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    The New McCarthyism: Fear of Vaccination is Killing Kids

    What do you do when herd immunity among children is being destroyed by parents who have been scared by unfounded claims that vaccinations cause autism, an idea being promoted in the media by celebrities like Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, who has recently been annointed by the Poperah?  It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but thankfully someone has stepped forward.

    Amanda Peet did an excellent job here.  The only way she could have really improved upon her presentation would have been to point out that McCarthy's argument was based on fallacious "correlation equals causation" reasoning, but I'm not even sure that really would have helped Peet better make her point in front of a general audience.  Peet said what needed to be said: There's no reason to believe this behavior is helping anyone, but it is hurting.

    It's kind of sad that this is the discourse in the first place.  McCarthy's claims are bogus, but the media still gives her a platform.  Is it just the media's pernicious brand of "tell both sides" faux objectivity or is it the celebrity?  Do we need funnier, sexier scientists in order to expect that the scientific community might be represented?  Maybe we'll just have to settle for sexy science surrogates to advocate for reason and critical thinking in the media.  If so, we're lucky that people like Peet are willing to step up.  It's black comedy that she has to use her celebrity to tell us not to care about it.

    Don't get me wrong, I have all possible sympathy for the autistic and their families.  Carrey and McCarthy are both right to point out that we shouldn't rule out vaccines, especially given that they're something of a ubiquitous environmental factor at this point, in our attempts to discover the nature of autism, but the fact is that no one is ruling it out - there just isn't any evidence that vaccines are causing autism.  It also happens to be the case that parents who decide to opt out of vaccinations aren't just putting their own children at risk from preventable disease, but are also putting all other children at risk, including those that are too young to be vaccinated.  Those children and their parents no longer get a choice in preventing common disease.  It's already cost some children their lives.  In my judgment, that's worse than autism.


    Thanks, but I didn't read this post because you're not famous enough for me to pay attention to.

    have you seen his twitter follow count?


    Did you know that when I attempt to use the spell checker, I get this:

    Please specify: spellchecker_rpc_url


    This fits nicely with this scathing article on journalist celebrity-ism I just read.

    As sad as the subject is, can we expect something different?

    • The companies who control the pipeline of these drugs (big pharma and the government) have not been innocent in the past - that creates a state of distrust that is difficult to rebuild.
    • A good chunk of The People prefer to avoid heavy thinky and/or revel in ignorance
    • Many more try to act as though they think by regurgitating external input without critical analysis.
    • News has long become marketing, and it is not clear how we can overcome that trend.
    • Subsidized news carries the burden of government sponsorship.
    • Post Modernism has taught us to reject the grounding effect derived from the vernacular, thereby freeing all "truth" from some moral overlord (aka Culture)

    I do not see how this can be expected change, other than improved education focused on critical thinking and a robust network for access to verified research material.

    Regardless, the space for a confidence wo/man will always be vast.

    This is off-topic, but I thought that media piece was awful. The critque may itself may be accurate, but speaking of deductive fallacies, Pincus's conclusion that the flaws he criticizes have caused the loss of newspaper readership is entirely unwarranted. He nowhere cites any evidence other than his own obviously highly-esteemed opinion. Moreover, his NYT-centric arguments don't even make sense in the context of a global drop in newspaper readership. Which newpapers are losing readers because they're pursing pullitzer prizes? There are only a few newspapers, like the NYT, that aim for suchs prize, on those papers are actually doing better than the industry as a whole. Furthermore, his assessment of online readership belies a complete misunderstanding of the web. Did he even bother to ask anyone in the online industry whether his assessment that 20M unique visitors per month translates to "roughly 667,000 readers a day" is accurate? I thought that this guy was a famous reporter.

    I picture an old worn-out journalist, chomping on his cigar while fulminating about the kids these days and blaming the perceived loss of old-time values for everything that's going wrong.

    Get Off My Lawn!!!!!

    Initially, those who were promulgating the idea that autism was being induced by vaccines pointed to the thimerosal, which the CDC et al. assured us was quite safe, though it did contain mercury. However, sensing that fear of the thimerosal was contrinbuting to kids not getting vaccinated, it was almost completely removed from vaccines for children under 6 starting in 1999. As the CDC had suggested, there was no correspdonding decrease in the prevalence of autism. You would have thought that would have settled the question (or at least I would've thought so), but unfortunately, it did not.

    Most of the people who believe that vaccination causes autism have not based their beliefs on scientific methodology. (If they did, they would not believe that vaccination causes autism--reductio ad absurdum*) They just seized on thimerosal as an explanation for their preconceived opinions which, being pre-conceived, don't depend on the presence of thimerosal.

    * Midwesterners, please ignore the high falutin' Latin.

    I speak Latin: Uckfay ouyay.

    DF, Thank you so much for posting on this.  I am so glad that someone else besides me thinks this connection between autism and vaccines is a public nuisance.  I had a friend that was adamant about not vaccinating children and she worked in Earth Fare.  Some regular customer came in with her daughter that had been vaccinated a couple of days earlier and was running a slight fever.  I guess my friend jumped in with both feet and pretty much told her she had just destroyed her daughters life.  Next thing you know, the husband is speaking to the store manager.   My friend couldn't understand why he was so upset.  I suppose letting their sons get measles and then become sterile due to the fever is just fine with them.  The response I have gotten when I point out the lack of connection between drop in mercury in vaccines and number of cases of autism has been really frustrating.  They claim that the FDA calling for a reduction in the mercury levels means they know there is a connection and they are hiding the studies.  Just wacky.


    So I guess these people who refuse to have their kids not vaccinated also have no intention of their kids ever going to college. Vaccinations much like intro to Philosophy is a prerequisite. I guess its time to separate the wheat from the chaff anyway.

    There is anecdotal evidence that academic philosophy also causes autism.

    Related: Judge rules family can't refuse chemo for boy

    A Minnesota judge ruled Friday that a 13-year-old cancer patient must be evaluated by a doctor to determine if the boy would benefit from restarting chemotherapy over his parents' objections.

    In a 58-page ruling, Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg found that Daniel Hauser has been "medically neglected" by his parents, Colleen and Anthony Hauser, and was in need of child protection services.

    While he allowed Daniel to stay with his parents, the judge gave the Hausers until Tuesday to get an updated chest X-ray for their son and select an oncologist.


    Doctors have said Daniel's cancer had up to a 90 percent chance of being cured with chemotherapy and radiation. Without those treatments, doctors said his chances of survival are 5 percent.

    Daniel's parents have been supporting what they say is their son's decision to treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments favored by the Nemenhah Band.

    The Missouri-based religious group believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.

    My daughter is an aromatherapist and acupuncturist. She's no new-age quack, having studied for years and earned an M.Sc. in medical anthropology from a respected Canadian university. She believes thoroughly in the efficacy of what she practises, but always stresses that it is an adjunct to, not a replacement for, conventional medical procedures.

    Parents have to be allowed to teach, shape and raise their kids poorly (the state can't substitute its judgment on a routine basis, if only because it's logistically impossible) -- up to the point where their lives and health are at risk. Then the kids' civil rights trump the parents'. No religious exemptions, either.

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