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.
Yes, where is the elixir this guy drank, I want some of it. From Environmental Graffiti we get the following story “Bodyshock: The Amazing Story behind the 256 Year-Old Man“.
Li Ching-Yun was reported to have buried 23 wives and fostered 180 descendants by the time he died at the age of 256.
Wow, let’s see. If we assume he started getting married at 16 years old, that gives him 240 years, divided by 23 wives, you get an average of 10.43 years per wife. 180 descendants divided by 23 wifes gives us an average of 7.82 children per wife. Wow! Was he part of the Church of the Later Day Saints? What was his secret?
Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.
Apparently, for over one hundred years, Li continued selling his own herbs and then subsequently sold herbs collected by others. He also (according to Time) had six-inch long fingernails on his right hand.
Shit, six inch fingernails! If that’s not proof enough, I don’t know what those damn skeptics are looking for.
The detail, which seems to prove both arguments and debunk them at the same time, is Li’s youthful appearance, noted in a 1928 article from the New York Times. Visually and physically, he appeared to look like a typical 60 year-old. Does this therefore signify a superhuman body capable of lasting one quarter of a millennium, or is the story of Li Ching-Yun based on a series of half-truths, lies or exaggerations?
Unfortunately, we may never know. You may draw your own logical conclusions.
Logical Conclusion: There is only one logical conclusion. Fortunately we do know. He was not 256 you moron, he was 60, just as old as he looked it. Every other conclusion is illogical and pretty stupid.
Yet another logical conclusion: Don’t look to Environmental Graffiti for any serious journalism.
The Telegraph reports an a comprehensive study on astrology which appears to have proved what most level headed people already knew: Astrology is bullshit! According to the Telegraph article:
Its central claim – that our human characteristics are moulded by the influence of the Sun, Moon and planets at the time of our birth – appears to have been debunked once and for all and beyond doubt by the most thorough scientific study ever made into it.
For several decades, researchers tracked more than 2,000 people – most of them born within minutes of each other. According to astrology, the subject should have had very similar traits.
Researchers looked at more than 100 different characteristics, including occupation, anxiety levels, marital status, aggressiveness, sociability, IQ levels and ability in art, sport, mathematics and reading – all of which astrologers claim can be gauged from birth charts.
The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the “time twins”, however. They reported in the current issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: “The test conditions could hardly have been more conducive to success . . . but the results are uniformly negative.”
The findings caused alarm and anger in astrological circles yesterday. Roy Gillett, the president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, said the study’s findings should be treated “with extreme caution” and accused Dr Dean of seeking to “discredit astrology”.
The time-twins study is only the start of the bad news for astrologers, however. Dr Dean and Prof Kelly also sought to determine whether stargazers could match a birth chart to the personality profile of a person among a random selection.
They reviewed the evidence from more than 40 studies involving over 700 astrologers, but found the results turned out no better than guesswork.
The success rate did not improve even when astrologers were given all the information they asked for and were confident they had made the right choice.
This is good news, but don’t expect it to change anybody’s mind. Anyone who believes in such bullshit, is already ideologically predisposed to reject any contradictory evidence. In fact you must be a person who rejects science and logic to begin with, if you are to entertain such thoughts. So just like the religious, UFO proponents, homeopath believers and countless other moronic herds, this bit of science will do nothing but reinforce their already over acting imagination and conspiracy theories.
I have a new Video Blog, called Video Skepdude, which will work to collect and aggregate skeptical/scientific videos from all over the web in one place. If you run across such videos please do not hesitate to send me the link via e-mail at email@example.com
The “Expelled” “documentary”, has been getting a lot of attention lately. Most of this attention is negative, of course, given that it is a piece of crap. One website has been specifically set up by The National Center for Science Education. It is called Expelled Exposed. It was plugged on major skeptic podcasts and blogs around the web, so I am doing mine by plugging it here at Skepdude. I hope you take some time to go to this website and browse around.