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Shouting Fire PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Scott Hurst   

In the 1919 Supreme Court case of Schenck vs. United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." By "falsely," Justice Holmes clearly meant shouting fire while not believing there to be a fire. It goes without saying, shouting fire in the event of an actual fire would never be a cause for punishment. It appears that shouting fire while holding a mistaken belief that there was a fire, a terrible and possibly lethal error, would likely be no cause for punishment, either. But what if that belief was based on no good evidence?

A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him at great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.

What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet inasmuch as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for it.

William K Clifford - "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)

Now, let's have a look at the crowd that have been making so much fuss about vaccines, particularly MMR, being the cause of autism. What might make them think that this is true? Other than Jenny McCarthy's ludicrous claim to knowledge by her mommy instinct, their evidence consists of little more than these two pieces: the signs of autism appear around the same time as childhood vaccinations and the original paper linking MMR with autism, the 1998 Lancet article by Andrew Wakefield.

Does autism show up right after vaccinations? Yes, occasionally it does. Here are the facts: The average age for diagnosis with autism is between 3 and 5 years (though the first symptoms are often present before one year of age) and the majority of the vaccines a child receives come in the first six years of life. (Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 through 6 Years-United States - 2009) But that is no smoking gun, not on its own at least. Why not? Autism generally becomes apparent when children fail to achieve or have delays in acquiring normal verbal and social skills that are expected during those early years. This could be noticed soon after any of the many vaccinations that occur during this same time period. How can we tell if these two things are really connected or not? This is actually easier than it may sound. You just compare the prevalence of autism in populations that have and have not had the vaccine or vaccine component you are concerned about. This has been done. It has been done repeatedly, on a large scale, and with many variations. The findings have always been the same. Autism rates do not vary by: vaccinated or not vaccinated; schedule of vaccination; or vaccination formulation. No correlation can be found between vaccination and autism at all, except in the case of the Wakefield paper.

So, what about that paper by Andrew Wakefield? Here are some facts uncovered about Andrew Wakefield and his paper since its publication in 1998. You can decide for yourself the trustworthiness of that paper, afterwards. The paper was funded by British trial lawyers seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers (undisclosed conflict of interest.) Nine months before the article's publication, Wakefield was a party to patent applications for a "safer MMR vaccine." This MMR competitor would undoubtedly benefit by damage to the reputation of the existing vaccine (giant undisclosed conflict of interest.) Ten of the twelve coauthors have since retracted the conclusion that there exists an association between MMR and autism. The Sunday Times has discovered that Wakefield "cooked" his data to support his conclusion. Most importantly, every follow-on study attempting to replicate the Wakefield findings have failed to do so.

Recently, a special federal court finished hearing the first three test cases for possible injury by the MMR vaccine. The three cases were chosen by the anti-vax litigators as the strongest and most compelling of the thousands of cases they are prepared to bring. The Special Masters (judges) were unimpressed. Here are a few highlights of the rulings. "Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment," and "the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding (of autism)." From the Austin American Statesmen, "In every case, the judges believe that Wakefield and Krigsman are wrong and gave the families false hope. Worse, the reaction to Wakefield's theory has been a surge in measles cases fed by unvaccinated children."

What we are left with is a bogus paper and people such as McCarthy endlessly screaming about the (refuted) link between autism and vaccines from the roof tops. These combine to put the idea that there is a link between MMR and autism into more parents' heads. These misinformed parents then have children of their own diagnosed with autism coincidently soon after a vaccination. Presto, they are convinced that the vaccine led to the autism. The causes of this autism anti-vax crusade are no more complicated to understand than that. People are pattern seekers. We are ‘wired' to learn this way. If autism follows a vaccination, it must be the vaccination to blame. Except frequently, it just isn't true. Understanding this extremely common failing of human reasoning is one of the first steps of practicing good medicine. It is must be tamed to go anywhere in any branch of science. This is known as the ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc' fallacy. This is a very elementary fallacy to be aware of. It is near unbelievable that the very people who are claiming to be experts, writing even more (bogus) papers, and fanning the fires of public panic continue to fall for it at every turn.

This leads me back to "Shouting Fire" and the ethics of belief. Jenny McCarthy, her boyfriend Jim Carrey, the crew of the Age of Autism, and the cadre of quacks given mouthpiece by the Huffington Post are all surely "shouting fire" in the sense that they are creating an extremely dangerous public panic by providing a warning about a non-existent danger. No doubt that many, if not all, of them sincerely believe the message that they promote. But, as in the story of the ship owner before, they have no right to believe on the evidence as it stands before them. Even worse, they disregard every warning and cannot be bothered the tiny bit of learning necessary to avoid that ‘post hoc' error in reasoning. They are a group of people, completely untrained in any relevant field of expertise, contradicting the virtually unanimous verdict of the world's experts. It has been conclusively demonstrated time and again that the only correlation between vaccination and autism is the coincidence of their timing. As has often been said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts. Their failure to be convinced only reveals an unwillingness to consider evidence that contradicts their already-held convictions. These are not opinions honestly held.

As has been established, these people are not medical doctors. They have no expertise in any relevant field. They are ignorant of even the basics of critical thinking and methods of science. They've been fooled by a pitifully unconvincing Wakefield and are now presenting themselves as medical authorities on the subject of autism and vaccines and giving bogus MEDICAL ADVICE of a truly life-or-death nature. Worse still, uncritical media pundits (Larry King and Oprah, as examples) give them essentially unopposed air time to voice their unsupported hypothesis. In fact, they are often portrayed as brave crusaders courageously fighting against the profit-driven, corrupt, medical establishment rather than the deluded gadflies that they really are. When the inevitable happens and children die because their parents listened to Jenny's non-sense, at least some of those parents will wake up and discover the truth. They will find they have inadvertently killed their own children by following the medical advice of someone who had no business dispensing it. Perhaps it is a good thing that so many of the anti-vax brigade are so well-heeled. The victims might be well compensated, at the very least. No doubt, they would all prefer to have their children back.

This should be a warning to Jim, Jenny and the Huffington Post. If they aren't already, they certainly will be responsible for unnecessary and avoidable deaths and disabilities. By giving medical advice they are utterly unqualified to give, their liability will be clear. I hope they're ready, because someday they will be held accountable for "shouting fire".

With many thanks to Joseph A. Albietz III, MD

Scott Hurst is a longtime friend and frequent photographer of the JREF.

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written by MadScientist, May 04, 2009
Excellent article Scott.

