Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

« Previous Post | Booster Shots Home | Next Post »

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

August 24, 2009 | 11:23 am


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

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (135)

"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."

Wrong on all counts:

Especially the part about the Generation Rescue "study" (in reality a phone survey), which was actually a disaster in that it showed that fully vaccinated children had a lower rate of autism than partially vaccinated children.

To the authors of this article,

If you believe in "Science" so much - then please post a large picture of you on the front page getting the H1N1 vaccine the first day it comes out! "Science" says it is needed so please ladies and gents... roll up your sleeves!

Those who have argued for a link between vaccines and autism adopt two contradictory positions. On the one hand we have those who point to the epidemiological studies as evidence of an autism epidemic whose growth is supposed to coincide with changes in the United States schedule for early childhood vaccinations. But when population studies fail to find a connection between vaccines and autism we get a different argument. Apparently there is a subset of genetically susceptible children that is too small to show up in population studies of vaccine safety. We have yet to hear a convincing explanation for this alleged genetic susceptibility to vaccine induced autism. But the parents who subscribe to this view are all convinced that, whatever it is, their child must have it.

It is difficult to see how this latter group could be persuaded to abandon their belief that that in their individual cases correlation does indeed equal causation. But I am at a loss to understand why they are willing to make common cause with the autism epidemicists, who are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

Regarding prevalence we have a very good idea why prevalence used to be 4 in 10000 and is now approaching 100 in 10000. In 1966 Victor Lotter carried out one of the earliest epidemiological studies in the county of Middlesex in the UK. He used a very narrow definition of autism in which only children who actively avoided human contact and engaged in elaborate repetitive behaviour qualified for diagnosis. When his students Lorna Wing and Judith Gould repeated the study in 1979 they found a similar rate of between 4 and 5 in 10000. However they also discovered a larger group who also engaged in repetitive behaviour but did not avoid human contact. However they did show
difficulties in social communication and interaction. Wing and Gould
defined ther problems within the triad of impairments, which also explained the aloof behaviour of the more typical Kanner type autistics. The newly identified members of the autistic spectrum numbered around 15 in 10000. Thus a simple broadening of the criteria lifted the numbers from 4 to 20 in 10000.

Lotter, Wing and Gould had all studied children excluded from mainstream education. In 1993 Stephan Ehlers and Christopher Gillberg went looking for children with the triad of impairments in mainstream education in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. They found a rate of 71 in 10000 for children with an IQ greater than 70. The children who were identified were known by their teachers to be having social and/or educational problems but the nature of their difficulties had not been recognised prior to the study.

So, as early as 1994, on the basis of epidemiological studies by Wing and Gould (1979) and Ehlers and Gillberg (1993) it was apparent that autism in all its manifestations including the classic Kanner type and the Asperger type affected at least 91 in 10000. The National Autistic Society in the UK issued a fact sheet to that effect. The modern version is available on our website.

In 15 years the figure for all autistic spectrum disorders in the UK has moved from 91 in 10000 to 116 in 10000 (Baird et al 2006). Thus it has remained flat at around 1 per cent for the whole period of the so-called autism epidemic. And that 1 percent represents the whole spectrum with perhaps a fifth to a quarter consisting of people with recognizable learning difficulties that are moderate or severe. The rest are more able,

I see no reason to doubt that the CDC estimate of 1 in 150 and the figures from recent studies that more closely approach the overall prevalence figures from the UK contain within them similar proportions of more and less able individuals. It is a shame that it has taken health and education services on both sides of the Atlantic so long to catch up with the true prevalence of autism amongst our children and begin to tailor services to meet their needs.

That still leaves those more able adults, often living a life less ordinary without the benefit of diagnosis and support, but still experiencing difficulties in their daily lives. The recent I Exist campaign by the National Autistic Society in the UK has influenced our government to take adult issues seriously

To quote Dr. Gorski, "Especially the part about the Generation Rescue "study" (in reality a phone survey), which was actually a disaster in that it showed that fully vaccinated children had a lower rate of autism than partially vaccinated children."

Please note, none of the parents of the seven autistic boys I know has continued to vaccinate, so YES they would be considered autistic and "yet" not fully vaccinated.

One must understand the information , to suggest it means less vaccines more autism is ludicrous!

In my home we have one unvaccinated child, you may NOT have him in your studies. I don't trust. He is the youngest and the most well of all, the fully vaccinated one is fine, as well, however

the two partially vaccinated ones are not fine.
The oldest and fully vaccinated child was a preemie and we delayed and separated his shots.

David Gorski does not really give a very good account of himself - following the link to what was supposed to be a rebuttal of the claim that "no health agency had ever conducted a study into vaccinated vs unvaccinated children' we find ourselves reading what can only be described as another extended rant by David Gorski. Here, eventually, we find a link to a demographic study of unvaccianted children, but with no mention of their health, or whether they had autism.

His hero, Sir Richard Doll, was really a proto-type for everything which has gone wrong in modern science. Having early distingushed himself by demonstrating the link between tobacco and lung cancer he used his reputation for disturbing ends:

'He conducted research into Agent Orange, the Monsanto herbicide which became infamous when the US used it in the Vietnam War.

'During that period, he wrote to an Australian commission investigating its effects on humans and argued that there was no evidence that Agent Orange caused cancer. It was withdrawn in 1971 because it caused birth defects in laboratory animals. It affected a generation of Vietnamese children who suffered skin cancers and deformities...

'Sir Richard has also been attacked for his decades-long relationship with the asbestos company Turner & Newall.

'In 1982, he told workers worried about dying from cancer that the risk had been cut to "a pretty outside chance" of one in 40. This was regarded, in fact, as a rather high chance.

'He also refused to testify for dying plaintiffs or their families in civil litigation against the asbestos industry.

'Later, he admitted that Turner & Newall had given £50,000 to Green College, Oxford, which he founded.'

