww.... poor desperate, scientifically illiterate parents looking for someone to blame. At some point they really have to let go."

There are about a thousand questions on the vaccine/autism connection that neither scientists nor research has ever addressed, and the medical establishment won't even allow to be asked in their "pulpits" because "science" is the new religion and their dogma cannot be questioned. Scientists are the priests, and those who diverge from the cannon are branded heretics. Vaccines are inherently "good" and cannot be "bad". The research that points to vaccines causing autism is treated like the evidence that priests were molesting young boys... ignored, buried and those who dared call attention to it are bullied into silence. And yet you have a problem with the suppression of discussion of evolution in churches? Again.... from where I sit, the hypocrisy of your statements are stunning.

The scientific community overstates the benefits of vaccination and understates the risks. And of course they do, vaccination is their baby. Yet they don't seem to have the insight to understand that there is a conflict of interest there. Last year the AAP sent a representative to a Defeat Autism Now! conference to evaluate the state of their science into autism/vaccine causation. They sent Louis Cooper of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, one of the inventors of the Rubella vaccine. Seriously? Lou Cooper is the objective guy that is going to return to the AAP and declare, "You know what guys... I think the vaccine I invented and that is my greatest accomplishment in life may be playing a role in an epidemic of lifelong and deadly neurological disorders that are striking around 1 in 100 kids! I think we may have caused an epidemic!"????

I don't think that you have fully grasped what has happened in the vaccine/autism wars. A very large group of parents, physicians and researchers have made the accusation that mainstream medicine, the scientific community and public health authorities have created one of the largest iatrogenic epidemics of all time via an overzealous and under researched vaccine program. A very serious charge. Your community has responded to that charge by doing a minimal amount of shoddy research, in most cases paid for and carried out by the pharmaceutical companies that made the products in question and the agencies that made the policies that put these products into almost every tiny body in this country regardless of their risk factors, while simultaneously mocking those making the charge.

You have declared that YOU HAVE INVESTIGATED YOURSELVES AND FOUND THAT YOU ARE NOT GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES! And the policy makers among you have made sure that no appeal can be filed in an actual court where your accusers can bring evidence against you, compel you to testify under oath, or compel you to turn over internal documents, as you have passed legislation exempting yourselves from any liability or litigation. You claim innocence and just tell us that we have to take your word for it, as if "smart" also mean "honest", "incorruptible", "omniscient" and "looking out for the best interests of the public and all individuals".

Why in the world do you think that your reputation should be on the rise?!

What is happening is denial on a scale far grander than what transpired during the initial Semmelweiss Reflex. You want the public to embrace science, even the science that they don't want to face? You go first!

I started to write more on all of the corruption that is going on in the medical and scientific industries, but who has that much time.

Yes... to solve the problem that you want solved, reportedly that you want mainstream American to embrace "science", "Scientists are going to have to have a culture change."

But the change you suggest is the wrong one. You don't need more scientists (or more nerds rapping about super colliders), you need the scientists you already have to have a come to Jesus moment. The scientific community needs to understand that their hubris, arrogance, devaluing of the individual, ethical problems, legal problems, widespread conflicts of interest and constant denials of any evidence that is inconvenient to the advancements of their "scientific" agenda is the problem, and has to come to an end.

The scientific community need a big dose of humility, and needs to consider the fact that their critics and those ignoring them, might have a few good points.

They need to listen to, and be able to cogently address their critics, instead of marginalizing and maligning them. And if they don't have an answer, they have to offer informed consent to the public and admit that they don't have an answer.

People see right through condescending BS. People have a tenancy to treat you with the same dismissal with which you have treated them. What you are seeing may not be a "deep-seated streak of anti-intellectualism" but a deep-seated distrust of self-proclaimed "intellectuals" who openly disdain the unwashed masses, then wonder why their scientific pronouncements have no sway with them.