Now if only those folks across the pond would care to file criminal lawsuits against Andrew Wakefield; faking the data in any publication is bad enough, but when health and safety is concerned, that's just criminal (in the real sense, if not in the legal definition). Perhaps if the anti-vax crowd started going to jail or paying huge fines they'd think twice about spreading their crap about. I don't care if they whine about "big bad pharma" and their conspiracy with the state, just lock 'em up.
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written by daveg703, May 04, 2009
How about an email campaign to Oprah's website, demanding equal time for the objective, scientific rebuttal to the previous nonsense she allowed?
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Scott...
written by Human Person Jr, May 04, 2009
Great contribution here! You should be proud of this effort.
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written by Bruno, May 04, 2009
Since there isn't a "vote up" button for the main article, here's my vote: up. Honest belief is too often seen as an excuse, and this article thoroughly eviscerates the notion.
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
Thanks for the props. There are also a ton of links that should be embedded in the text. I'll see if I can get those added back in.
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Very well written article
written by Careyp74, May 05, 2009
I agree, these people should be held accountable.

I have to say though, I don't believe the analogy is right, shouting fire in a crowded theater. I would say that the actions of the MMR are more like standing in front of the theater and telling people walking in that there is going to be a fire. To be more precise, it is like they are standing in front of a burning theater and telling people to walk in, it won't hurt them.

Taken in this context, they still have the right to speak their voice, however, I believe government needs to step in on occasions like this and confront the issues.
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written by BillyJoe, May 05, 2009
Yes, credit where credit is due.
Well written and not an error in sight.
May we have more articles of this caliber.

BillyJoe
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
Careyp74, people DIE from these diseases they should be vaccinated against. If Jenny and crew have their way, polio will come back. POLIO. How exactly does that fit with "it won't hurt them"?
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
I misread Careyp74's comment. Disregard my last.
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written by jbspry, May 05, 2009
"So here's the pitch CB:
"We got all these kids catchin' this horrible disease, makes 'em act goofy, and nobody knows what the hell is wrong with 'em. The doctors say it's somethin' in their genes or somethin' but it turns out they're just coverin' for this big multinational drug company that's sellin' the shit out of some new kid's drug they invented. The doctors are cleanin' up pushin' this stuff on unsuspecting parents and the drug companies have the government bought off with sex junkets to Bangkok.
"Then a couple of ordinary people - I see Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy - catch on to what's happening and they start screamin' bloody murder but the drug company has too much money invested in this new drug to pull it off the market. So they get this big conspiracy goin' to make these two look like idiots and shut 'em up but Jim and Jenny ain't havin' it. Finally they appeal to the public at the big Oscar night broadcast and the drug bosses are taken down by the Hollywood PD SWAT boys as Grauman's goes up in flames. I'm tellin' ya, it's box office GOLD."
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written by AMFCook, May 05, 2009
All too often the public is douped into new and innovative treatments and OTC therapies for all kinds of medical ailments. Manufacturers of snake oils have some pretty impressive ad execs who routinely come up with the best text to use to push their sugar water onto unsuspecting souls at a high price. They prey on the naive. It's unfortunate. Wakefield is the worse snake oil salesman in the world when he published his tainted report on the connection between MMR vaccine and Autism. He had parents believing their children's autism is the direct cause of the formulation of the MMR, and is the sole basis for future parents to not have their children vaccinated. How sad.

Recently; however, the critical thinking world has won a small victory. The makers of Hydroxycut have pulled their product from store shelves in a voluntary recall due to FDA findings of a small number of people who have developed liver damage from using Iovates weightloss product.

Hopefully, none of the 23 people wasting their money on this woowoo will have serious liver problems. But with the recall, one can hope it will save others from experiencing the same problems.
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written by grieve, May 05, 2009
Thank you for the excellent write up on this. I think you were actually too kind to Andrew Wakefield in light of this article about him: http://scienceblogs.com/insole...f_andr.php

What irritates me the most about Andrew Wakefield is that he is still practicing, and in my hometown no less.
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The Legal View
written by MAL_JD, May 05, 2009
Hi again,

Figured I would again poke my head into the fray.

As before, I will get my personal opinion out of the way so that you all know where I stand. Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are committing a crime in my mind. They are guilty of the Deaths from MMR even before they happen. That is where I stand.

Having said that, however, Schenck vs. United States is not the end all and be all of the Free Speach Cases. It was followed by, and subsequently weakened by, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927). From the Concurring Opinion by Justice Brandies:

"Whenever the fundamental rights of free speech and assembly are alleged to have been invaded, it must remain open to a defendant to present the issue whether there actually did exist at the time a clear danger; whether the danger, if any, was imminent; and whether the evil apprehended was one so substantial as to justify the stringent restriction interposed by the legislature."


What do we make of this then? Well, in the case of the Anti-Vaxers I would say this case actually works against them. The "evil apprehended" in this case is the furthering of disease which will wind up killing people. There is no question there. Some people will die from MMR and the associated complications. This case however was later over-ruled, but this Brandiesean principle is still relevant to the current discussion as a staging point.

When do we draw a line in the sand? After the first MMR Death since the Anti-Vaxers started their insantiy? After the 100th MMR related Death?

I have had family who would have died, but for ther vacinations they recieved as children. And when I asked their parents which option they would have prefered, it was a no brainer. Vaccinate. The other options are not options at all.

Sincerely,
Martin A. Lessem, J.D.
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written by Kuroyume, May 05, 2009
Superbly written article, Scott.

It comes to my mind that their message must be countered by reality, facts, and information as quickly as possible. Although not directly related to MMR, there is a chance that this new influenza strain, H1N1, could resurface in the next flu cycle at real pandemic levels and the worst case would be parents unwilling to innoculate their children because of this anti-vax rhetoric. What can we do now to impinge the spread of these falsities by Jim, Jenny, et al?
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
Kuroyume, that is a very good and tough question.

My nightmare is that it is going to take several crying mothers to go on Oprah and say "I believed Jenny and then didn't vaccinate my baby. I've now done the research and she was wrong. Too late for me, now my baby is dead." (I hope they remember to point fingers at Oprah to for providing Jenny’s soapbox) That will be followed by the same group suing the anti-vax brigade into the ground.

In the mean time, all I can think to do is make as much noise as possible. When you see or hear people repeating their non-sense, oppose it immediately. The facts are clearly on our side. It couldn’t hurt to try to bring all this to the attention of whoever represents you in your government. They’ve got popularity and emotion on their side, and that is a recipe for viewers and subscribers. Our point of view isn’t as interesting, but it’s a lot more useful. We need to find a way to mitigate their huge numbers. It is going to take a LOT of us to do it.

I wish I had a more satisfactory answer.
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Speaking of shouting fire...
written by Griz, May 05, 2009
...and tugging at the hearstrings...

"I believed Jenny and then didn't vaccinate my baby. I've now done the research and she was wrong. Too late for me, now my baby is dead."

