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Special Masters Find No Vaccine-Autism Link:

Via BLT, comes news that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has just released three special master reports examining claims of a link between vaccines and autism. Each report examines an alleged case in which vaccination allegedly caused autism, and each finds the allegations wanting. different theory of causation, and each finds the theory wanting. More to follow.

UPDATE: The AP reports here.

MEANWHILE: The anti-vaccine crowd plays Keith Olbermann for a fool. More here.

Matthew K:
Color me completely and totally not surprised.
2.12.2009 11:20am
Dan Weber (www):
WHY DO THEY HATE SCIENCE?
2.12.2009 11:22am
wfjag:

WHY DO THEY HATE SCIENCE?

Who? Andrew Wakefield and the trial attorneys who were paying him to come up with "evidence" for a suit against the vaccine manufacturers? Lancet, which failed to catch signs of deficiencies in Wakefield's "study" before publication? Desperate parents looking for answers when none are known?
2.12.2009 11:26am
Sarcastro (www):
This PROVES Global warming isn't true!
2.12.2009 11:33am
aaronM (mail):

WHY DO THEY HATE SCIENCE?


I believe the better question is:

Why do they hate Scientology?
2.12.2009 11:46am
anon.:
This will definitely convince parents who are desperately flailing for an explanation for why their child is autistic that, sometimes, these things just happen and can't be blamed on anyone. I predict reasoned discourse on this subject from here on out.
2.12.2009 11:47am
Alex C:
Whoa. I think you just out-Sarcatroed Sarcastro.
2.12.2009 11:49am
Snaphappy:
And three more members the conspiracy are identified.
2.12.2009 12:00pm
Lior:
From the first special master report comparing the credentials of two experts. Dr. Aphosian (petitioner's expert) has a PhD and does research on toxicology. As to respondent's expert,
"Dr. Brent, unlike Dr. Aposhian, is a medical doctor. Further,
Dr. Brent is a medical toxicologist, which means that he has specific and extensive medical training concerning the effects of poisons on the human system.


This represents a serious misunderstanding of how science works. Scientific experts "training" is an irrelevant factor. It is their expertise that is relevant. In particular, the MD is not a research degree. Moreover, the question here is not about "training" ("book knowledge") -- it's about the results of current research. I personally don't believe the research cited by plaintiffs, but the special master seems to be too distracted by someone's list of degrees to worry about their actual research expertise in the field.

Sadly, we see the same behaviour in the university classroom every day. Our students come to university thinking that knowledge is "handed by authority from above" rather than being created by research.
2.12.2009 12:03pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
From one of the special masters:
In this case, the studies described above, taken as whole, show very clearly that the MMR vaccine does not cause any substantial portion of the cases of autism in the studied countries. And while those studies cannot completely rule out any possibility that the MMR vaccination might play some causative role in a tiny fraction of autism cases (a fraction too small to be detected by even the largest studies), it seems to me that the failure of so many studies to find any association between MMR vaccines and autism at least casts some doubt upon the proposition that the MMR vaccine ever plays a role in causing autism.
2.12.2009 12:03pm
Lior:
Continuing my discussion above: when the special master discusses the actual testimony of Dr. Brent, it's clear Dr. Brent's side won the case. He actually makes the right scientific arguments. What I don't like is the fact that his evidence also carried more weight simply because he is also qualified to make diagnoses and give treatment, unlike the other expert. These latter qualifications have nothing to do with the issue they were testifying about.
2.12.2009 12:10pm
neurodoc:
Dr. Aposhian, the petitioners' expert, was head of University of Maryland School of Medicine's department of pharmacology circa 1969. He lasted a very short time at that school, the rumor being that he was fired because of dishonesty. It seems he later went on to frank charlatanry, like Dr. Boyd Haley, chair of chemistry at the University of Kentucky, and his bogus business about mercury and microtubules.