The most foolish thing we can do is to set up some modern scientific totemism. The fewer questions we are allowed to ask the more certain the science is to go awry, as Sir Richard did.

As a scientist who strives to make science accessible to the public, I applaud Lori Kozlowski's wonderful article about science and society in the Los Angeles Times on August 22, 2009, and wish to contribute some other ideas..

Contrary to what some scientists and some non-scientists stridently proclaim, I believe science and religion are compatible – both are organized efforts to find Truth. Best go to science to find the distance to the Sun, the age of the Earth, or similar questions whose answers are numbers. But science has not, and in my view never will, determine whether or not God exists, what is the purpose of human life, or to what ethical code good people should aspire. Science is incapable of answering such very important questions.

Science is not an obscure cult practiced by estranged people. Science is simply the extension of everyone’s innate curiosity. Children continually ask Why? They are born wanting to learn about and understand their world. Scientists are just people who never stopped asking Why?

Science should be for everyone. Just as you don’t have to be a great musician to appreciate great music, you don’t have to master complex math and technical jargon to appreciate the exciting discoveries of modern science. We live in the Golden Age of Science – more has been discovered in our lifetimes than in the entire prior history of mankind. We have found nature’s smallest parts and have seen out to the edge of the universe and back almost to the beginning of time. These exciting discoveries can be presented so that everyone can participate. I have given science talks at a wide range of venues from major universities to the Latina club of a local middle school. Audiences everywhere and of all ages have the same desire to understand more about their world. They just need information they can digest.

Science has not just increased our academic knowledge, but has also added to our wealth and welfare. A century ago, life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years. In a single year, 40 million people died of the flu worldwide. Only 6% of Americans graduated from high school, and there were no iPods, DVDs, cellphones, internet, GPS, lasers, radio, movies, or television. In 100 years, our life expectancy has increased to 78 years, and of Americans over 25, 85% now graduate from high school and 27% earn college degrees. Most of these improvements are due to the advance of science and technology.

Looking forward, science is how we will reduce our dependency on foreign oil, mitigate pollution and solve global warming. It behooves the public to better understand science, so they can more knowledgeably participate in determining what sort of world we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Caltech, a Ph.D. in high-energy physics from Stanford University, and was on the research faculty of Harvard University. Now retired, I enjoy teaching science to non-scientists. My book Everyone’s Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe explains all the major discoveries of modern physics, astronomy, and cosmology to, well, everyone, even those who fear physics or are allergic to math. I am launching an internet radio talk show about science, and developing a television series entitled “Einstein for Everyone.”

I would be happy to discuss these matters with you further or provide a review copy of my book. You may also wish to check out my website shown below.

Thank you for publicizing the need to make science understandable for the public.

Robert L. Piccioni, Ph.D.

"His hero, Sir Richard Doll, was really a proto-type for everything which has gone wrong in modern science. Having early distingushed himself by demonstrating the link between tobacco and lung cancer he used his reputation for disturbing ends:"

One notes that you cannot criticize or find anything substantive wrong about the epidemiological studies Sir Richard did that showed a strong link between smoking and tobacco. That's because there wasn't anything, and he was right. What he did subsequent to those studies is irrelevant and nothing more than an obvious and lame ad hominem attack meant to distract from the lack of evidence anti-vaccinationists have for an association between vaccines and autism.

David Gorski

Re Doll: I am making the point here that you cannot talk about science, its institutions and its representatives as a seamless garment. The basis of the original polemic is that you take issue with the institutions and the way they conduct themselves and you are labelled "anti-science". That in itself is a sort of dirty trick, and it is substituting propaganda for tolerant discussion.

Mike Stanton

I can see where you are coming from, but I don't agree that there is a problem. In the first place I don't agree that epidemiological defence of vaccine over autism has been particularly persuasive - while substantive criticisms of their conducted has just been blanked by the authors and agencies conducting policy, nationally and internationally. When, for instance, has Madsen ever defended the flaws in his 2002 MMR study, which in a low key way were even pointed out in the Cochrane Review of 2005. So we just have stalemate.

I also think there have been somewhat simplistic models of how vaccines could contribute to autism or chronic diseases, and believe the problem was well set-out by Bernardine Healy (former director of the national Institutes of Health):

Thimerosal, the preservative of concern that used to be in childhood vaccines, has been exponentially reduced and yet AUTISM RATES HAVEN'T GONE DOWN. The preservative has been taken out of all childhood vaccines except multi-dose formulations of flu vaccine; parents can have their child get a thimerosal-free single dose flu vaccine, however. Even if a child today got the multi-dose flu vaccine, that exposes him/her to just 37.5 micrograms of the preservative by age 2 (a microgram equals one-millionth of a gram). The vaccines-cause-autism conspiracy theorists originally blamed the AMOUNT of thimerosal in childhood vaccines, saying it was the sheer cumulative amount that caused autism. They said it exceeded the EPA's threshold level of safety for another chemically related substance (EPA has set no threshold exposure levels for thimerosal). Back then kids were exposed to as much as 275 micrograms of the preservative. Well, 37.5 micrograms is a LOT less (and again, that's only if children don't get the thimerosal-free flu vaccine) and yet we have seen no reduction in the rates of autism. In fact, the people who are afraid of vaccines say that the autism rates are continuing to go up. How do they explain that? They move the goalposts. No, it's not just an excessive amount of preservative that's a problem; now they claim that any amount, even teensy weensy trace amounts, can cause autism. Or they claim it's other things in vaccines that are the problem. In other words, they've scrambled to find new explanations and excuses since reality hasn't conformed to their conspiracy theories. Bottom line: thimerosal reduced; autism rates unchanged. It's not the vaccines that cause autism. Wouldn't it be so much better if we poured our resources and energy into finding the true cause or causes of this condition?