Please. All three diseases prevented by the MMR vaccine are mild and rarely fatal in patients who have access to adequate medical care (i.e. the middle-income white gossip show watching bandwagon hoppers among which this is an issue). If you're over a certain age you probably suffered through one or more of these diseases and came out no worse for the wear. I know I did.

Measles (rubeola): Generally mild. fatality rate of 3 per thousand.

Mumps: 20% infected show no symptoms, death extremely rare, possible bad complications for adults.

Rubella: Rubella infection of children and adults is usually mild, self-limiting and often asymptomatic

Much of that is lifted directly from Wikipedia.

To be clear: I'm not arguing against vaccines, I'm pointing out that those accusing Jenny McCarthy of yelling fire (which she undoubtedly is) in these comments are largely employing the same hyperboly she is. For everyone's sanity, let's try to keep it closer to reality.
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
I guess I don't find a fatality rate of 3 per 1000 acceptable in the least. Measles is among the top five killers in the world of children under 5 years old (even with the western/vaccinating world averaged in).

Also, MMR isn't the only vaccine she wan't people to avoid. Her group only recommends HIB and tenanus. That is leaving out a ton of preventable killers. (Whooping cough for example kills at least 1 in 100 infants that contract it)

When asked about the possible return of polio (POLIO!?! her group recommends against the polio vaccine) if people don't vaccinate she responded, "I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism."

Think again Griz
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
Here is a great summary page of what thing were like before vaccination and how things are in areas where they don't today.

Have a careful read of this and call "hyperboly" again, Griz.

http://www.scouting.org/HealthandSafety/Immunization.aspx
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Scott H, Lowly rated comment [Show]
Scott H
written by Griz, May 05, 2009
P.S. how about a reference to the studies that you claim show no difference in rates of autism between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
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Sorry to post three times in a row
written by Griz, May 05, 2009
The above request is not combative, I'd like to show it to my wife, who has bought in a little bit to McCarthy's line.

To clarify (my wife works extensively with autistic kids) autism is usually diagnosed between 3-5 years old but that is often the result of a lengthy hot potato toss between pediatricians, psych folks, speech therapists, and teachers. No one wants to make the A-word diagnosis, and the parents often have their heads firmly buried in the sand.

This is anecdotal, but in the majority of cases (probably over 50-60) my wife has worked with, symptoms presented well before age 3-5, usually around 1-2. The first things parents often notice is massive delays in speech, so speech therapists often see the signs first. The child is usually classified as PDD (Pervasive developmental disorder). Actual diagnosis of autism takes time and a lot of observation. There's no blood test or biopsy, it's a spectrum of symptoms and they vary widely from person to person as does severity.

And medical science really doesn't have the first clue what causes it. (Well, okay, that's just my opinion)
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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
Griz, it's the same "14 studies" that Age of Autism claims that don't show it.

Here is a nice summary: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=466

Measles kills *more* kids in underdeveloped countries. That does not mean it would kill fewer than 3 per 1000 if left unchecked here. Nor does mean that whooping cough would kill less that 1 percent.

Bringing up auto accidents is only changing the subject. Unnecessary deaths in auto accidents is surely a problem, but not the one we are discussing here. If you wish point out ways to save children in auto accidents, feel free to write a piece on it. You can be assured that I won't come over and interject concerns about lack of vaccination.

As far as shamelessly attempting to ride Oprah's or Jenny's coattails anywhere, that doesn't even merit a reply.
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Great Article
written by igetpissed, May 05, 2009
Nice article, Scott. I only hope that Carey and Mccarthy's day in the spotlight will be over soon. They have garnered way too much media attention for two people who really know absolutely nothing about what they are talking about.
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written by Griz, May 05, 2009
"As far as shamelessly attempting to ride Oprah's or Jenny's coattails anywhere, that doesn't even merit a reply."

And yet you did.

Thanks for the links.
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The Science of Autism
written by MAL_JD, May 05, 2009
Hi again all,

Not a legal view this time. Just passing on information.

This is on CNN's Front Page today:

Toddler brain difference linked to autismhttp://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH...index.html


From the article:

The size of a specific part of the brain may help experts pinpoint when autism could first develop, University of North Carolina researchers report.

Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that the area of the brain called the amygdala was, on average, 13 percent larger in young children with autism, compared with control group of children without autism. In the study, published in the latest Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers scanned 50 toddlers with autism and 33 children without autism at age 2 and again at age 4. The study adjusted for age, sex and IQ.


This is interesting as it is a new direction for this particular research.

Enjoy the read.

Sincerely,
Martin A. Lessem, J.D.
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written by typicallucas, May 05, 2009
Send an email to Oprah and let her know that Jenny McCarty's message is life-threatening to children.

https://www.oprah.com/plugform.jsp?plugId=220

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written by scott_h, May 05, 2009
typicallucas's suggestion is as good as any.

It would just need to be done in enormous numbers, probably. Recruit your friends. All of them.
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Statistical Nonsense
written by Jim Shaver, May 05, 2009
Griz:

I have to agree with Scott that automobile death rates are irrelevant to this discussion, and more importantly, the way you used this data is a significant misuse of statistics. Assuming there are roughly 1000 automobile-crash deaths of children under age 10 per year in the US, the rate of death by car travel per child per year would be about 0.025 per thousand. (This ratio assumes that all children under age ten ride in cars, and that there are about 40,000,000 such children in the US, a number which is supported by US census data.) Therefore, for the first 10 years of a child's life, the accumulated statistical rate of death by car travel would be about 0.25 per thousand children. This is a rough calculation, but it gives the right order of magnitude.

So the childhood death rate from riding in cars is one-tenth that from contracted Measles and one-fortieth that from contracted Whooping Cough, assuming these conservative estimates.

Anyway, as Scott says, if you want to make suggestions of how to reduce car-crash deaths, you have to propose an alternative means of travel, safety engineering, etc. that is provably less risky than the state of the art. Such a means of mitigating death by the indicated childhood diseases is already in existence, namely vaccinations.
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Thorough malarky
written by StaudtCJ, May 05, 2009
I am firmly in the court of "this is bunk" and "vaccines are essential". What I don't understand is why would these idiot parents prefer a dead normal child to a live autistic one? Even if there was a causal link, which there isn't, I would still vaccinate children. I'd prefer an autistic child to one that will spend whatever is left of his or her life in an iron lung. I'd prefer an autistic child to a grave marked "died of measles" or "died of pertussis". Way to say "if my kid's not perfect, I don't want him", idiot non-vaccinating parent. These parents and celebrities are saying that a few deaths will be required to make the pharmaceutical companies step up with better options? And these parents are ok with their kids being used as the dead baby impetus?
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I feel sorry for the ship owner (a little)
written by Willy K, May 05, 2009
It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him.

I feel a little sorry for the ship owner because back in the 1800's there was very little science and technology to help him make a sound decision.