Color me completely and totally not surprised.
Over the years, the special masters who hear vaccine cases have gone to great lengths to award compensation to those alleging vaccine-related injuries when there was little plausible evidence to support their claims. So, while perhaps not shocking, it is not unremarkable that they should have found against the petitioners in these "omnibus" proceedings. Maybe they realized it was one thing to hand out compensation generously to individuals coming before them, but it would be many orders of magnitude greater in terms of $$$s and consequences to find vaccines responsible for autism notwithstanding the scientific evidence. If the petitioners could not convince these special masters that says a good deal about weak is the evidence that they can muster in support of their causation theories.

(As an aside, the Supremes heard a vaccine case about 15 years ago, Whitecotton. They didn't take up any real science, just the incredibly stupid interpretation of the Vaccine Act by the Federal Circuit.)
2.12.2009 12:56pm
Oren:
My day just got a lot better.

Oren
2.12.2009 1:17pm
Happyshooter:
That was expected, and given that I have encourged folks to get the shots for their kids, also a relief.
2.12.2009 1:39pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
This will definitely convince parents who are desperately flailing for an explanation for why their child is autistic that, sometimes, these things just happen and can't be blamed on anyone.
Actually, one cause that does appear to have some bearing on at least some autism and AS is assortative mating. What this means is that a lot of people who go to school together, work together, etc. tend to get married and have kids. The problem is that certain traits tend to get emphasized in their progeny. It appears that when a couple of engineers or computer scientists mate and have progeny, their kids have a notably higher likelihood of autism and AS.

This is inconvenient for the parents, because they have only themselves to blame. If they had just married that English major, they might not have had kids with these conditions.

The idea that assortive mating may at least partially cause Autism and AS comes from Simon Baron-Cohen. I first read about it in his book, The Essential Difference.
2.12.2009 2:20pm
Crunchy Frog:

It appears that when a couple of engineers or computer scientists mate and have progeny, their kids have a notably higher likelihood of autism and AS.

Nerd inbreeding should be discouraged, as their progeny tend to be more nerdish.

The anti-vaccine crowd plays Keith Olbermann for a fool.

Keith Olbermann IS a fool. No playing necessary.
2.12.2009 3:01pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Yeah, it looks like Olberman was caught out backing the wrong guy in a dispute without doing the research first.

The question is, will Olberman and Countdown stand by their error or issue a correction? What the show does now will say a lot about their credibility.
2.12.2009 3:22pm
Teh Anonymous:
Bruce: I first read about that idea in a Wired article. Uncertain of the date of the Wired article, so I can't say which came first. (And I don't believe it used that term, though it may be wrong.)
2.12.2009 3:29pm
Steve:
The British journalist really nails it in that Olbermann's schtick depends upon finding three bad people per day in order to fill a cutesy program segment. Fact-checking appears to be low on the list of priorities; the purpose is to entertain. So if Daily Kos says someone is bad, great, that means one down and two to go! Later there will be plenty of time to click the links and figure out whether the claim is actually true.
2.12.2009 4:08pm
Snaphappy:
So let me give this a shot: In the past half-century, our society has become less rural and more urban and suburban. At the same time, we have placed an increased empasis on higher education, and birth control has become more widely available. As a result, people have more opportunities to meet and pair with people who are more like them. Meanwhile, birth control enables youthful experimentation with less chance of accidental pregnancy. Couples who meet in college or in the workplace then move to neighborhoods with people like themselves, giving birth to more people like themselves, who grow up with like peers, with whom they ultimately pair. The result is more autism.

Is that the idea?
2.12.2009 4:11pm
Dan Weber (www):
Snaphappy, the idea is that the people with partial autism spectrum disorders are more likely to have kids with each other, and thus have increased risk of kids with full-on autism.

As joked earlier, "people with partial autism spectrum disorders" correlates a lot with nerds. So wherever Microsoft or Google or 3M lays down roots, you'll see lots of autism support groups.

I'm a math nerd and my wife is an English nerd, though, so I think we're safe.
2.12.2009 4:19pm
BGates:
What the show does now will say a lot about their credibility.