Take minute and go read any autism/vaccine post on Orac's blog, as he is the rock star of the "woo" bashing 'skeptics' in your universe. Now pretend that you are a parent who has learned that thimerosal at nanomolar amounts causes mitochondrial dysfunction so severe that it can cause the cell to self destruct, and that HHS has conceded that in the Poling case mito dysfunction + vaccination = autism symptoms. And pretend that one of your questions are that if vaccines are known to cause Guillian-Barre, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the central nervous system, then why can't they cause autism, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the central nervous system? And pretend that you want to understand that if one vaccine contains enough adjuvant to stimulate the immune system sufficiently to put it on a search and destroy mission for viruses, then why do docs give five shots at once and claim it couldn't possibly overstimulate the immune system in some into a search and destroy mission for its own tissues; and cause the autoimmune state and neuroinflammation found in autism. And then pretend that you are confused by the stance of "science" that a fetus contracting Rubella is a known cause of autism, but that that a one year old being given a live virus rubella vaccine couldn't possibly cause autism; while remembering that VICP has ruled that Baily Banks would not have had ASD if not for his MMR.

And pretend you saw Julie Gerberding go on CNN and say that vaccines can cause autism and cannot cause autism.

And then pretend that you spend untold hours on pubmed and in chat rooms and on HHS/CDC/AAP web sites and you can't find any cogent answers for the questions you have. And pretend that your own pediatrician just got annoyed with you for asking questions he couldn't answer and then just stopped returning your calls.

And then go read Orac again (or any 'skeptic' blog or even your own article in the LAT) and ask yourself... 'why would any thinking person want to listen to us when we can't answer their questions and instead treat them with contempt to cover the fact that we can't answer their questions'?

Your 'skeptic' community's message to the public and parents like me? "You are an idiot and we have nothing but contempt for you. Now think what I tell you to think and do what I want you to do, even if it doesn't make sense".

Treat your audience like crap, and they will leave. Claim to be a scientist and spout completely unscientific and illogical statements (mean ones at that), and no one will care what you say.

Chris, when your own suggestion on how to fix the problem that you have defined is to lean more about the people who are resisting your message, not so that you might learn from them as to where you might have gone off the tracks, not even so that you might enter into a mutually respectful relationship with them where you are on the same level (what with you being "super smart", "highly educated" and "doing great stuff" while they are way behind you on some imaginary starting point), but so that you might condescend to where they are in order to manipulate them into believing what you want them to believe... can you see that you can't even see what the real problem is?

It is clear from this article that those you target, you do not consider your equals.

"Smart" is not the only virtue, and it may not even one of the most important virtues. Look back at the people who have done the most damage to humanity through out history. You will be hard pressed to find a dummy among them.

Ginger Taylor

Dear L.A. Times,

As an attorney, science teacher, and father of an autistic child I'd like to believe I'm a reasonable person. I value evidence just as much as I will question people and sources for potential bias.

What stands out most prominently for me is the refusal of the pro-vaccine side to conduct a study on the neurological health of vaccinated children vs. unvaccinated children. This was called for explicitly in the 2006 Combating Autism Act, and yet even as recently as a few weeks ago in Senate testimony, NIH Director Thomas Insel could not give a compelling reason to Senator Tom Harkin for his refusal to conduct such research as required by law.

Generation Rescue conducted such a study and found a significant increase in neurological problems among children who were vaccinated. I understand that this is a study by a party whose bias could be questioned, but only underscores the need for this type of independent research to be conducted. It bears mentioning again that NO HEALTH AGENCY HAS EVER CONDUCTED A STUDY OF VACCINATED AND UNVACCINATED CHILDREN. Until that time I think this must remain an open question.

It's curious that former director of the National Institute of Health, Bernadine Healey has called for such research to be done and she notes that the claims made by many parents have a "ring of biological and historical plausibility."

For we who believe in vaccine damage the refusal to conduct such research is tantamount to medical malpractice.

All the best,
Kent.

George Harvey

No one is claiming that vaccines are the exclusive cause of autism, but many parents link their children's regression to adverse vaccine events. There is nothing anti-science about this - that's just rhetoric. We are being shut out by scientists not doing their job, and doctors neglecting their duty of care. Stan is right: this is about politics (and repression) not science.

I suppose your claim that you parents were born about 1860 is just feasible and rather magnificent. Do you know exactly when? If you had said 1850 I would have been completely convinced you were pulling our legs.

Lori
Interesting article. Thanks.