It's amazing that folks like Jenny M. can still make her claims in the face of huge advances in medicine, science, technology and epidemiology.

I wonder what she will say, in the not too distant future I hope, when the overwhelming evidence against her claims will convince even Oprah and Larry K. to do a turnabout. smilies/cry.gif
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written by Alan3354, May 05, 2009
I like Jenny McCarthy, and it's easy to sympathize with her plight, but that doesn't make her an authority on this, or anything else.
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@ AMFCook
written by BillyJoe, May 05, 2009
Wakefield...had parents believing their children's autism is the direct cause of the formulation of the MMR, and is the sole basis for future parents to not have their children vaccinated.

Actually, he is not against vaccination. He just thinks, for some reason he has never explained, that the three components of the MMR vaccine should be given separately.

BJ
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Jim Shaver
written by Griz, May 05, 2009
"I have to agree with Scott that automobile death rates are irrelevant to this discussion"

And yet we keep talking about them. Maybe because my parallel is apt: overreaction is overreaction.

"So the childhood death rate from riding in cars is one-tenth that from contracted Measles"

And you accused me of nonsense statistics. Since you admittedly have no idea what percentage of children ride in cars, you have no idea what the death per thousand equivalent is. Meanwhile, that whooshing sound you hear is the larger point sailing over your head as you strain at the minutiae: yes, traffic deaths are irrelevant, so is Jenny McCarthy to the overall issue of getting kids in third world countries vaccinated for childhood diseases.
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written by Kuroyume, May 05, 2009
If that is true, then shouldn't Wakefield himself be publicly countering these overarching cries for anti-vax in general. In other words, if his paper's publication started it but he doesn't advocate what these people advocate, he really should shoulder some responsibility in disuaging the extremals based thereupon. He may have said, "MMR should be given separately to avoid autism" (without firm evidence, of course) but the anti-vaxers have extended it to "Avoid vaccination to avoid autism." That is a fanatic viewpoint, as mentioned, without any merit.

I think I'll write to Oprah and my state Senator/Representatives. But, considering their propensity for being lazy bastards, any layman references that even a Senator can understand. smilies/wink.gif
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I don't have to get the last word, but...
written by Jim Shaver, May 05, 2009
Griz:

I didn't miss your point, I disagreed with it. It is the reasoned opinion of many smart people that Jenny McCarthy is not irrelevant to public health issues, and I agree with them. More specifically, the anti-vaccination movement is well-organized and zealous, and they are dangerous.

By the way, where I live approximately 100% of children ride in cars.
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written by Squid, May 05, 2009
Offhand, while I've heard of Jenny speaking out about anti-vax, I haven't heard of Jim doing the same. Does anyone have any links to him doing so? I'm just wondering if he is getting blamed because he's her boyfriend, not because he's actually speaking out about anti-vax. (And, for the record, anti-vax, no matter how you look at it, is dangerous. Just my opinion, and I hope others' as well.)

Squid
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Too much attention being giving to Mccarthy by skeptics...
written by The Cynic, May 05, 2009
Are there diehard people listening to every word she says? Yes. But that is their own fault and the fault of the media.

Blaming McCarthy for parents refusing to do their own research is ridiculous. These parents should bear the responsibility for these choices, that is part of being a parent. They are not victims, their children may be, these parents are not. They choose to disregard major responsibilities of parenting. And they do not deserve compensation. I do not feel sorrow for these parents.

The media is another issue. The Huffington Post is hardly serious journalism. However, since it is being promoted as a source of news I think it should have to be held to the some standards of integrity. The same for Oprah and other media giants who are dismissing any fact-checking efforts.
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requested link
written by The Cynic, May 05, 2009
Squid this is a link to a story on alternet (which took it from huffington) by Carrey. While you are looking at it you might add your 2 cents to the comment section. There is definitely more people from the Vaccines = Autism religion on there.

http://www.alternet.org/story/138121/we_still_don't_know_if_vaccines_are_safe/
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written by scott_h, May 06, 2009
Squid, here is a take-down to the Jim Carrey piece that Cynic posted by our own BA.
http://is.gd/u9J1
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@ The Cynic
written by BillyJoe, May 06, 2009
Blaming McCarthy for parents refusing to do their own research is ridiculous. These parents should bear the responsibility for these choices, that is part of being a parent.

Unfortuately, the average parent has neither the time nor the expertise to adequately research even just one vaccine let alone the dozen or so on the childhood schedule. In fact, this is true for the large majority of parents.

BillyJoe
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written by Careyp74, May 06, 2009
BillyJoe, if they don't have the time to look into it, they should stick to the mainstream accepted vaccines until they do have the time to research and come up with an opinion, not listen to an actress. These vaccines are required in a lot of states in order for kids to go to school. Moms shouldn't just say no after hearing her speak, I think the fault is with the parents.
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written by scott_h, May 06, 2009
Careyp74, the only crime I can think to charge those parents with is gullibility. The anti-vax crew are actually selling the story that there exists a gov't/big-pharma conspiracy to cover up the dangers of vaccines.

Here is Robert F Kennedy (right, THAT Kennedy) in Rolling Stone - http://www.rollingstone.com/po..._immunity/

Here is Congressman Dan Burton's words while addressing congress, "I believe, as do many credible scientists and researchers, that the clear correlation between the dramatic rise in the number of autism cases, and the rapid expansion of the childhood vaccination schedule during that 20-year period, points to the mercury-based preservative thimerosal -- routinely used in pediatric vaccines during the period -- as a contributing factor to our country's literal epidemic of autism. In fact, I firmly believe my own grandson became autistic after receiving nine shots."

These are people that many would consider authorities. They're not, but most of the public just isn't equipped to know the difference (sadly). Blaming the parents just won't do.
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@ Careyp74
written by BillyJoe, May 06, 2009
BillyJoe, if they don't have the time to look into it, they should stick to the mainstream accepted vaccines until they do have the time to research and come up with an opinion,

Most parents will never have the time to research even a single vaccine adequately to come up with an educated opinion. They also don't have, and will never have, the expertise to perform an adequate research.

not listen to an actress.

Interestingly, this particular actress tells parents to do exactly that: research and decide for themselves.

These vaccines are required in a lot of states in order for kids to go to school.

Actually, vaccines are not compulsory. Any parent can opt out by making a declaration.

Moms shouldn't just say no after hearing her speak, I think the fault is with the parents.

After hearing her speak, these moms are making mistake of thinking they can come to their own conclusion about whether or not vaccines are safe and effective. The truth is they wouldn't have a clue where to even start looking. And, if they did, they wouldn't have a clue how to interpret what they're reading because they don't have, and never will have, the necessary background knowledge.