After we find out about Olbermann's credibility, let's try to figure out whether pro wrestling is a legitimate athletic competition.
2.12.2009 4:27pm
hawkins:
Snaphappy - I wonder how much of it is that in the past half century, our society has increasingly looked for answers rather than simply labeling many people as "strange."

I'd love to see data regarding the prevalence of severe cases of autism. Have those really increased? Or has our definition of autism just become much broader?
2.12.2009 4:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'd love to see data regarding the prevalence of severe cases of autism. Have those really increased? Or has our definition of autism just become much broader?
What I have read indicates that the answer to both is "Yes." There are financial incentives to label marginal kids as autistic, but there has been a real increase--and I understand that the concentrations in places like Silicon Valley, Route 128, and the equivalent area of Britain, are dramatic.

There are a lot of genetic serious mental problems that, in small quantity, are advantageous. Mild bipolar disorder, for example, can have some significant advantages. There's a reason that a lot of highly energetic, highly creative people have it (and sometimes, because it hasn't incapacitated them, they don't realize that they have it). But too much is a problem.

Similarly, there has long been a curious connection between creativity and schizophrenia. One hypothesis is that it is because creative sorts have less latent inhibition on their senses, and are thus able to more readily reinterpret data and sensory inputs than ordinary people. Schizophrenics, when they have their breakdown, completely lose latent inhibition--and are rapidly overwhelmed by far more sensory input than they can handle. Aldous Huxley's silly claim in The Doors of Perception in a weird sort of way might be right.

Schizophrenia, like bipolar disorder, runs in families. Indeed, I would not be surprised if there's some connection. They both run in my family. If you want to read the first few chapters of the next book for which I am trying to find a publisher on this subject, it's here.
2.12.2009 5:34pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Hooray for science, too bad for Olbermann, who initially took the correct stance on the junk science anti-vaccination stooges.

Incidentally, the Baron-Cohen who is the expert on autism (and other fascinating conditions) is the brother of Sacha, aka Ali G/Borat.
2.12.2009 6:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Incidentally, the Baron-Cohen who is the expert on autism (and other fascinating conditions) is the brother of Sacha, aka Ali G/Borat.
Perhaps he next can study what causes nasty ethnic stereotype humor to persist.
2.12.2009 6:27pm
Bob White (mail):
For the record, Simon and Sacha Baron-Cohen are cousins, not brothers. I made the same mistake once, and was nearly struck dead by a bolt of lightning because of it, so I feel duty-bound to make the correction (that, or somebody emailed me and I feel bad about it).

I miss the Patrick/Olbermann Big Show, back when those guys were good and SportsCenter was watchable.
2.12.2009 6:36pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
The weirdest thing to me is the claim that a vaccine can cause a very specific disease with complex brain pathology. Sorry, anti-vaccine folks, neither viruses nor toxins are that precise. Viruses can cause brain damage (encephalitis), but it's widespread. Toxins can cause brain damage, but it's either widespread (chronic lead poisoning) or focused on highly susceptible cells (Parkinson's syndrome).

Another weird thing is that anti-vaccine folks seem to believe in magic. A minute quantity of a substance that has no discernable effect at concentrations a thousand times higher somehow causes a complex, lifelong disease.
2.12.2009 8:00pm
neurodoc:
Some reflections apropos this Jonathan Alter vaccine-related thread and the Eugene Volokh one back on 2/8/09:

- It is extraordinary how little it takes to make some believe in the most improbable things, and how doggedly they will then hold to those beliefs in the face of overwhelming counterevidence. Are there pre-morbid characteristics that predict those who will prove most susceptible? Correlation with SES, either positive or negative?

Once these people have glommed on to one preposterous belief are they then substantially more likely than the general population to believe in other manifestly preposterous notions. For example, are 9/11 "Truthers" more likely to buy the anti-vaccine line and vice versa? (Can we include Scientology here, or must we set that aside as a "religion," and as such in a different realm?)