Mr. Mooney is dead wrong about Christians and science. I think that he is confused over the global warming issue and relates that to all scientific issues.

Global warming is in a state of confusion because there is a core of scientist that do not attribute the warming process to humans. Of course people are confused because they hear different sides and do not know which side is right. The Republican party is an insignificant player in the whole process. Some side with one side of the issue and others with the other. They are confused also.

But to relate that to all scientific issues and say that people (Christians) do not believe in science is absurd. It is people like him who hurt the cause by finding political reasons for scientific solutions. Educate, that is the issue and keep educating our young. Most people I know believe in science because it is all around us, they can see it and the results. They may take it for granted, that is true, but saying that they do not believe in it is like saying that Christians do not believe in god.

You need to question those that are more creditable.

Printing feedback? Amazing...Good journalism gets both sides of a coin, and it's refreshing to see some of that happening here.

Nothing irritates me more than being call anti-science. I'm on pubmed and reading scientific studies more often than most Doctors or researchers. Why? Because my son is sick and has been. His reactions to vaccines, as well as my daughters reactions, were all passed off as nothing. Until my son, within 48 hours of his 15 month vaccines, began having absence seizures, 105 degree temp, non stop GI screaming pain, explosive loose stool, major new food allergies and intolerances, stopped sleeping and broke out in a head to toe rash. Skills immediately leveled off, he was sick and continued to be so. But considering EVERYONE and their brother said "science says it's totally safe to keep going, protect your child, or just to protect everyone else at all costs" even with these reactions, I gave the next set at 18 months with this immune compromised kid. The next day autism started creaping into our lives until fully there a few month later having lost all skills and verbal ability. All immune dysfuction still there, all the while BEGGING someone to help my sick child. No answers, no help, avoidance and Doctor's who threw their hands up to say "I give up", there is nothing I can do. They could have done lots had they been paying attention to symptoms, since when does science or medical professionals ignore symptoms to make a diagnosis? It happens all of the time with autism.

My son has Mitochondrial dysfunction, has chronic inflammation, headaches, seizures, esophagitis, chronic eczema, food allergies, environmenal allergies, chemical sensitivities (women with too much perfume near him gives him hives for 5 days), chronic pain, no conversational verbal skills (but has better language when immune system is working better), can't remember which muscles to use, etc, etc. If I had left it up to Doctor's who claim autism has no cause and miraculously just appears, none of these conditions would even be known nor would be treated for.

Those in the world of autism who have given up science are the Doctor's themselves. They stopped listening to parental observation on physical, medical symptoms of the children, stopped reading pub med articles on mitochondrial dysfunction, immune dysfunction, GI dysfunction, seizures, etc in regards to autism. Right from the begining with Kanner, notes on numerous physical symptoms and post vaccine encephalatic reactions, were ignored as playing a part in the diagnosis of autism. And even worse scientists and Doctors have missed underlying common medical problems with these children and labeled everything as behavorial and stopped treating the actual child for their physical medical issues.

Epidemiological science does NOT replace Biological science! Numbers are easily manipulated in epidemiological science and it will never pick up the subsets of kids who may be predisposed. If you had a sick child, would you bring them to an epidemiologist? or a Doctor who runs biological tests on a cellular level? Most of these "studies" pretending to refute are epidemiological studies. Most studies being done on the children and their underlying common medical illnesses are finding that most, if not all of these kids are sick, immune related, and many cases could VERY likely be caused by an immune insult from vaccines.

My neurologist has confirmed regression due to vaccines, you see, most mainstream toxicologists, neurologists, etc, know that SOME people cannot handle the immune insult from a vaccine, nor process out the toxicity from them.

For those who would like to read another side of those epidemiological studies and their flaws visit fourteenstudies dot org. And for those who would like to read bioligical finding in autism, visit pubmed and type in autism and any one of the above immune correlating disorders. Your eyes should open to what the science actually says. Then stay on pubmed and type in post vaccine encephalitis, or vaccine reations, or immune dysfunction post vaccination, etc, etc. Vaccines are okay for some, not for others and for my son they caused lifelong immune dysfunction and AUTISM.