BillyJoe
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written by scott_h, May 06, 2009
Careyp74, also a little Sagan quote might be illuminating. He isn't speaking on vaccines, just bogus science in the media and his limo driver being taken by it.

"What we almost never find - in public libraries or newstand magazines or prime time television programs - is the evidence from sea floor spreading and plate tectonics, and from mapping the ocean floor which show quite unmistakably that there could have been no continent between Europe and the Americas on anything like the timescale proposed.

Spurious accounts that snare the gullible are readily available. Skeptical treatments are much harder to find. Skepticism does not sell well. A bright and curious person who relies entirely on popular culture to be informed about something like Atlantis is hundreds or thousands of times more likely to come upon a fable treated uncritically than a sober and balanced assessment.

Maybe Mr. "Buckley" should know to be more skeptical about what's dished to out to him in popular culture. But apart from that, it's hard to see how it's his fault. He simply accepted the most widely available and accessible sources of information claimed as true. For his naivete, he was systematically misled and bamboozled"

That is from the first chapter of "Demon Haunted World".

In the day-time TV world (the world of many young mothers), the stories that vaccines cause autism (and even worse) and that the diseases they protect against aren't that serious anyway are delivered often and loudly through channels the come to trust. To be sure, there is more push-back on the vaccine front. Is it happening when the decision makers in these young childrens' lives are watching? Not enough.
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Jim Shaver
written by Griz, May 06, 2009
"By the way, where I live approximately 100% of children ride in cars."

Jim, YOU accused me of nonsense statistics and yet you keep beating that dead horse. You have absolutely NO way of knowing whether that statement you just made is true or not, you're simply being contrary. Dude, let it go. You can't win a non-existent argument over whose statistics are nonsense by just making shit up to support your contrary answer to something YOU said was nonsense in the first place and which we both agreed a long time ago is completely irrelevant to the main topic of this thread.
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written by scott_h, May 06, 2009
Griz, other than in Amish communities, it would seem to be true that very nearly 100% of children in the US ride in cars. Are you disputing that?

As to contrary.... Pot, meet kettle.
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Scott_h
written by Griz, May 06, 2009
"Griz, other than in Amish communities, it would seem to be true that very nearly 100% of children in the US ride in cars. Are you disputing that?"

Dead horse, meet beater. No. I'm not disputing that, but at this point I'm beginning to see that nothing is going to penetrate your argumentative obtuseness.

Here is what I'm saying, read carefully:

You're making that statistic up. It doesn't matter how many children you THINK ride in cars, you do not KNOW the percentage.

Do you dispute that? It's statistical nonsense.
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written by scott_h, May 06, 2009
I am disputing that it is necessary to know an exact percentage to know it is very nearly all. And that is all that is needed for his point to be completely valid.
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written by Griz, May 06, 2009
"I am disputing that it is necessary to know an exact percentage to know it is very nearly all. And that is all that is needed for his point to be completely valid."

And I dispute that. It's statistical nonsense of exactly the sort he accused me. Now are we done counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of this pin so you can get back to your serious role as contributor to the JREF supporting exact science and disputing "woo" with facts and truth and not conjecture and made up numbers like "very nearly all"?
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written by MJG, May 06, 2009
Actually Griz, it seems to me your parallel was fundamentally flawed from the outset:

A percentage of children will die from contracting measles, mumps or rubella. This percentage can be (for the most part) completely eliminated through the administration of MMR vaccine, which is a proven safe, cost effective procedure. A percentage of children who ride in cars will die in accidents. This can be eliminated through the safe, cost effective and proven technique of.... what? Banning children from riding in cars? Are you really trying to set that up as parallel that has any utility? I guess if there was an almost 100 percent fool proof car safety device that parents were refusing to use for some disprove reason, then your parallel would be apt. However, I'm not aware of any such device.
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In fighting
written by grieve, May 06, 2009
It is strange to me that people (skeptics?) are fighting amongst themselves about the utility of an analogy relating cars accidents and measles, when Jenny M. Jim C., and Andrew W., are, seemingly, united in their efforts to get rid of vaccinations all together.

Since we all agree that vaccines are good, and Jenny, Jim, and Andrew are doing something bad, shouldn't we unite our efforts on focusing on minimizing the damage they are doing. As well as disseminating the good science that backs up the efficacy of vaccines?

Just my $0.02.
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@Willy K
written by Brookston John, May 06, 2009
Don't shed too many tears over the poor shipowner who let his greed over-rule his own experience and the concerns of others...

"He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy."

The ship was old, not very strongly built in the first place, and needed frequent repairs.
It had been suggested to him by others, perhaps the officers or crew, that it was not seaworthy.

Yet with this evidence, no doubt the best practical experience available, he let his greed stifle his doubts, engaged in magical thinking, even to the point of thinking "gawd will protect them" and sent the ship out.
And collected his insurance money...
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@BillyJoe
written by The Cynic, May 06, 2009
The could make the time by not wasting it celeb watching.

I do not buy the argument of no time. People can find a way to make time, even if it is only a few minutes a day if it is important enough to them. This attitude of "I don't have the time so I will listen to a model tell me what to do" makes no sense to me. If I were going to be a lazy parent I would only listen to a pediatrician.
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@ scott_h
written by The Cynic, May 06, 2009
To say that the parents are only guilty of gullibility is outright false. As parents they are the responsible party. They make the choice for their child. It was their choice to have a kid and now it is their choice how to proceed with health and medical decisions. To proceed without facts is their choice; as has been pointed out even McCarthy tells them to do research. This idea that b/c parents are not experts they would not know where to turn is total BS. How likely is it that they have never heard of a doctor?

This weird victimhood being bestowed on parents is not helping the situation. It only allows more people to rescind their parental responsibilities. Quite frankly the portrayal of the parents are helpless victims is irrational.
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@ grieve
written by The Cynic, May 06, 2009
In fighting or debate?

It is b/c we are skeptics that we debate. If we just readily accepted each other's opinions without thinking about it and without healthy debate we would be no different than McCarthy, Carrey and those who blindly follow them.
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written by latsot, May 07, 2009
What I don't understand is why would these idiot parents prefer a dead normal child to a live autistic one?


Sadly, people are bad at understanding risks, especially when they involve large populations or unknown lengths of time. There are lots of reasons for this, but they include things like: a human tendency to create causal relationships where none exist; a tendency to place undue emphasis on apparent causal relationships, regardless of what the actual risks are; a tendency to mistakenly belive that causal relationships are inevitable; a conviction that "it's not going to happen to me"; a desire to have someone to blame for bad stuff; and so on.

The point is that the idiot parents in question probably think that autism is an almost inevitable result of the vaccine, that their children are unlikely to suffer from dangerous diseases anyway, and that it's all someone else's fault anyway for not developing 'better' vaccines.