Among these "believers" are there some who have derided "faith based" initiatives, professing to be "reality based" themselves?

- How relieved I am that Obama didn't chose Robert Kennedy, Jr. to head the EPA or anything else. What a disaster he would have been.

- "The truth about the doctor's research may be in doubt here, but..."?! "The truth about the doctor's research" isn't the story, it's whether the investigative reporter, Brian Deer, who has done the most to out Wakefield as a probable fraudster is somehow open to attack? And if it were true the Deer was the first to complain to medical authorities (GMC) about Wakefield, that somehow bears upon Deer's credibility? Isn't this attack the messenger, on at best dubious grounds, while seeking to ignore the message?
2.12.2009 9:06pm
Splunge:
Another weird thing is that anti-vaccine folks seem to believe in magic. A minute quantity of a substance that has no discernable effect at concentrations a thousand times higher somehow causes a complex, lifelong disease.

If you think this belief is confined to the fringe, you're not paying attention. Ever notice how much money people selling multivitamins, antioxidants, "micronutrients," coenzyme Q10, lycopenes, et cetera and so forth make?
2.12.2009 9:16pm
SenatorX (mail):
Or people can mock others for being unscientific yet accept other far out theories like inbreeding for a disease that is affecting all almost all ethnic and socioeconomic groups? (I guess this is a step up from the old school misogynistic claim though that it was homicidal mothers who deep down hate their babies or "Refrigerator Mothers" as they were so kindly called. But hey if you are going to blame parents for their disabled children why not go for the easy meat?). At least with this theory you put it in the realm of a biological problem rather than a psychological one.

Or people that attribute only genetic causes for something that is rising in populations all across the planet simultaneously even though there is no record of anything purely genetic ever occurring that way before?

Indeed it's amazing what people will believe when they need to fit reality to their ideology.

I'd love to see data regarding the prevalence of severe cases of autism. Have those really increased? Or has our definition of autism just become much broader?

UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute Study Shows California's Autism Increase Not Due To Better Counting, Diagnosis

"A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted - and the trend shows no sign of abating.

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California's children."
2.12.2009 10:08pm
oMan (mail):
"Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California's children." Whoa.

I am not a statistician but I do think that it will be a fool's errand to seek the causes of (increased) autism in California, or anywhere else, in an undefined melange of "host of chemical and infectious microbes..." The rarer the effect (and autism is pretty rare) the longer and harder you have to search for a correlation with a putative input such as thimerosal. If you want to search for a correlation with putative inputs A through N, and then also for A but not B but C through N, and etc (all permutations) to figure out confounding effects, synergistic effects, etc., in stuff that isn't well-characterized (which microbes? which "chemicals" of the thousands to which we are exposed? At what concentrations and for how long? What normalization for individually-differentiated responses to these factors?), and that hasn't been well-recorded for the population under study (to how many nanograms of chemical X (but not Y, etc) has Johnny been exposed, and when? Were the measurements taken in a way that is scientifically robust and can the results be compared to other measurements on other subjects taken at different times and places using different methods with different scientific intention? Etc. )...

Others versed in this kind of science should now chime in. But to this amateur, the confounding effects would appear insuperable.

That would not discourage the believers in magic; it just gives them a big bag of mysterious and untestable factors to blame for this evil. Anti-scientism will not go quietly.
2.12.2009 10:49pm
Tom Billings (mail):
I have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome. I also have a perspective that few within the ASD community share. Most of us have come from families firmly ensconced in industrial culture. I grew up in a family just one half generation off the farm, with family members welded to that identification, in a community with many in similar identification.

People keep asking, "why there is more ASD expression now?", and develop weird theories like the vaccination one, or the previous "refrigerator mother" theory, common amongst the psychiatrists till the 1990s. What they don't want to ask is, "why were there so few of us before?" If we are willing to face up to what happens in the agrarian culture settings most humans lived in over the last 10,000 years, and observe the changes during the continuing industrial revolution, we can answer both questions.

