From the creator of Video Skepdude

85% of Americans want a Science Debate

For more information you can read the related article at the Science Debate 2008 website.

Don’t hold your breath. I don’t see this happening any time soon. And if it does happen you can rest assured it will be a clown show!


May 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Autism hearings continue.

On Monday, 5/12/08, the United States Court of Federal Claims began another hearing to decide whether vaccines cause autism.

The hearing is the second in a series of three in which the court is considering whether the government should pay millions of dollars to the parents of some 4,800 autistic children. In this hearing, parents are claiming that thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury, damaged their children’s brains. Thimerosal was removed from all routinely administered childhood vaccines by 2001.

Every major study and scientific organization to examine the issue has found no link between vaccination and autism, but the parents and their advocates have persisted.3

Now, before I spell out my thought let me disclose that I am not a physician. I am not a doctor, don’t work for a pharmaceutical company. In short, I have no bias either way in this matter (except for a bias towards reason and reality.) On the other hand I am not qualified to have an opinion on the science of vaccines and thimerosal. As such my opinion is just that…my opinion based on what has been reported over the last few months.

As a new parent myself, I feel for the parents of children afflicted with any disease, not just autism. It is heartbreaking to see your child suffer and be unable to help, I know that. You’d cut off your own limbs if that would help, period. As such this entry is not to be construed as a tirade against the parents, but as a tirade against the people taking advantage of these parent’s pain, in order to fill up their own pockets with money, money, money. Because that’s what this is about isn’t it? Money!

There is a consensus in the scientific community that vaccines do not cause autism. Study after study has come out showing no connection whatsoever between them. There is no debate, no disagreement on the scientific community about this. In fact, thimerosal, was removed from almost all vaccines since 2001. Autism rates have not been declining since then.

So what this charade about parents taking their claims to court? Is a court qualified to have an opinion on medical issues? Because this is what this is isn’t it? Some people believe against all evidence that what the doctors say is wrong. They believe the medical community is wrong, or treacherous. So they turn to a judge. But how is a judge supposed to make a decision? Isn’t the judge going to have to rely on the same medical community these parents distrust? Where is the court going to get the scientific evidence if not from the scientific community itself? Or do they expect the judge to agree on them based on their anecdotal evidence and completely ignore all the scientific studies on the subject? I don’t really know what their hopes are.

What is the point of this whole thing anyway? They claim thimerosal caused their kid’s autism. Even if we grant that, you’d have to prove at the least recklessness on the part of the government or vaccine makers in order to get a reward. Just because one component in a drug/vaccine turns out to have undesired effects on some people, does that give these people the right to demand compensation? You can’t just go in there, claim that thimerosal from the vaccines made my kid sick and walk out with money. It doesn’t work that way. It can’t work that way. That is preposterous. Every drug has side effects, some even result in death, some of these side effects remain unknown until much later. We can’t have all the people that take such drugs, and experience these previously unknown side effects, demand compensation. Widespread use show all the possible effects, some of which would be impossible to detect in testing done before the drug went to the market. Are this minority of people supposed to get compensation as well? I find that logic disturbing.

All they have to support their case is anecdotal evidence. Some kid was developing nicely. Then they got some shots. A short time after that they started exhibiting sings of autism. The parent concluded that because the autism was noticed after the shots were taken, then the shots caused the autism. This is a classical post hoc fallacy. B happened after A, therefore B was caused by A. But such illogic don’t work.

How many other vaccines did this kid get before he was diagnosed with autism? As a new parent I know that vaccines start very early in a child’s life. The first vaccines are given in the hospital right after birth, or a few days after that. Another set is given by 2 months. The first flu shot is usually given at 6 months. They continue at a few month’s intervals during at least the first few years. So if vaccines cause autism, why didn’t they cause it earlier?

What else happened right after the vaccines? Maybe the kid spoke its first word after a vaccine. Are we going to attribute that to the vaccine? Maybe he started walking. Are we going to attribute that to the vaccine? Of curse not. Just because something happens after something else (temporally) it does not imply that the former caused the latter. So why do these people pick and choose where to apply their illogic. Why just vaccines and autism?

I think I may know why. People want answers. They don’t like to hear “I don’t know”. That is why religion is so important to so many people. It provides (incorrect) answers with certainty. All of a sudden you know. And that is why people like the “vaccines cause autism” line of reasoning. Something which was not understandable all of a sudden is. We have a bad guy, a villain. We have someone to fight. That feeling of hopelessness is eased. We feel like we’re doing something.

I don’t have anything against the parents (although I am sure there must be a few bad apples in there who are in this just for the money!). It must be horrible to have that feeling of hopelessness. Wouldn’t you fight with everything you’ve got, against everyone in the whole world for your kid? Of course you would. But it is the Oprahs of this world, who’d do anything for ratings that I despise. It is the lawyers who see an opportunity to make a killing that I despise. It is the people who propagate this misinformation to further their own financial interests that I despise. Yes, those people I despise profoundly. The parents I feel bad for and I hope that they can find some closure and go back to the important things, taking care of their kids. My heart goes out to them, but that does not mean they are any less wrong. Misguided, good intentioned, but wrong nevertheless.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Critical Thinking, Logic, Pseudo-science, Science, Thinking Out Loud | , , , , , | 5 Comments