Technology used to be the stuff that WOWED us. Today, technology is taken for granted. Sure, there are still some cool things that will impress us, but it takes more to impress us and it doesn't last.
There's also a disconnect between how all that technology is made and the science behind it. People think Sony makes a new gadget to sell not thinking about the people, i.e., scientists in research and development, who pose the problems and create the solutions.
And let's face it, pure science has always taken a back seat to practical science because the ROI is decades and centuries down the road and won't affect the bottom line any time soon.
Finally, we don't teach science in school soon enough. I have always been a self-educated person because I have always been a naturally curious person. I learned to love science very early as a child (I just wish I could remember why or how.).
But science is too often viewed as a "luxury" and not part of the core curriculum. Many high schools and colleges require only a minimal amount to graduate or get a (non-science) degree.
But let's face it, you may capture a few young minds with the drama of reading fiction and inspire future writers and English majors, etc. And of course, some kids will still naturally gravitate toward math and science at any age.
But it is science that can really capture the imagination of our youngest students and get them to fall in love with learning for the sake of learning.
Nearly every adventure, every discovery, every technological advancement owes its origin to science at some point.
We should be WOWing our kids from the moment they walk into a school building. Start with the architecture of the school. WOW them with the very building like they do with churches. WOW them with the bright, competent, caring and enthusiastic teachers. WOW them with the content of what we teach them rather than bore them with it.
Science still won't be for everyone but more and more kids will appreciate it.
Regarding the rap mentioned in the piece, I can't help but wonder if the number of hits is because it is being made fun of (as so many YouTube videos are) or if it is because they think the content is really cool. The answer to that question will make all the difference.

You want to talk science? Okay, let's talk science.

When my daughter was vaccinated, we participated in a science experiment. We allowed her to be injected with multiple soups of ingredients, most containing heavy metals in varied amounts, animal or human cells, viruses and other things that have never been cumulatively tested for safety or synergistic toxicity. Even the CDC acknowledges on page 33 of their Draft Agenda Recommendations dated April 11, 2008,"...simultaneous vaccination is incompletely studied at the time of licensure."

Still, we were good little lemmings who questioned nothing and did as we were told. We were "pro-intellectuals" then.

And then a funny thing happened. She started getting sick, really, really sick. Ear infection followed by ear infection and then bronchial infections and bladder infections. Over a dozen rounds of antibiotics in the first 2 years of life did nothing to stop it, including an ear tube surgery. There was no explanation for why my baby who was not in day care was so very sick all the time when no one else in the family was.

Or why after 5 months of life she stopped developing normally. Why she suddenly wouldn't put weight down on her feet anymore. Or why she couldn't sit up anymore without pillows propping her up. Or why she couldn't crawl and log rolled everywhere and didn't walk until 17 months old, and when she did, had a gait and weak right side like a stroke victim.

Or why she started having staring spells and would only sleep in a rocking chair. Or why she could do the Chinese splits as a 10 month old, because that's how she would get down from the propped up sitting position.

Or why her hair was like straw and she had eczema and horrific yeast infections. Or why her gums were flame red and she drooled incessantly. Or why she was so chronically constipated it would leak out in the bath tub or pool.

Or why at 12 months old she could point and had several words but by 24 months old didn't speak at all, and didn't do so for 6 months after a high pitched screaming fit 18 days after her MMR/DTP/Polio/Chicken-Pox cocktail was given to her while on Augmentin for the 3rd time that left her speechless and smile-less. Or how she had a seizure on Christmas day a month later while opening her presents.

Oh, I could go on, but you get the point. She was a very sick little girl. And this continued for almost 4 years. For 4 years we asked and asked and asked what was going on.

Doctor, she's so sick. Should we vaccinate while we're on so many antibiotics? Is that safe? Oh, it is? Okay, we trust you. Doctor, why is she holding her hands over her ears when the radio is on or someone’s singing? Oh, you don't know? Okay, we trust you. Doctor, why isn't she talking anymore? Oh, her brother is talking for her? Oh, okay, we trust you. Doctor, why is she having staring spells and seizures? Oh, you don’t know again? Okay, we trust you.

It wasn't until a year of speech therapy did nothing and a neurologist told me in his "pro-intellectual" manner that "sometimes when parents are disappointed in their children they don't develop normally" and handed me the card of a shrink that I thought in my "anti-intellectual" way, Hmmm...I wonder if maybe the doctors are wrong. Seems to me they don't know what's going on with my daughter, let alone how it happened.

It was then I decided to conduct another experiment. You see, when I was in 5th grade, I was taught that to do a science experiment you needed a good hypothesis, good research, a control, solid evidence and an unbiased analysis of data to interpret your outcome.

So I started with a hypothesis, three of them actually. One of them said the doctors were right, and nothing was wrong. Clearly the evidence pointed otherwise, so I got rid of that one.

The second one said if something was wrong, and she was having developmental delays there could be two possibilities as to why: one, that it was genetic, or two, that it was environmental, genetics only leaving her vulnerable, not causing the problem.

To address the first hypothesis, we underwent genetic testing. Nope. Nothing there. Our daughter did not possess any known genes to cause developmental delays. In fact, our profiles were almost identical. I did not have developmental delays, my husband did not either, and neither did anyone on either side of our family for as far as we could find.

Interestingly though, we found out that I and my daughter carried a genetic mutation, as does my father, which interferes with the cycle necessary for proper detoxification.

So no, the evidence proved it wasn’t genetic. This left me with only one remaining hypothesis: it was environmental. That meant I had to ask another question, which is also what I was taught you do in science. In fact, I was taught that’s what science is: a method for asking questions and evaluating the answers based on evidence.

Well, what could it be, I wondered? What could do something like this to a child? What in her environment could take a perfectly healthy baby that was developing normally and thriving and first destroy her immune system and then cause her to stop developing normally, including loosing her speech? (Mind you, my daughter did not have an Autism diagnosis at this point in my science. I had no idea about the controversy surrounding vaccines or their ingredients. What I did know is that she had a speech delay and I had teamed up with other moms also battling speech delay to figure out why that was. Those moms mentioned mercury.)