Science? Did you know that the primary source of funds for medical research are the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines? They put out their studies, then doctors regurgitate the info they receive as scientific fact.

It's time for America to wake up. The current generation of children is being destroyed by toxins, many of which are in the vaccines. It's time to listen to the mothers who watched their previously healthy children disentegrate in front of their eyes. Those mothers were helpless to stop the seizures and regressions that started after vaccination. Now, they must stand against a far too powerful pharmaceutical industry and a far too ignorant media. Many of these mothers have more scientific knowledge than most pediatricians and certainly more than government bureaucrats. What these mothers want is MORE science and more impartial studies.

We will prevail eventually. But, until then, how many more children will we sacrifice in the name of 'science' or as many of us see it, the name of 'profit'?

I was raised in a family of scientists and skeptics. And it sickens me to see how the word "science" has been corrupted and perverted to serve the interests of the pharmaceutical companies and government officials who share a very cozy revolving door. (Note where former CDC Director Gerberding draws her paycheck now.) The link between autism and vaccines is directly observable and irrefutable, having been researched on multiple continents in multiple species by numerous scientists via diverse methodologies. But the power of the almighty pharmaceutical dollar has allowed the word "science" to be hijacked by those interested in protecting their reputations, careers and ever-expanding bank accounts.

If the vaccine/autism link was coincidental as is repeatedly claimed by so-called scientists, then parents would have attributed autistic regression to everything from antibiotics to Advil - after all, coincidences occur randomly, do they not? Not just following vaccinations? This fact is never addressed - nor are any of the huge gaps in logic necessary for the belief that vaccines do not cause autism. LA Times, please take the bold step of analyzing the research for yourselves and not repackaging Pharma press releases. Start with www.fourteenstudies.org Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I hope you're really listening.

"Science" is, by definition, experimental and changeable. Science is based upon a hunch, tested through very controlled circumstances, repeatedly, to derive consistent or inconsistent result.

Given the fact that sometimes variables are uncontrollable, science can be more imprecise. The reality is something is deemed "good science" when the outcome is predictable, given a partiular set of circumstances; that very same circumstance suddenly becomes "junk science" when new variables are introduced, which change the outcome of the same exercise. The world was flat - until it was round. Cigarettes were good for our health - until they were deadly. Hormone replacement was a good idea - until it was cancer causing.

"Science," like statistics, is a study which is heavily dependent upon the motivation of the researcher. Like statistics data can be excluded, by experimental design, which could entirely change the outcome of a given experiment; and any follow-on experiment designed to reach the same result, will. The entire argument regarding Autism and vaccines boils down to this.

By eliminating the at-risk population from data review, Verstraaten was able to change the meaningful result presented at Simpsonwood (vaccines are harming children's health) to one which could neither prove nor disprove the same.

The simplest solution would be to look at children who are fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and not vaccinated at all (ages 2 years to 17 years) and evaluate their health outcomes. Since this could entirely exonerate vaccines, the pro-32-vaccine-needles-by-age-24-months crowd should be screaming for this study. Oddly, it is the parents, tens of thousands of them, who witnessed their child's rapid, horrific, and permanent loss of health (and for many independence), who are shouting against the wall of hot air emanating from the "scientists" for this study to be performed. The "scientists" insist it is unethical to do this study because it means children will go unvaccinated - newsflash - they already ARE! It is time to stop reviewing reviews of reviews of data and calling this science. It is time to look at the children struggling with disabilities created at the tip of a needle and determine why (and to prevent this from happening to any more children). It is time to honestly review the health outcomes for children and seriously evaluate if our program of vaccination provides real benefit for the very real risk it presents; despite the Pharmaceutical companies' view that our children represent acceptable losses as collateral damage, some of us feel that no child should be considered just another piece of collateral damage.

See http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf for vaccine excipients.

It is interesting that the CDC credits vaccines with eliminating the scourge of diseases while conveniently ignoring the improvements in nutrition, sanitation, health and medical care, and historical charts (dating back 50 to 100 years before the introduction of vaccines) which demonstrate a marked decline in these very same diseases; and yet parents are "unscientific" when tens of thousands witness the loss of health in their children post-vaccine?!