It is true, that people don't like admitting genetic disorders in their children. My extended family certainly was unwilling to admit of it between 1960 and 1970. My paternal grandmother, a college graduate and teacher, when she finally would listen to the data available, and the truth hit her, said: "Well!...It certainly didn't come from *MY* side of the family!" This at about 20 decibels higher than we had been conversing in.

That alone is not nearly enough, though, to explain more than family attitudes. It is the result of those attitudes that we need to look at. People with ASDs are famously lacking in social nimbleness, through lacks in brain interconnections. The reactions of people in a small farm town in the 1950s were bad enough, to someone who they could not count on communicating with, all the way up to and including attempted murder.

In an agrarian village before 1800, where communication about when and how deep, and where to plow, and a hundred other things, could mean the difference between a hard winter and starvation. Someone who had ASD characteristics was a far greater burden, with far fewer uses for the good parts of being an Aspie, much less an autistic, than was the case from the industrial revolution's takeoff onwards.

Reading diaries from such times, I am struck by how *unsurprised* many were, when some villager who could not communicate in the way so many with ASDs cannot, usually a young male, was simply found dead in a ditch by the side of the road. Without the emotionally fulfilling communications nimbleness of neurotypical humans, a person with an ASD quite often found themselves outside the accepted community, with no defenders. The large obstreperous primates known as humans often form packs of young males that are notoriously dangerous to any they consider "beyond the pale".

For the minority of us who are female, the result could just as easily have been a stake and the flames, as a witch. That I have found in my extensive reading, there were only three places for someone with a mild ASD in agrarian traditional societies.

A monk or nun, a rich eccentric, or a graveyard, are the options. Note that none of them produce many offspring. Thus, genes for ASDs were kept from reproducing, and such folk were few, and as a result of that, often even more distrusted.

Then came the industrial revolution. Many roles opened up for people who could focus tightly and pay attention to detail, and whose intellect could often be put to productive use. The ASD genes could spread a bit, and we could even get stereotypes of "nerds" that were not totally despicable, and were often along the lines of "the absent-minded professor."

Then came the "high tech" computer portion of the continuing industrial revolution. Detail-oriented programmers and analysts were put in cubicles with just enough privacy to work, and enough contact to find a mate like themselves. They were given ridiculously large amounts of money, and allowed to breed! No one should then be surprised that we have a increase in children with ASDs. The violent mechanism of murder is no longer so much at work, there are far fewer places for monks and nuns, and rich eccentrics can now afford nannies, and even treatments for ASD symptoms.

My hope is that within 10 years we will see cures for newborns with ASDs, and 10-20 years out perhaps for adults. Meanwhile we must deal not only with the personal fears of families about "genetic impurity", but with the desire to deny what kept the occurrence of ASDs so low for so long, the violent mechanisms of forced exclusion, and murder.

Regards,

Tom Billings
2.12.2009 11:38pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):

Tom Billings,
One thing I would add, as another person with Asperger's , /every/ person I have met or talked with who has any ASD has also had some other serious medical problems going on. Be it severe allergies, multple sclerosis (which I also have), or some other condition, ASD just doesn't tell the entire story. These conditions don't always manifest in children, which is where the vast majority of autism interest lies, but by the time of adulthood things are different. So to your murder hupo, I would add death from medical causes.

I know, as an example, that I had a couple allergic responses that would have killed me in a pre-20th century agrarian setting.


what I mean about ASD not telling the entire story. Bowel problems, seizures, etc.The Mellisa test case provides a fine example of
2.13.2009 12:22am
Curt Fischer:
oMan: I agree completely with the thrust of your comment. Researching the causes of autism is made extraordinarily more difficult by the fact that autism is rare.

But I can't resist:


which "chemicals" of the thousands to which we are exposed?