After lots and lots of “pro-intellectual” research, I found out that there was a nasty neurotoxin that contains mercury that causes all of the symptoms of what was wrong with my daughter, and that this particular neurotoxin was injected into her on her first day of life and throughout the next 18 months of her life. I learned it had never been tested for safety in babies and that it was actually the subject of a huge controversy and forthcoming book. This was 2005.

Still not convinced, I studied this neurotoxin and learned everything I possibly could about it from other “pro-intellectuals”, namely chemists, college professors, and chemical engineers. And funny thing, all of them were baffled; simply baffled that mercury would be in a childhood vaccine. They accused me numerous times of being mistaken. These “pro-intellectual” scientists simply couldn’t imagine something as deadly as mercury being purposefully injected into a baby.

From them, I learned precisely the way mercury toxicity manifests and that it can do so in dozens of different ways making it an epidemiological nightmare to pick up. I learned that it affects speech and intellect, but first, it often goes for the immune and detoxification systems. See, those are the systems that get called into action upon the body’s detection of the poison. Mercury is partly so awful because of the sophisticated way in which it dismantles those first lines of defense.

I learned that unless exposure was recent, chronic poisoning was very difficult to confirm because it wasn’t in the blood anymore. I learned that’s another reason why mercury toxicity is so hard to detect: It can take years to finally get the best of you, not usually manifesting for weeks to months after exposure.

I learned that mercury toxicity underlies many other issues, and can lead to bacterial, fungal, and viral problems, along with nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and can cause asthma, all of which may need to be seriously addressed in chronic poisoning.

I learned you needed hair and porphyrin tests as well as a doctor who specializes in heavy metal toxicity to be able to diagnose you, and that yes, there was treatment. In fact, the treatment was already mentioned on the Material Safety Data Sheets for this neurotoxin. It said, and so did the doctors who treated it, that you need to treat heavy metal poisoning with chelation and the type of chelation depended on whether or not you had acute or chronic poisoning because they are treated differently.

So we continued this experiment and decided to collect data so we could look at the evidence we were compiling. Yes, she had been injected with mercury. Yes, she had developed the symptoms of mercury toxicity precisely when it said she would. Yes, she did have a genetic mutation for poor detoxification, meaning that amounts that likely wouldn’t hurt others could hurt her. (The Material Safety Data Sheets also said “hypersensitive” people shouldn’t get it, but when we were a part of that first experiment, we didn’t know that.)

All we had to do now was test her hair and urine under the guidance of an allopathic, western-evidence-based-medicine-trained MD, and yes, they both came back positive. She had mercury toxicity. But even then, there was still one more thing we had to do to be sure. We had to treat it. And if she got better, there would be no doubt: our daughter had been poisoned.

Well, guess what? She got better. We didn’t imagine it. It wasn’t something she outgrew. It was something we overcame with a prescribed medical treatment based on science. Within 1 year, she regained her speech, stopped getting so sick all the time, and caught up developmentally with other children her age. Unfortunately it appears, however, that being poisoned for 4 years without treatment did lower her IQ somewhat. We continue to work on that.

There is no other scientific conclusion to come to other than that my daughter was poisoned by mercury. Does that mean the only mercury responsible for the poisoning was from her vaccines? We’ll never know. I live 5 miles from a coal burning plant, had 13 amalgams while I was pregnant with her, and ate tuna occasionally while breast feeding. I’m sure it was a combination of all of it, coupled with a genetic susceptibility, but to deny the fact it was injected into her at her most vulnerable stage of development had anything to do with it? Well, that’s about as “anti-intellectual” as it gets.

Now, if any of this makes me “anti-intellectual”, I’m okay with that. My daughter has her life back. She has her voice back. She has her health back. We have her back.

Had I listened to the “pro-intellectuals” who told me that because the only CDC study done at the time on hundreds of thousands of kids found maybe mercury was causing problems and maybe it wasn’t (it came to a neutral outcome, not a negative one), she would still be suffering.

Had I cared that when this neurotoxin was used less in Denmark rates of Autism skyrocketed, she would still be suffering. (Sorry but what a stupid study that is. Less neurotoxin, More Autism. Hilarious. If that’s intellectual, thank God I’m not.)

Had I believed that the very people who would be held accountable for this disaster had the right to determine if they were guilty, or had I believed the results of their internal investigation, she would still be suffering. Who knows if I would have ever heard her speak in a full sentence or ask a “why” question, which didn’t happen as it was until age 5 anyway.

I hope she continues to ask those “why” questions as she grows up. I hope someday she can ask those in charge of children’s health why they insisted on calling her mother and father names like “conspiracy theorist”, “anti-intellectual”, “anti-vaccine” or other condescending things simply because they questioned the role of vaccines in her deteriorating health condition.

I hope she asks why they refused to do a study of the vaccinated versus never vaccinated when there are tens of thousands of never vaccinated children in her very home town that are more than willing to volunteer for the study, a study that in scientific jargon is called having a control group (something we don’t have in any of the science on 1 ingredient of dozens and 1 injection of 36 they actually have “studied”).

I hope she asks why the American public didn’t demand that this important study and others that actually look at the health outcomes of children who got mercury versus those who didn’t (another study that’s never been done…we’ve only compared kids who got some to those who got more) or that look at the effect of simultaneous vaccination on vulnerable populations were done by those not in the field of medicine or influenced by the pharmaceutical industry to eliminate their conflict. Again, why do those who are being accused of a horrific, albeit unintentional crime get to investigate themselves if they are guilty? Who’s the intellectual giant who came up with that one?

Mostly, I hope she’ll demand to know why she was considered acceptable collateral damage and why the only people who ever didn’t consider her that were ridiculed for having asked completely logical questions and finding the evidence to support their answers in order to get her well.

It’s quite simple really. In the name of lowering the rate of infectious disease have we accidentally swapped it for the increase of chronic disease? And if we have, at what point does one outweigh the other? Who gets to decide that and how? And just because one caused the other, does that mean you don’t treat it?