A number of studies are even based on "estimates" of exposure to thimerosal - and these are "scientific," too.

Titers are considered scientific proof that an administered vaccine is effective (of course, only a percentage of people develop titers to the vaccine to begin with, and those people's titers will fade in six years or less); however, it has been proven that people with titers can and do still contract the disease they are supposedly protected against by the vaccine.

It is important to note that the vast majority who contract the same disease (whether vaccinated or not) then have lifetime immunity against said disease; this kind of immunity can be passed on to a nursing infant and will not wane during nursing - vaccine "immunity" (if such a thing actually exists) cannot be passed on for the entire length of time a mother is nursing. It seems to me, if vaccines were truly effective and safe, they would not require "boosting," there would be no incidences of diseases vaccinated-against in the vaccinated populus, and there would be no need for the "adverse event" table nor the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and vaccine "court."

The real number of children lost to our environmentally insulting methods, is 1 in 4. Autoimmunity is rampant. Developmental disabilities are drowning our school districts. And the financial burden of providing services and therapies necessary for these children to function in society is sucking the last pennies from State, Federal, and Private coffers. It is way past time hold Big Business accountable for the damage done to the last three generations.

One thing the scientists got right - you ARE what you eat (what you inhale, inject, and rub into your skin, too)!

Dear Ms. Kozlowski:

I agree with you that in considering whether the vaccine-autism link question is open or closed we must rely on the considered opinion of the experts. The studies to which the leaders of public health agencies and others refer when they say the question has been "asked and answered" are epidemiological studies.

One of the leading epidemiologists in the world, Dr. Sander Greenland of UCLA recently (2008) made the following statement under oath:

"...the epidemiologic literature has not ruled out the possibility that thimerosal-containing vaccines -- I'm going to call them TCVs -- are associated with a prespecified type of autism of a regressive form. I want to emphasize that what I'm testifying about is the limitation of the epidemiologic evidence."

King v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dkt. 03-584V, transcript of proceedings May 12, 2008, United States Court of Federal Claims, p. 70, lines 10-16.

We need to consider why one of the world's leading epidemiologists - the man who co-authored the textbook used in most graduate school epidemiology programs throughout the country (Modern Epidemiology, Rothman, Greenland, Lash), has testified that the question is not closed.

I am not certain to what discipline writer Chris Mooney refers when he derides those who he believes are "unscientific." Perhaps he means to refer to those who do not adhere to the ideological orthodoxy that he espouses, or the opinions of committees consisting of bureaucrats who are motivated by an overriding interest in protecting the nation's vaccine program. Does Mr. Mooney believe that Sander Greenland is "unscientific"? Perhaps Mr. Mooney should refer to Dr. Greenland (http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/faculty/greenland/index.htm) and many others before he makes hasty judgments about who is scientific and who is not.

“Science” will prevail it is reclaimed from those who have captured it: advocates of vaccination and the industry that profits from the vaccine program. Until scientific inquiry has been fairly conducted, the question about the role vaccines have played in the upsurge of children’s neurological disorders in the last two decades will remain open.

Sincerely,

Robert J. Krakow, Esq.

Mr. Krakow discloses that he is the parent of a child who has claimed that he was injured by one or more vaccines and, as an attorney, represents many similarly situated children.

There is a saying something along the lines that "history is written from the winners point of view". I believe that the same can be said in many ways about science, especially in regards to vaccines.

Parents of very sick children like mine whose illnesses can be traced to their vaccinations could say "science is written from the profit-makers point of view". Whether the profit is in cash, career or even ego, the motive in my eyes is the same.

Say what you want, but the very government organizations charged with the safety, administration, approval and promotion of vaccines are admittedly overrun with corporate influence. The revolving door insures that those government employees who want to climb the corporate ladder for more salary will do what they think is best for their career. (the same can be said for the media). Our Universities are definately influenced by grant monies from corporate donors and others in the government with undisclosed conflicts of interest.

The reason that so many parents, doctors and independent researchers question so called "accepted science" is because we take the time to READ the science. Often we find that the mainstream media and busy medical professionals only read from the summary and conclusion of studies. Many studies on vaccines are funded by those who approve, mandate, promote, produce, or otherwise profit from vaccines, coming to a conclucion that is many times contradictory of what the text of the study actually shows.