I don't think "thousands" goes nearly far enough.
2.13.2009 1:44am
neurodoc:
SenatorX, back in November, you were touting research on autism by Mark (pere) and David (fils) Geier. [http://volokh.com/posts/1226181796.shtml]

Below is what the Court of Federal Claims special master had to say about their work:

As noted above, all of the studies that have addressed the MMR/autism causation issue published since the Wakefield article in 1998 have found no association between MMR vaccination and autism, with two exceptions. Both exceptions were studies published by the research team of Dr. Mark Geier and his son David Geier. To be sure, the petitioners in this case have not cited or relied upon those two studies, because, as I will discuss below, the petitioners argue that all of the epidemiologic studies done to date are irrelevant to the petitioners' causation theory in this case. However, since I find that the epidemiologic studies are of relevance, I have found it reasonable to examine those two studies, to see if they afford any significant counterweight to the many contrary studies discussed above.

After careful consideration, I conclude that the Geiers' studies cannot be given any weight. Those studies were considered by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that fully studied the entire MMR/causation issue in 2004, and that committee concluded that the studies were so flawed as to be "uninterpretable" and to contribute nothing meaningful ("noncontributory") concerning the causation issue. The committee noted that the studies were based on databases that themselves had "significant limitations", and that the studies' methodologies had "serious methodological limitations". The committee added that the Geiers' articles describing the analytical methods were "not transparent" and omitted "important details," so that it was impossible to evaluate the studies. Other specific points of deficiency in the studies were also discussed.

In addition, Dr. [Eric] Fombonne analyzed the Geier studies, and found them to be "seriously flawed in several respects." None of the expert witnesses for the petitioners vouched for the reliability of the Geier studies. [emphasis added]

I have reviewed the Geier studies, and I agree with the analysis of those studies set forth in the 2004 IOM Report and in Dr. Fombonne's report. I conclude that those two Geier epidemiologic studies are not reliable, and cannot be accorded any weight. (pp. 116-117)
2.13.2009 2:19am
Milhouse (www):

For the record, Simon and Sacha Baron-Cohen are cousins, not brothers.

And Sacha spells his surname without a hyphen.


Or people can mock others for being unscientific yet accept other far out theories like inbreeding for a disease that is affecting all almost all ethnic and socioeconomic groups?

Is it? And all to more or less the same extent? I doubt it very much.

Or people that attribute only genetic causes for something that is rising in populations all across the planet simultaneously

Again, is it?

"A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted -

It can't be completely explained by that, which is why every commenter who's addressed the question has confirmed that autism is genuinely rising. But some of that increase is indeed a combination of more sensitive diagnosis and overdiagnosis. The study you quote is saying that after you control for all that you are left with a genuine increase.




Another weird thing is that anti-vaccine folks seem to believe in magic. A minute quantity of a substance that has no discernable effect at concentrations a thousand times higher somehow causes a complex, lifelong disease.

If you think this belief is confined to the fringe, you're not paying attention. Ever notice how much money people selling multivitamins, antioxidants, "micronutrients," coenzyme Q10, lycopenes, et cetera and so forth make?

That's the opposite belief. With mulitvitamins, etc., they're convincing you that something with a proven beneficial effect in tiny doses will be even better in massive doses. In most cases the overdose is simply wasted; in some cases it does harm.
2.13.2009 3:16am
lonetown (mail):
Keith was playing himself!
2.13.2009 5:47am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

which "chemicals" of the thousands to which we are exposed?

The bad ones, of course!
2.13.2009 8:36am
pete (mail) (www):

which "chemicals" of the thousands to which we are exposed?


The bad ones, of course!