Those seem like pretty intellectual questions if I do say so myself. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a mom who has actually read all of the studies and analyzed them critically and can’t find one of them that exonerates vaccines or any of their ingredients from causing Autism, perhaps one of only a few people on the planet who has really done that.

I’m just a mom who lived this nightmare and sought out the doctors, the science and the medicine to get my baby better, spending hours upon hours researching and learning everything I could to do so, knowing full well that the very idea of me questioning the “pro-intellectuals” who couldn’t offer us anything would only cast me in to the looney bin for doing so.

But I'll say it again. If being “anti-intellectual” means I have a healthy, recovered child, well, you and everyone else can call me anything you want.

John Stone

If the number of people on the autistic spectrum has remained fairly constant, as suggested by the studies I cited, then it does not matter if every study of vaccines and autism ever published was hopelessly flawed. No epidemic = no role for vaccines.

If you want to argue for a vaccine induced epidemic first refute Wing and Gould or Ehlers and Gillberg. If instead you want to argue for a minute number of genetically susceptible individuals whose autism was triggered by vaccines perhaps you can provide some evidence for a plausible mechanism.
But you cannot have it both ways.

Mike Stanton

We have been told for more than a decade that the autism rate across the entire UK population was 92 in 10,000 based on combined projections made from studies conducted in the London Borough of Camberwell in 1975 and Gothenburg in Sweden in 1993(!!!), using studies by the authors you cite. Part of the fallacy in arriving at this figure is the presumption that autism is of constant incidence across all places and all times. Do you have any evidence for this? As we know, according to Baron-Cohen - who presented his data somewhate belatedly - by the first part of this decade it was 157 in 10,000 (based on the school population in parts of Cambridgeshire).

Part of the problem is that for the adult population we only have these wonderful projections. Of course, cases are missed and come to light, but if Baron-Cohen is right we are now missing 3 quarters of a million autistic adults many of them severely disabled. These people are by and large not known to the services, don't need support and don't cost anything. So, can you tell me where they are?

Finally, the case that autism is constant is based on a genetic hypothesis, which has been floundering for years and is largely defunct. For instance, the recent Campbell/Levitt study which showed not that the presence of gene or combination of genes determined autism (and GI problems) but disruption of that gene:

Also, if autism was genetically determined it would be decreasing in incidence by a process of natural selection.

George Harvey,

There is no way that your parents could have been born around 1860, if you are still around to talk about them, unless you are over 100 years old. My mother is 88 years old, and her mother was born in 1890. I don't know what you witnessed during your teen-aged travels (in what years/decades?), but I cannot help but find under-educated people (in whatever country) who are "pro-science", a scary lot, because they may not realize how much "science" is influenced by "politics" and other factors.

Not only has a vaxed/unvaxed study not been done, but studies of vaccine injured children have not been done either.

Please see “The Open Question on Vaccines and Autism” at

“Perhaps the most puzzling thing about autism and ADD is that more than a decade into this public health crisis, our best, smartest government scientists and public health officials still say they have no idea what's causing it.” Yet, “they say they do know one thing: it's not vaccines.”

“According to Healy [Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH], when she began researching autism and vaccines she found credible, published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association. That seemed to counter what many of her colleagues had been saying for years. She dug a little deeper and was surprised to find that the government has not embarked upon some of the most basic research that could help answer the question of a link.“

The government has failed to do a study comparing health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children, although “The government has a dataset of unvaccinated children available. It has published more than one survey of parents of undervaccinated and unvaccinated children (to find out why the parents are choosing not to vaccinate).”

And see “Leading Dr.: Vaccines-Autism Worth Study” at

"’You're saying that public health officials have turned their back on a viable area of research largely because they're afraid of what might be found?’ [reporter Sharyl] Attkisson asked.

“Healy said: ‘There is a completely expressed concern that they don't want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. First of all,’ Healy said, ‘I think the public’s smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show.’

“As an example, Healy points to the existing vaccine court claims.

“CBS News has learned the government has paid more than 1,300 brain injury claims in vaccine court since 1988, but is not studying those cases or tracking how many of them resulted in autism.

“The branch of the government that handles vaccine court told CBS News: ‘Some children who have been compensated for vaccine injuries…may ultimately end up with autism or autistic symptoms, but we do not track cases on this basis.’”

Also see “The Vaccines-Autism War: Détente Needed” at

Epidemiology is notoriously subject to manipulation by statistical methodologies, inclusion criteria, and other design choices. To quote Mark Twain, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” For a discussion of science, see . And see .

And, epidemiology is not the only kind of science. We need studies of vaccine-injured children.

The whole purpose of vaccines is to provoke a response from the immune system. Why should we be surprised that today’s children and teenagers, who received dozens of vaccines – far more than ever before – suffer from high rates of a variety of immune system disorders, including diabetes, severe allergies, asthma, and autism?

Autism is not only about the brain and nervous system. Peer reviewed studies published in professional journals have found high rates of immune system dysregulation in people with autism – including:
• Inflammation in the brain
• Autoantibodies to the myelin basic protein that coats nerve cells
• Inflammatory cytokines in spinal fluid
• Inflammation of the digestive tract
• Imbalance between Th-1 and Th-2 cells
• Food allergies

Thimerosal has not been completely removed from vaccines. It is still used as a preservative in most flu shots. It is used in the manufacturing process of other vaccines, and then is supposedly removed through a purification process which the FDA says is not monitored after initial licensing of the vaccine.

But thimerosal is not the only potential problem. Aluminum (another neurotoxin) is used as an adjuvant to increase the response of the immune system. Multiple viruses are in the MMR, and when varicela is given at the same time the risk of seizures and autism increases. There are many proteins and amino acids in vaccines including the casein- and whey-based substrates used to breed the microbes in the DPT vaccine. When we give these proteins along with adjuvants, is it any wonder that the immune system is not only trained to react to the microbes but also to the food we eat and our own bodies?