We urgently need to find ways to educate people about how to think about risks as well as to question what they are told.
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written by latsot, May 07, 2009
Blaming McCarthy for parents refusing to do their own research is ridiculous. These parents should bear the responsibility for these choices, that is part of being a parent. They are not victims, their children may be, these parents are not. They choose to disregard major responsibilities of parenting. And they do not deserve compensation. I do not feel sorrow for these parents.


Many parents simply don't have the skills to judge what information is trustworthy and what is madness. To many, what McCarthy and the others are spouting is indistinguishable from actual evidence. The thought of a conspiracy that will harm their children is a psychologically powerful message and we shouldn't necessarily blame parents for falling for it.

They are acting idiotically, yes, but it's not necessarily entirely their fault. I don't dispute what you say about parental responsibility, but it's a genuine tragedy that many people aren't equipped to carry out those responsibilities properly. This is all of our faults, collectively.

I for one feel sorrow for those parents that *do* eschew their responsibilities and are not just ignorant. I feel anger as well.
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written by latsot, May 07, 2009
To proceed without facts is their choice


This assumes that they understand what constitutes a fact. Many people just don't have the skills to distinguish facts from fiction. This doesn't excuse them when they harm their children through ignorance, but society has to accept some of the blame too. When so many people have this kind of difficulty, we must be doing something wrong.
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written by Kuroyume, May 07, 2009
Facts are hard gems to find in the sea of coal called the internet. And books are not much better. Just look at your local bookstore's Health and Woo sections; stuffed to the gills with fictions and lies. Parents should consult professionals on such matters: their pediatrician or family doctor. And they should consult more than one (the so-called 'second opinion'). They should also go to websites of established and respected organizations which cover the information they seek.

In doing my own research on this subject (MMR, Thimerasol/mercury, autism, altheimer's (yes, really), vaccination policies/efficacy, etc.), I was floored by the number of junk sites that appeared first in Google searches. The entire first one or two pages (maybe more) were your typical anti-vaxer sites. Instead, I ended up going directly to the CDC and WHO websites. Now one can understand how parents get sucked into this crapola.
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Latsot
written by Griz, May 07, 2009
"We urgently need to find ways to educate people about how to think about risks as well as to question what they are told."

If one is indeed convinced that THE cause of autism is these vaccines, then in their mind, while the chance of contracting autism is 1 in 150 if they get the vaccine, it's 0 if they don't. Meanwhile, although I really don't believe they put very much thought into this alternative (because like someone said, they're relying on a Playboy model/actress for their info), realistically, in the population that McCarthy reaches, the chances of serious complication or death in unvaccinated children is, as far as I can figure out from the numbers I've found, less than 1 in 1000.

So the risk, if you're convince that the MMR vaccine causes autism, is perfectly justified. This is why I think we're making a mistake when we try to use the same tactics as McCarthy and others to guilt people by saying "you're baby may die" and "how many deaths will it take?" We need to concentrate on educating people simply that these two things are not in any way connected. With or without the vaccine, their child's chance of having autism is 1 in 150. Correlation is not causation. By focusing on the simply fact that the rate of autism has continued to rise while the use of Thermiosal has lessened shows us beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no causation. Throwing in that "you're baby may die!" stuff only serves to cloud the issue, as does the endless quibbling about dozens of arcane studies on the subject, studies that the average person is ill equipped to comprehend.
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written by Phildonnia, May 07, 2009
Excellent article. I would also add that these well-intentioned non-experts are responsible for inhibiting progress on the autism research itself, as more effort and money is wasted investigating disproven hypotheses.
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written by Squid, May 07, 2009
Thanks to everyone who provided a link to the Jim Carrey articles. I appreciate it!

Squid
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Sounding like a bunch of patronizing snobs...
written by The Cynic, May 07, 2009
No offense, but that is really what this is all becoming on here. Oh those poor parents don't know any better than to follow some bimbo. How can they tell what a fact is, they aren't experts?

Realistically most of the parents who DO vaccinate their children have as little time to do research as those who do not. Most of the people who DO vaccinate their children are not vaccination experts either. Neither is most people on here.

I see no rational arguments here for assigning blame to McCarthy or Carrey for the bad choices of irresponsible parents or the lack of integrity of bad media.
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Blame
written by grieve, May 07, 2009
@The Cynic (and others)

Some say blame the parents, others say blame Carrey and McCarthy. I say there is enough blame to go around. Carrey and McCarthy shouldn't be spreading disinformation, and parents should be aware enough to at least listen to their pediatrician. The pediatricians I have talked to all roll their eyes when you ask about vaccines causing Autism. A small, but hopefully representative sample.
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written by latsot, May 07, 2009
Sounding like a bunch of patronizing snobs...


Bullshit. It is not patronising to observe that some people don't have certain skills. Please remember that we're talking about people who put their children at risk for no good reason. CLEARLY something is wrong with their ability to think critically.

Is it their own fault? Partly, for sure. But the media doesn't help. Take the Daily Mail in the UK and Ireland on this exact topic. The UK version has spent years telling us that the MMR jab causes autism and that doctors and the government are corrupt in their evil desires to foist autism on us. The Irish version has been telling exactly the opposite story: that the MMR jab is safe and the Irish government is corrupt and evil in not forcing every child to have it. This is the exact same newspaper, deliberately pandering to different audiences in order to make sales, under the guise of providing trustworthy information on something many people are worried about.

Given this kind of 'information', how can we blame anyone for being confused? It's not patronising at all, it's just recognition that some things are confusing. If they are confusing, then WE ARE DOING IT WRONG. There is really no need for anyone to be confused on this issue. It is crystal clear. But the media and prominent figures muddy the waters and make it a lot harder to understand. Our education system doesn't help either. It gets worse every year. It has to deal with nonsensical and contraditory targets that have nothing to do with teaching people to think. Is it really patronising to point out that the people this kind of system turns to churn out are unlikely to have the skills that they haven't been taught?

And anyway, even if it *is* patronising, so what? Does that make it untrue?
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@ The Cynic: I don't understand your argument.
written by BillyJoe, May 07, 2009
Oh those poor parents don't know any better than to follow some bimbo.

That is not how we are characterising parents. Parents, we are saying, do not have the time needed to research even a single vaccine. Simple fact. They also do not have the necessary background expertise in order to research a vaccine adequately. Simple fact. In the little time avialable for them to look into vaccines, all they can do is follow the advice of someone who seems to know what they are talking about because they sound knowledgeable and the media are giving them air time a lots of support.

How can they tell what a fact is, they aren't experts?

Are you denying this fact?

Realistically most of the parents who DO vaccinate their children have as little time to do research as those who do not. Most of the people who DO vaccinate their children are not vaccination experts either.

So what do you think is the difference between these two groups?