I think the main culprit here is the increased exposure to dihydrogen monoxide, both by pregnant women and by small children around the time they get their vaccinations. Also pretty much all vaccines contain at least trace amounts of dihydrogen monoxide.
2.13.2009 10:12am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Tom Billings writes:

In an agrarian village before 1800, where communication about when and how deep, and where to plow, and a hundred other things, could mean the difference between a hard winter and starvation. Someone who had ASD characteristics was a far greater burden, with far fewer uses for the good parts of being an Aspie, much less an autistic, than was the case from the industrial revolution's takeoff onwards.
Good points. There is something of an inverse on this with respect to schizophrenia. Colonial America was astonishingly tolerant of mental illness--with some surprisingly gentle responses to people with severe problems in positions of authority. In general, it appears that small towns were able to recognize which of the "odd" sorts in town were dangerous, and which were not, and accommodated the non-dangerous ones in a non-restrictive setting. Urbanization seems to have substantially changed the equation, simply because of the anonymity that it entailed.
2.13.2009 10:15am
Dan Weber (www):
There's almost undoubtedly a genetic component to autism. When one identical twin has autism, the other twin has autism about 3/4's of the time.

If the twins are fraternal, the odds drop way down, to somewhere less than one in ten. (I think other siblings have about a 1 in 40 chance, but don't quote me on that.)

The obvious rejoinder is "what about the 1/4 where the identical twin doesn't have autism?" And that's a good point. There could be something in the environment that triggers or activates autism in one twin and not the other. Or, it could just be entirely random. Or since autism is often manifested as a delay in communication development, it could be that one twin just happens to get through it at such a rate that it isn't noticed amidst the normal variances in childhood development.
2.13.2009 11:12am
SenatorX (mail):
Still appealing to authority neurodoc? Your special masters told you to get your booster shots too. How's that working out for you?

Besides Frombonne is your reputable scientist? He gets paid by pharma companies to sit at trials and tell people thimerosal doesn't cause autism. When he opens his mouth vaccine manufacturer's money shoots out. Then he makes statements like this too "That rates in recent surveys are substantially higher than 30 years ago merely reflects the adoption of a much broader concept of autism, a recognition of autism among normally intelligent subjects and an improved identification of persons with autism."

He probably tells people to get booster shots too.
2.13.2009 10:24pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
I'm thinking that Olbermann is an updated version of A Face in the Crowd.
2.13.2009 10:58pm
neurodoc:
SenatorX: Still appealing to authority neurodoc? Your special masters told you to get your booster shots too. How's that working out for you?
It was you who cited the Geiers, pere et fils (two generations of charlatans), as authority for the notion that vaccines cause autism. I only thought to bring to your attention what the special master had to say about them and their "contributions" in this much watched case. And there is much, much more to impeach the Geiers and their made-for-court "research." (Are you familiar with www.neurodiversity.com. I would commend it to your attention for more on the Geiers generally, including the outrageous Lupron protocol for the treatment of autism they have tried to patent.)

I have never thought much of the special masters, especially the original crop, some of home are now gone, as authorities on medicine or science. For advice on vaccines I look to those with true expertise in these matters, and I have had the recommended vaccines as recommended, including booster shots, and others beyond the routinely recommended ones. Have never had a vaccine-related problem other than a minimally sore arm or abdomen (rabies vaccine many years ago).

Now, about "authorities," do you care to express an opinion about the experts brought forward in these omnibus cases and others decided by the Court of Federal Claims over the course of nearly two decades now? The Geiers?, Wakefield?, Vera Byers?, Vas Aposhian?, Boyd Haley? etc. You know my take on these individuals or can imagine it; I'd be interested in yours.
2.14.2009 7:43am
SenatorX (mail):
and I have had the recommended vaccines as recommended, including booster shots

Sucker

How about Gardasil? Are you recommending that for all the young girls in your extended family? I am sure they would thank you for that.

As for Wakefield looks like there is new information on the witchhunt comming out.

Melanie Phillips

"The campaign against Wakefield in the Sunday Times has been led by journalist Brian Deer. Last weekend, the paper published a two-page 'investigation' and a front-page spin-off story alleging that

confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses

have established Wakefield had

changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism...

amidst various other lurid charges. Deer claimed that his 'investigation' was

confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council

What the Sunday Times did not report was that the GMC investigation into Wakefield was triggered by a complaint from... Brian Deer, who furnished the allegations against him four years ago. He has thus been reporting upon the hearing into his own complaint. Since when has a reputable paper published a story by a reporter who is actually part of that story himself -- without saying so -- and who uses information arising from the disciplinary hearing which he himself has instigated and which is investigating allegations he himself made in the first place?"