I am not anti-vaccine. I believe that in the face of some serious prevalent diseases the risks of vaccines are worth taking. But our current program is out of control. The benefits are exagerated while the risks are denied. We need honest research to understand vaccine adverse reactions in order to better prevent and treat these reactions. We need serious consideration of which vaccines are important. The hepatitis B vaccines for all newborns is a prime example of a vaccine with no benefit to most babies and unknown risk.

This is not an issue of emotional misguided parents vs. science. Many parents are very educated and “super smart”. We understand science. We need better science and better medicine.

One other important area in need of research – the children with autism who are responding well to biomedical treatments. In the name of skepticism, these treatments are largely being ignored by mainstream medicine and science. Skepticism is not the same as blind prejudice.

A special needs teacher here in the UK tells me that at one secondary school she worked at in a posh area of London, rich but not terrifically bright children were going off to private doctors in Harley Street for the afternoon and coming back with all sorts of labels attached: dislexsia, ADHD, autism... There was nothing wrong with them - they just weren't bright enough to get into a decent university without "assistance" from their parents' money.

(She was so disgusted by this travesty, she went back to a school in a much rougher area, where the children had real special needs: abusive homes, being refugees from war zones, etc.)

I'm fairly sure the same sort of thing will be going on in the US.

Yet another reason why the data on the "increase" in autism isn't to be trusted. :(

Regarding whether there is really an increase in autism, please see
"A new analysis of data on autism performed by NIEHS grantees at the University of California Davis (UCD) undermines arguments that California’s dramatic 7- to 8-fold increase in autism cases may be largely due to changing diagnostic practices of physicians. The researchers, who are affiliated with the UCD Department of Public Health Sciences and the UCD Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (M.I.N.D.) Institute, found that including milder cases, performing earlier diagnosis and demographic factors can explain only a small part of the rise in the number of children with the disorder.

"In their study, which was published in the January issue of Epidemiology, epidemiologist Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D. , and programmer analyst Lora Delwiche examined data on autism cases from 1990 through 2006 gathered by the California Department of Developmental Services, along with data from the United States Census Bureau and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Vital Statistics. Their findings offer new insight into the alarming increase in prevalence and point to environmental causes as the most productive direction for future research.

"According to the researchers, the increase was not simply a result of California’s continuing influx of new residents from elsewhere, earlier detection or the inclusion of milder cases. Taken together, these factors accounted for less than one-seventh of the increase, which the authors described as 'a major public health and educational concern' that shows no sign of abating.

"An increasingly diverse population was also not to blame, observed lead author Hertz-Picciotto in interviews following release of the study, since the disorder occurs among different ethnic groups at similar rates. It is also unlikely that families with autistic children moving to California had a significant impact on the rise.

"For Hertz-Picciotto, the increase underscores the need for greater emphasis on investigating further the role of environmental causes of the disorder. 'Right now, about 10 to 20 times more research dollars are spent on studies of the genetic causes of autism than environmental ones,' she said. 'We need to even out the funding.'"

Here's another study from UC Davis: "Is autism an autoimmune disease?"
Paul Ashwood, Judy Van de Water
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, and UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, University of California, Davis
"Take-home messages
 Patients show evidence of immune dysregulation.
 Autoantibodies have been described in patients
with autism to brain antigens.
 There is an increased incidence of autoimmune
disease in the families of patients with autism."

America is not unlike UK where "science" is under threat from those who revere its practices in a quasi-religious way. They forget that science is but methodology, and is always constrained by the current technologies and theories underpinning all current knowledge - not unlike most religions it creates beliefs, but unlike most religions those beliefs are necessarily transient as current methods and hence knowledge evolve.

It is often those "science quasi-religious fanatics" who then make extraordinarily unscientific claims, such as "science has proven that vaccines do not cause autism", despite the evidence to the contrary. Is this because, like some religious fundamentalists, they either are incapable of or do not wish to analyse all the available evidence objectively, preferring to use limited information that suits their beliefs rather than argue against the facts that refute their beliefs?

That vaccines cause a proportion of autistic spectrum disorders is, according to all current scientific evidence, irrefutable.

Mike Stanton said

"""If the number of people on the autistic spectrum has remained fairly constant, as suggested by the studies I cited, then it does not matter if every study of vaccines and autism ever published was hopelessly flawed. No epidemic = no role for vaccines. """

He cites studies that had limited vision and were enveloped by very extensive changes to the DSM and ID systems of classification, in addition to enormous alterations to, rescheduling of, and mass campaigns with, various vaccines.

Finding any epidemiological study that has even attempted to factor in the very widespread confounders is nigh on impossible - that's why epidemiology is of little value in vaccinology and one wonders why - other than for political and/or commercial expediency - epidemiology is used at all in that field (Demicelli, Jefferson et al Cochrane Collaboration Systematic Review demonstrated just how biased and baseless epidemiology can be for vaccinology), a field where the so-called gold standard for scientific medical research, the "Randomised Controlled Double Blind Trial" is completely ignored in favour of cohort studies; the latter being ideally suited to pre-designate results.

Figures as high as 1 in 40 to 1 in 60 may be nearer the mark for autism in schools; and I know of parents who claim there are as many as 3 autistic children in a class, perhaps 1 in 10 to 1 in 15, in some UK schools. A retired head teacher recently told me her mainstraem school has over 20% of children with cognitive deficit including ASDs, where 20 years ago there were hardly any.

Some austitic traits have always existed, being seen during acute anxiety episodes, but the magnitude and frequency of these traits now seen in children and throughout schools demonstrates a massive change in what 30 or 40 years ago were relatively unscathed populations.