Most of the people who DO vaccinate their children are not vaccination experts either.

I am glad we agree.

But then what the difference? Why do some people unquestioningly follow a model, who tells them that peadiatricians supporting vaccines are in league with Big Pharma maiming and killing children for profit, while others unquestioningly follow the advice of these same paediatricians.

I see no rational arguments here for assigning blame to McCarthy or Carrey for the bad choices of irresponsible parents...

McCarthy and Carrey actually believe fully in what they are doing and saying. They genuinely do believe that vaccines cause autism. They are just misinformed and do not have the expertise to know they are wrong and they don't know that they don't have that expertise. So, if McCarthy and Carrey are not to blame, how come the parents who follow them are irresponsible.

BillyJoe
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@latsot
written by The Cynic, May 07, 2009
"And anyway, even if it *is* patronising, so what?"

So what? So this is exactly why parents would prefer to listen to people like McCarthy and Carrey. Cause they treat them like intelligent adults. This is the reason skeptics are so busy preaching to the choir. Who wants to listen to someone who talks about them like they are idiots. Skeptics will get no where as long as they continue to sit on their high horses talking down to everyone who disagrees with them. And as long as they decide no one has the right to disagree with them.
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@ BillyJoe : Thats ok your argument makes less sense to me as you go along...
written by The Cynic, May 07, 2009
Now you are saying that because McCarthy and Carrey genuinely believe in what they are saying they should be held accountable for it being wrong? That it is ok for other parents to rescind their responsibility but not McCarthy and Carrey who are also parents?

And you are outright wrong when you say people are not characterising the parents as mindlessly following McCarthy/Carrey. That is how many here have characterised them. And I don't buy your time argument at all. I think it is total bullshit.
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@ The Cynic
written by BillyJoe, May 08, 2009
Now you are saying that because McCarthy and Carrey genuinely believe in what they are saying they should be held accountable for it being wrong?

Hey?

That it is ok for other parents to rescind their responsibility but not McCarthy and Carrey who are also parents?

Hey??

And I don't buy your time argument at all.
I think it is total bullshit.

But you can't seem to be able to explain why.

Bj
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written by KidDoc, May 08, 2009
I am a pediatrician and I find the majority of people who refuse vaccinations are convinced of some grand conspiracy. The mainstream media has created such skepticism of authority with stories of corrupt politicians, lawyers, pharmaceutical companies, etc. that these people believe the nonsense they hear from people like Jenny McCarthy. I present them with evidence/papers but I find often the most convincing argument is when I tell them that all 17 pediatricians in my group fully vaccinate our own children.
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written by LuigiNovi, May 08, 2009
EXCELLENT article, Scott! Well done! smilies/smiley.gif
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@ KidDoc
written by BillyJoe, May 08, 2009
I am a pediatrician and I find the majority of people who refuse vaccinations are convinced of some grand conspiracy... I present them with evidence/papers but I find often the most convincing argument is when I tell them that all 17 pediatricians in my group fully vaccinate our own children.


smilies/smiley.gif

I think this is the only solution to the McCarthy influence on the general public's attitude towards vaccination.

People who are actually knowledgable about the facts of vaccination, apart from supplying these facts in a simple digestible form, must actually engage with the public on a more personal level - just like McCarthy does.

The public is not persuaded by her arguments, they are persuaded by her.

BJ
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written by Steel Rat, May 09, 2009
This leads me back to "Shouting Fire" and the ethics of belief. Jenny McCarthy, her boyfriend Jim Carrey, the crew of the Age of Autism, and the cadre of quacks given mouthpiece by the Huffington Post are all surely "shouting fire" in the sense that they are creating an extremely dangerous public panic by providing a warning about a non-existent danger.


The same could be said for "global warming".
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written by BillyJoe, May 09, 2009
Well, you deserved the double negative vote for that one.

...and if I could be bothered you'd have a triple. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Steel Rat, May 09, 2009
Just say "baaa" BJ...
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written by BillyJoe, May 09, 2009
No I can't be bothered.
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typicallucas -write Oprah
written by tmac57, May 09, 2009
typicallucas-Thanks for the link to Oprah's comment site. I just sent her an email to "please stop giving JM and JC airtime,and to have a Dr on to rebut their nonsense."
Come on skeptics, it only takes a few minutes.
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written by BillyJoe, May 09, 2009
No, I can't be....oh yeah okay then...
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Cynic-
written by tmac57, May 09, 2009
The Cynic said:"I see no rational arguments here for assigning blame to McCarthy or Carrey for the bad choices of irresponsible parents or the lack of integrity of bad media."
Well how about the fact that they have no expertise in the subject they are making claims publicly and loudly about. They are in-effect giving and promoting medical advice that is at odds with mainstream science without any thought about "what if we are wrong?"
It's one thing to privately hold a belief that may conflict with well established medical practices, but to have a position of power to project these ideas to millions of people without worrying that you might be doing some harm is just hubris in the extreme, and may be a cause of liability in the future. We can only hope!.
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Adverse reactions other than autism
written by Clark, May 11, 2009
Let's forget autism for the moment and address why some parents might be scared into thinking that vaccines could have other adverse effects on children.

When the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) was established, it was due to alarms raised back in about 1985 over the DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine. Doctors were supposed to report to the system any significant reactions to vaccines reported by parents or observed by the doctors.

The medical and public health communities discounted the reports of adverse reactions as merely being temporal coincidences. Lots of kids are about to get a fever or some illness at any moment in time, lots of kids are getting vaccines at any moment in time, so there will be an intersection of those two sets and some kid who was about to have a fever tonight (even a severe fever with dangerous brain swelling) will happen to get a DTP vaccination today.

However, at the same time the medical/public health community was discounting all such adverse reactions, they were aware of potential problems with the vaccine's pertussis component. Pertussis is caused by a bacterium that releases potent toxins. Using weakened (but whole) bacteria cells in the vaccine means that the toxins are still going to be released. Might some kids have more sensitivity to the toxins than other kids, causing serious reactions?

As a result, an alternative vaccine was studied, in which the entire cell is not present. The toxins have been released and can no longer pose a threat.

Trials of the new acellular pertussis vaccine were conducted in Sweden, Italy and Japan with a measured reduction in reported adverse reactions. Those countries adopted the new vaccines and the USA followed suit a few years later, as did almost every country in the world.

You can read the original 1997 report of the CDC recommending the replacement of the whole-cell pertussis vaccine with the acellular pertussis vaccine here:

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/PDF/rr/rr4607.pdf

Note that DTP is now generally called DTaP, where the lower case "a" means "acellular."