Want my trust? Read some of the studies for yourself.

http://fourteenstudies.org/

Tim Kasemodel
Wayzata, Mn

its not just as simple as vaccines cause autism. I personally think its vacccine plus some other environmental trigger that causes it in certain people bases on their genes and or sonething else going on with their immune system. This is not what has been studied.

People that don't buy it, don't buy it because the drug companies, medical establishment, and the government have lost the trust of a lot of people. Talk about credibility problems ...

I have read your thoughtful and very insightful article, and is a subject close to my interests. Thank you for writing it; it is encouraging that someone is taking innovative approaches to examining the problem. Pluto, yet.

As a man who had the goal of being a scientist as a youth, now looking back from the vantage point of a 73 year old retiree, here is the relevant path I took, as one person's example.

I recall being a young child who taught himself how to read through comic books even before entering kindergarden, having early sci fi - such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in comic book form - getting me to think that science would lead to a fun, happily exciting life. Another key part of it was my actual using physical objects later with my own eyes and hands at my own choice and pace, such as a pair of magnets interacting as felt in my hands; and the chemistry set's visible really doing something; and it all bringing the question again and again: what makes it do that?

This led to a hunger to learn formal science, a feeling that its understanding and use would lead to being able to do interesting things and further lead to a fun life. And science fiction literature became a fascination during my high school years, reading everything as soon as it got published; this was in the early half of the 1950's.

As some hard knocks of real life came along after high school graduation, even causing dropping out of my major as a physics student in college, the compromise was of being an engineering technician in electronics as a career to make a living. Yet the feeling that science would be a key to enable more interesting engineering feats for a better world and a more fun life for myself, was able to express as thinking up numerous ideas for how technology could be creatively used to make new things or solve big problems facing civilization. Only a very few of my ideas were of interest to employers enough to act on them; and the only one they patented was one that solved a problem they already had. Most of my ideas were far outside the range of involvement by my various employers over the decades, however.

My efforts to prepare the concepts in a form acceptable to those who were in the appropriate fields, often met with professional snobbery due to my lack of credentials; but I persisted, even finally getting a few of my papers published in space conference proceedings through having to make formal presentations about my concepts at space conferences; but they were only seen as rival concepts to upcoming businesses, and were intensely ignored.

Finally I went back to the science fiction mode, and wrote sci fi novel adventures about people utilizing devices built based on my innovative concepts; eventually I formatted them as publish-on-demand paperbacks; but then when they were not selling - Amazon was publishing - through a subsidiary - and supposedly selling them but their website could not find them even if asked for by title - I reformatted my sci fi books for download for free, and some 500 copies have been downloaded; but there is little feedback to me otherwise from the downloaders. Maybe they are stimulated by the ideas, or maybe not.

Meanwhile I have read news articles invoking "science" as justifying some position, yet with no evidence of prior use of the scientific method, which requires that something be unbiased tested to see if it works or does not work, before issuing an opinion regarding its viability. And organizations respond to those news articles by those saying that "science" proves them right, yet show no indication that the scientific method was really involved.

Another phenomenon is that which guides the path of exploration of research and development: increasingly it is paid for by corporate big business, which necessarily is led only by the need to produce ever larger profits to pay out to the shareholders. Only that which produces the most money for business gets researched and developed, all else falls by the wayside, in such a system of guidance. And subsequent research is built on prior research, so it gets worse. That means that it is likely that the resulting products will be the most expensive for the least useful possible salable products; such a system thrives by the big businesses staking out virtual franchise business territory, and thus the customer can only choose from among what those businesses produce, really little choice for the customer. The advertising industry is hired to dazzlingly convince the customer that he/she wants that which the big corporations have produced.

Overall this means that the state of science and its R&D level we have reached, has largely been guided by that which makes the most profit of the special interests, and not guided so much by what the customer can utilize best.

And where has the fun in science gone? It seems to have gotten lost somewhere. Part of it all is the need-filling of products, true; yet also part of it is the imagination, the drama involved. Surely science - and even its a bit drier sidekick, math - can be taught in school - and online - by teachers who teach through getting the students to imitate the teacher's enthusiastic exploring, partly in the form of sci fi fantasy and then immediately again as visible doable experiments that show what the real world is and a bit of how to make science do fun things in the hands of the students themselves in turn.