Animal studies (eg Burbacher et al, Geier et al, and others, in primates) have demonstrated that typical vaccine schedules cause ASDs in monkeys typically seen in similarly vaccinated children. MMR vaccine viruses have been isolated in the guts and brains of autistics and not controls (Wakefield et al, Singh et al). The ethyl mercury of thimerosal has been demonstrated to have a more virulent effect on the brain than that proposed for methyl mercury (Burbacher et al) and the biochemical pathways possibly involving ethyl mercury intoxication in autism have been well described. Postnatal vaccinations given to mothers resulted in more autism in their children than otherwise.

The evidence is compelling whatever the inevitably inadequate epidemiology tries to say; even US legal expertise is beginning to uncover the breadth and depth of problems associated with vaccines. Vaccine damage payment schemes have begun to more accurately identify those damaged, though justice is in it infancy in that regard, by vaccines - kids who are now beset by what are clearly autistic spectrum disorders (Hannah Poling, Bailey Banks and many more).

The UK saw what any reasonable person might suspect to have been a conspiracy to protect the interests of big pharma defendants against claims made by hundreds of children allegedly disabled by vaccines - there was an unusual alignment of political, medical, media and judicial personalities having close associations with defendant corporations coincident with the eventual withdrawal of essential legal aid for the alleged victims.

Until corrupted political, corporate, media and judicial involvements are removed from the scientific arena, true objectivity in scientific endeavour cannot adequately benefit future generations.

Mike Stanton

My post from last night seems to have been lost, and I am just offering some quick thoughts from an external computer.

The studies you cite do not show that autism is a constant, but the views of the authors are predicated on it - so the argument would be at best circular. We have for years been granted a projection of autism in cidence in the UK (92 in 10,000) based on a study of lower continuum cases conducted in the london Borough of Camberwell in 1975 and upper continum cases in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1993. Where is your proof that this is the incidence? Baron-Cohen using a population of Cambridgeshire school children in the early noughties found an incidence of 157 in 10,000. This would leave us with a lost population in the UK of 750,000 adults in the UK, many extremely disabled if this was a normal incidence. Where is your evidence that they exist? Iam sure there are lost adults, but 750,000 not apparently identified or dependent on services - this is highly implausible.

Also, the proposition that autism is present at a constant level, and genetically determined is a scientific solecism. If it was genetically determined then the gene pool would rapidly reduce.

Finally, the genetic has already failed - decades of research have only produced weak association. More interestin are the Campbell/Levitt studies of the association between the MET gen and autism and GI symptoms, but this posits that the gene is being is being disrupted by unidentified environmental factors.

An awful lot of people claim they're going to show us science, then go on to assume their personal anecdote is the same as data. It makes you wonder if they really hold all the degrees they claim. If they do, it's obvious they weren't listening when the scientific method was talked about. (On the internet everyone has a PhD and drives a Lamborghini.)

Everything we've seen from the anti-vaccine movement falls well inside the lines of conspiracy theory groups. In fact, thanks to crank magnetism, many of the people that are anti-vaxxers are firm adherents to other conspiracy theories. Rigidly defending your claims and accusing any evidence that contradicts your beliefs as a vast conspiracy to keep you silent is pretty much the very definition of a conspiracy theorist.

So often we hear "Research has not been done" and "No studies were done". So do the studies and the research. The anti-vaccine movement is quite the well funded bunch and every third one of you claims to have a masters or a PhD in something. Gather up some cash and do some proper studies. If you run out, you've got enough celebrities to hit up for more. Remember, we're going to look at methodology just as much as we do results. We're not going to be impressed when you announce a statistically significant finding in a study involving four people with no control and no documentation.
I suppose it is far easier to shout at the top of your lungs indefinitely and hope enough people think "If there's smoke..." than to bother proving your claims. That's actually OK. I have no problem with that. You can do that all you like. You just can't do it and claim the science is on your side.

If we don't stop mentioning Pluto soon poor Lauren is going to lose her mind.

Interesting to watch the smears.

Regarding Tigger, the British government which loves spend money on vaccines, IT junk, wars in distant parts of the world has been trying to squeaze the category of education special needs out of existence for decades. Local authorities resist expensive labels like crazy, and do not give in easily. Any statement of SEN would be rigorously fought over. This does not represent the situation in the UK at all.

Regarding JThompson, I think this just shows that we are engaged with a dirty war on behalf of official science. When governments start actively monitoring adverse vaccine reactions and their sequelae, instead of demanding proof from injured familes (playing the game of hit and run) they will simply lack moral integrity or scientific plausibility. If you want to be trusted, start listening.

John Stone

Do you dispute the data in the Wing and Gillberg studies? Are you defending the idea of an autism epidemic?

Jack Humphries

"Limited vision?" The Camberwell Study gave us the triad of impairments, the idea of an autistic spectrum and helped to shape the diagnostic criteria. It remains a groundbreaking study.


This was an interesting interview, but when Chris Mooney asserts that religion "blocks" people from believing in evolution, he does not understand the real problem. He has the cart before the horse, at least for many of us who have a science background and were not reared in any faith. He also has a very condescending attitude towards faith, implying that science is good ( and represents intelligence and facts) and that faith "blocks" that good (and thus represents lack of intelligence and lack of facts).

I came to question evolution long before I had any connection to any faith. I was taking college biology in a secular college and reading a secular evolutionary textbook. I came to realize that the claims being made, particularly abiogenesis (the idea that life came from non-living matter) were impossible. The more I looked into the subject, the more I realized that I had been misled my whole life. In a graduate level cell biology book co-authored by no less than Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Science and editor- in- chief of the journal Science, clearly states that in regards to the evolution of the cell, " the large gaps in our knowledge can be filled only by speculations that are liable to be wrong in many details. We can not go back in time to witness the unique molecular events that took place billions of years ago." (Molecular Biology of the Cell, 3rd edition, Bruce Alberts, et. al., 1994, Garland Publishing, Inc., page 3 ). How many people understand that a lot of this is just speculation?