Here are a few questions to ponder:

1) Given that the CDC and many corresponding government organizations around the world now claim that there are fewer adverse reactions to the new vaccine than there were to the old vaccine, what should we make of the original claim that all adverse reactions were just temporal coincidences? How does one reduce coincidences? Keep in mind that we had sound scientific understanding of why the new vaccine would be likely to be safer than the old one.

2) When the same public health authorities tell parents that the adverse reactions to hepatitis B vaccine, or some other vaccine, that they read about anecdotally in some newspaper or magazine, are just temporal coincidences, do you think there might be a credibility issue given the history of DTP/DTaP vaccines?
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written by latsot, May 11, 2009
The Cynic:
So what? So this is exactly why parents would prefer to listen to people like McCarthy and Carrey.


Is it?

Cause they treat them like intelligent adults.


Do they?

I can't agree that pointing out that people might be wrong because the evidence is against them while simultaneously understanding why it's not always easy for people to understand evidence unless they've learned or been taught how to understand it treats people like ignorant children.

Lots of people demonstrably don't understand what evidence is. I am not patronising those people when I explain that they are wrong.

But even if such people do feel patronised, they are still wrong.
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written by BillyJoe, May 11, 2009
When the same public health authorities tell parents that the adverse reactions to hepatitis B vaccine, or some other vaccine, that they read about anecdotally in some newspaper or magazine, are just temporal coincidences, do you think there might be a credibility issue given the history of DTP/DTaP vaccines?


Depends on how you tell the story.
Current wisdom before aDTP: Fever and DTP vaciation occur coincidentally.
Hypothesis: DTP causes fever
Clincal trial is performed testing the hypothesis.
Outcome of trial: DTP causes fever.
Hypothesis: aDTP should not cause fever.
Clinical trial is performed with aDTP
Outcome of trial: aDTP does not cause fever.
aDTP becomes the standard vaccine.

Note that all of the above were the work of medical scientist. Not an anti-vaccination liar amongst them.

I expect mistakes to be made but I trust the experts to deliver the goods in the long run.

BJ
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written by Clark, May 11, 2009
BillyJoe, you are a trusting soul. In which case, don't claim to be a "skeptic."

The label "Current wisdom before aDTP" glosses over the facts. "Wisdom" is not the same thing as speculation. Scientific wisdom is based on empirical investigation. Would you care to inform us what that empirical investigation was "before aDTP?"

In fact, the first empirical investigations led to the conclusion that there were adverse reactions to whole cell DTP. So, the official line was NOT based on science. The public health and pediatric medicine communities resisted the VAERS every step of the way and have never pushed for complete or systematic reporting of reactions so that it would provide a good basis for empirical study. They don't want empirical study; they want people to shut up and vaccinate their children.

In several countries, peer-reviewed scientific studies were published showing that whole-cell pertussis vaccines WERE responsible for adverse reactions, and their vaccines were switched to acellular, but we were still going through the lengthy bureaucratic process of getting new acellular vaccines approved in the USA. So, during the interim, we better not leak to the public that "Our current vaccines are not as safe as we thought. Be patient. We're working on it." That leads to panic, vaccine refusals, loss of confidence in the system, etc. Instead, lie until the new vaccines are released, then suddenly become ready to admit that the old vaccines were not as safe as the new. Not an important admission now that replacements have already arrived. But other countries have had the safer vaccines for several years, and let's not talk about that in public.

I'll give everyone here a big clue as to how this works. "Public health" is not a branch of science. It is a branch of government that makes use of science, but does so in order to set public policy. The average citizen is poorly educated in statistics, scientific reasoning, etc. As a result, the public health authorities do not trust them to make decisions about whether or not to vaccinate their kids. This condescension has been seen throughout this thread; unfortunately, it is justified based on the actual performance of citizens when it comes to reasoning about data, on vaccines or any other issue. So, the reaction of public health officials when adverse events are proven is: "We had better not let everyone know about this, because those silly parents will not be able to compute the fact that the adverse events happen less frequently than the severe complications that come from being unvaccinated and contracting the disease." Public health is government, not science. Public health is a matter of crowd control, of getting the reaction you desire from the masses (namely, to vaccinate their children so that epidemics don't happen, which will kill a certain number of children or cripple them for life).

The fly in the ointment is that our political system is based on self-government, which assumes that the people are capable of self-government, and our legal system includes the legal guardianship of children by their parents, which assumes that parents are qualified to make decisions concerning their children. So, even if we disagree with the assumptions of competence of citizens and parents, that is the system we are stuck with. If we don't like the results, we can improve the educational system so that parents know the difference between a statistic and an anecdote, and the difference between a 1 in 100,000 chance of an adverse reaction and a 1 in 1,000 chance of permanent damage from a disease.

Or, if we don't believe we can solve the educational problem, we can just have an elite tell the masses only those parts of the truth that we think they can handle. That is quicker, hence it is the current approach. In a way, it is understandable, but it does raise troubling questions in a free and self-governing society of autonomous decision-making citizens and parents, doesn't it?
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written by BillyJoe, May 12, 2009
I expect mistakes to be made but I trust the experts to deliver the goods in the long run.
BillyJoe, you are a trusting soul. In which case, don't claim to be a "skeptic."

How do you justify your comment in view of the qualifications (bolded) contained in my statement.

If you object to the use of the word "trust" by a sceptic, consider:

Do you accept the quantum mechanical model for the microscopic nature of matter because you have personally researched this and confirmed that the model is correct, or because you trust the peer reviewed scientific method to produce results that you can trust.
Substitute any other peer reviewed scientific model and ask the same question.

Trust is based on the track record of peer reviewed science to deliver the goods in the long run whilst accepting that mistakes will be made along the way.
Trust is necessary in a world where no one person can believe in only those truths that he has personally derived or verified.

BillyJoe
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Re vaccines...
written by BillyJoe, May 12, 2009
I don't know the situation in America, but in Australia it has always been accepted that the DTP vaccine causes fever. In fact the only contraindication to giving the DTP vaccine was high temperature in the infant.
The aDTP was introduced only relatively recently and hardly any parent would be aware there was any change.
Perhaps there were a percentage more infants given DTP devloped high fever and febrile convulsions than with the aDTP, but the disease prevented far outweighed these comparatively mild side-effects. And the vaccine was changed once the advantage of the aDTP was properly verified and a cost-benefit analysis confirmed that this weas indeed a good idea.

Interestingly the injectable polio vaccine replaced the the oral polio vaccine only very recently in Australia. Part of the delay was awaiting confirmation, from countries that had already adopted it, that the extra expense was worth while. In this case it was introduces even though the cost/benefit analysis indicated that the change was not actually justifiable. It was just part of a general move to use safer vaccines. In some countries the extra expense still cannot be justified and the oral polio vaccine continues to be used.

BillyJoe
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Oops...
written by BillyJoe, May 12, 2009
...sorry for the typos smilies/sad.gif
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