- As for my life - after retirement started, I finally got to be the formal scientist as a volunteer and research assistant at NHMLAC for several years - in marine biology, crustacea - and still continue to do the computer parts of the task remotely - some photos I made of one of those tasks circa 2003 can be seen at
http://www.escalatorhi.com/PhotoStories/nhmlacforaminifera.html white lab coat and all. Although it took some little kids outside the window one day, shouting at me saying "You're a scientist!" for me to remember the dream.

And, a couple of my high tech sci fi books can be freely downloaded in various formats at:
Building Up https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/2693
It's Down To Earth https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/2459

The childhood dream of becoming an adventurous scientist eventually expressed in those ways. The hunger to see what makes the world actually work in happy fun ways, needs to be stimulated in the young child; and then needs to have opportunity for expression in imagination and action throughout life.

Keep up the good work, Lori. You are bringing thoughtful attention to science, an important subject.

--- In retrospect, noticing that there is a special interest among these comments regarding thimerosol/vaccines involved in autism, I now also put in my 2 cents worth: I've Aspergers and at least from age 4. Sometimes Aspergers is called "high functioning autism." Differences in how I perceive, with advantages and disadvantages. Main disadvantage is being a social klutz but still try anyway. As a child, my parents intensively got me my vaccinations, sometimes twice. But more than that, in those days, the best OTC antiseptic was Merthiolate, an excellent antiseptic made of Thimerosol, widely spread all over and around all the cuts and scrapes of an active little boy, on into high school if I recall correctly. I'd think more biologically bound mercury was absorbed through the skin from the merthiolate than from that in vaccinations. I also suspect that wheat gluten sensitivity - not identified until a decade ago - with its leaky gut problems - and pet parasites such as Ascaris, are involved; it all included severe Tinnitus from first year of college and ADD/ADHD started about then too, dragging a near-genius down to size. Seems multiple factors and multiple effects; hard for me to separate them all out. Guess I have used my 2 cents worth here by now.

The progress of science involves trial and error, learning from what happened in the real world in some scenario, and figuring out where that all fits in with the collection of such knowledge as found by others. It is easy to drift into thinking something is "science" simply because it looks familiar and has right kind of words; but, again, real science require the adequate evaluation in ways that could allow for something to work if it can, before stating that something can or cannot work.

These comments are refreshing and seem to represent the thinking of a few very educated folks. I have to share a comment made this afternoon. My neighbor who shares my concerns , yet feels compelled to follow the schedules for her children, today asked her pediatrician. " Should I be concerned about thimerosal", he said, "absolutely not, there is more mercury going into your baby at two breastfeeding sessions than he will receive in his shots". He's considered to be the best pediatrician in the area. Does "he" believe this?

This is ridiculous. Everyone who is blaming vaccines for causing Autism - WAKE UP! Your children were on the Spectrum from birth and there will be a history of it in your family. It is genetic in origin. Further - this is NOT an issue for regular doctors. They don't know what they are dealing with and shouldn't be diagnosing if they are. This is the exclusive domain of psychologists and psychiatrists (the former is the better).

Those who claim an issue with the vaccine should be jumping on their doctor for giving their child multiple vaccines. A bad workman blames their tools, and there are many doctors in America who are that bad. It's why America needs health care reform. This is a regression along the already existing Spectrum at worst, and even then it wouldn't be the vaccine itself. It would be a side effect (high temp for example).

Vaccines do not CAUSE Autism. They never have and they never will. Those who claim to have done research are biased because they haven't done the whole job. I have - and you lot should stop panicking over vaccines. Such an attitude endangers lives, and further - it threatens the support structures that are needed for those on the Spectrum. Both the children and the adults like myself.

Sissi, actually thimerosal was taken out of childhood vaccines since 2001. (In California, it is out of all the vaccines children get. In some states it is still in the pediatric flu vaccine, but not in any of the other pediatric vaccines.) So yes, the pediatrician was correct.

 


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