Most people have heard the evolutionary apologists loudly and forcefully proclaim that evolution is a "fact" and seen them mock and deride anyone who would dare challenge that as being a rube, unintelligent and not worthy of any respect at all. Their dismissive and contemptuous attitude has been extremely inflammatory and the evolutionists have tried to keep complete control of the issue with an iron fist, firing or not promoting anyone who questions the current paradigm. My husband and I knew a graduate student who was denied his Ph.D. because it became known in his department that he was not an evolutionist. All the questions at his thesis presentation were about his views on evolution, not on his paper or research methods. The bias was very clear. The evolutionists have already made up their minds and don't care to be presented with any facts.

Some who have recognized and written about the problems of the current Darwinist evolutionary hypothesis are "non-theists". Take Michael Denton, whose book, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, could be considered to be one of the first to really question the evolutionary hypothesis. He notes, for example, that evolution is highly theoretical and metaphysical in nature, founded in a philosophy rather than in science using the scientific method. He states that because evolution is," basically a theory of historical reconstruction, it is impossible to verify by experiment or direct observation as is normal in science. Recently the the philosophical status of evolutionary claims has been the subject of considerable debate. Philosophers such as Sir Karl Popper have raised doubts as to whether evolutionary claims, by their very nature incapable of falsification, can properly be classed as truly scientific hypotheses." (Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Michael Denton, 1986, Alder and Alder, Publishers, Inc., page 75) Mr. Denton has no religion informing him that evolution is an "assault" on his identity. He is, after all a self-proclaimed non-theist, as is Michael Behe, who wrote Darwin's Black Box after reading Michael Denton's book and being impressed with he questions it raises. Denton's book goes through many areas relevant to evolution and points out many of the problems that new research has raised with the current paradigm. You should read it and Michael Behe's book as well.

Philosophy, especially Occam's razor which was popularized by William of Occam, a 14th century philosopher and theologian, is used quite a bit in science. Occam's razor is the principle that the simplest explanation should be used unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise. It sounds good, but it is far from proven science. There certainly has been no establishment of this principle as an absolute truth, yet this philosophical argument is used frequently to make a scientific case. It is accepted as law, despite the fact that in biology we know that the simplest explanation is not always the correct one. Occam's razor is believed by many students to be the best way to find an explanation for many occurrences, leading to a hypothesis, which becomes a theory that is treated as a law without the rigorous examination which should be applied to ascertain if it is true.

In addition there has been new information on how science students have been misled by their textbooks and teachers. Another book that highlights the problems is Jonathan Wells book Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? , which shows how much of what is taught in science classes around the country is incorrect. He includes an evaluation of ten recent biology textbooks in appendix 1 and shows the basis for the grading. The books are graded on inclusion of factual material, exclusion of non-factual material and whether the book would leave the student with the correct impression of facts without having to find the discrepancies in the material (pictures, text, etc.) on their own. No book got better than a D+. Most biology textbooks (including my own daughter's college level biology book) are extremely misleading and much of what people believe to be "fact" concerning evolution is wrong.

When I realized that the science community was being intellectually dishonest, that there is a paucity of hard evidence for their claims, and that much of the evidence tends to refute evolutionary claims, I stopped believing that evolution was true. I lost a lot of trust in the high priests of science and now try to verify as much as I can, being unwilling to take what they say at face value, as I now realize that they have an agenda which is philosophically based. I have also realized that evolutionary biology is a multi-million (billion?) dollar industry, garnering tax dollars for evolution based research and the textbooks used in most class rooms. If the public were to come to understand that evolutionists have been disingenuous at best for many decades, all those lovely tax dollars for these scientists would be at risk.

I have also come to realize that, philosophically, evolution's logical conclusion is atheism, which offers only hopelessness for people, for there is no purpose, no design, no right or wrong and thus no justice,and in a few years we just cease to exist according to atheism. People ultimately have no inherent rights either, as they are just a random collection of atoms that shall soon degenerate into inanimate objects. Some evolutionists concede that atheism is the logical conclusion of evolution and that many have been led into atheism because of evolutionary teachings.

Atheism is also the antithesis of logic and reason, for if everything was formed by random chemical reactions and physical forces, then how can we trust that any logic can come from that? A person's own brain, ultimately is the result of random processes and can not be trusted to have logical, rational or reasonable ideas. Some of them may be logical, reasonable or rational by pure chance (though statistically it would be a very low probability), but you could never be sure that any ideas are logical, reasonable or rational. We do not live our lives as if there was no design or logic in the world, so atheists have a dichotomy in their thinking, basing their claims to logic and reason on theistic teachings rather than atheistic teachings. Logic and reason are the domain of theism, not atheism.

I could write a book on this subject, and I wish you would write another article from the perspective of someone like me, who understands the limitations of science and has been trained in science, but concluded that the current evolutionary paradigm has many problems with its claims in order to balance the views of Mr. Mooney.

Hi Lori,

My comments are in reference to the "vaccine skeptics movement".

While scientific illiteracy is clearly an issue--there are some great examples in your comments section--I disagree that this is the root issue.

Consider the numerous assertions in your comment section claiming that there has never been a study comparing autism/ASD rates in unvaccinated kids with vaccinated kids.

It is a simply fact that there is US data comparing 100% unvaccinated kids with vaccinated--vaccination had no effect on the risk of autism. This fact has been constantly pointed out for the last 8 years.

If you go line by line through the comments here, or Age of Autism/Generation Rescue/14 studies etc, etc the vaccine skeptics get pretty much everything wrong.

Wrong in the sense that systematically misrepresent basically every relevant fact, number, word, and concept.

So I think it is pointless to worry about the role of science when these so-called parent advocacy groups are make arguments that aren't even literate. And why do reasonable, sane adults choose to belief absurd arguments?

Fortunately I think these people are pretty harmless. Practically anyone can figure out the obviously falseness of their arguments.



The Latest | news as it happens

Recent Posts
test |  March 15, 2011, 4:00 pm »
Booster Shots has moved |  July 12, 2010, 6:02 pm »