One gem from this article mentions your boy Frombonne :

Most critics fail to reference the authoritative Cochrane review of these studies—exclusively non-clinical—which dismissed most of the "major studies" upon which the IOM relied as being of insufficient quality to merit consideration. This includes the work of Eric Fombonne [133], of which the review said, "the number and possible impact of biases in this study was so high that interpretation of the results was difficult" [134]. Further, in an extraordinary paper, "Tale of Two Cities" [135], Dr. Fouad Yazbak uncovered how Dr. Eric Fombonne mixed data from two Canadian cities, Montreal and Quebec City, to create the misleading impression that autism had gone up when MMR uptake was falling [136]. Dr. Yazbak's investigation showed that when autism and MMR uptake rates in the same city (Montreal) were compared, both went up [135].
More importantly, however, data that have been represented to the public as showing no association between MMR and autism in fact show just the opposite. A case in point is the CDC's own study looking at age-at-first-MMR vaccination and autism risk [137]. The study found a statistically significant association between younger age at MMR vaccination and an increased risk of autism. This risk was greatest in the most recently vaccinated children. Why? The age at first MMR vaccination has gone down over time [138, 139]

And also, on the original vaccine safety trials:

The deficiencies in vaccine safety studies were later reinforced by the systematic analysis of Dr. Thomas Jefferson and colleagues from the Cochrane Collaboration, an internationally respected body that provides independent scientific oversight. They wrote, "The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre and postmarketing is largely inadequate" [134]. In an interview with Richard Halvorsen for his book The Truth about Vaccines, [155] one of the lead authors of the Cochrane review left no doubt as to his true feelings when he said, "The safety studies of MMR vaccine are crap. They're the best crap we have but they're still crap" [156].
2.14.2009 10:52am
neurodoc:
SenatorX: and I have had the recommended vaccines as recommended, including booster shots (Neurodoc)

Sucker
The word "may" in the lead sentence is lost on you? More importantly, they didn't report injuries caused by booster immunizations, did they?
How about Gardasil? Are you recommending that for all the young girls in your extended family? I am sure they would thank you for that.
Isn't this supposed to be about the claim that vaccines are somehow responsible for increasing numbers of autistic children? You don't believe that Gardasil causes autism, do you?

Since you are now going beyond MMR and vaccines that contain or in the past contained mercury or thiomerosal, I wonder if you have ever met a vaccine that you didn't believe posed a serious threat of harm to those to whom they are given? Your wide ranging and many times wild apprehensions about vaccines remind me of the hysteria in England when Jenner started immunizing people with cowpox to protect them against smallpox. There is a wonderful Hogarth (or Hogarth-like) depiction of the fears that were flying about then, with people developing tumors in the shape of cows arising from their arms. Not much different from the hysteria 200+ years later than you and others have succumbed to. (The picture is reproduced in the book by D.A. Henderson, former dean of the school of hygiene and public health at Hopkins and leader of the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox from the face of the earth.)

Geier...you haven't addressed any of the charges that can be leveled against him, only tried to attack some of his critics. How about first qualifying your man as someone a court should allow to testify as an expert. (The Court of Federal Claims has allowed Geier to testify in a great many cases, but they have repeatedly discounted his testimony as of little or no probative value. No one with any knowledge of how the special masters have handled thousand of vaccine cases can say that the court has not been very, very credulous, making it all the more remarkable that they would diss a petitioner's stalwart, which Geier has been, making a huge amount of money testifying for them.)

Dr. Fouad Yazbak...he's another piece of work, a charlatan who's opinion on anything medical or scientific is worth no more than the random person encountered on the street. (How is it that none of these petitioners' experts teach in medical schools, publish in respected journals, get research grants, and are other than pariahs in the medical community? Could it be that they really are quacks?)

Melanie Phillips...that's the same crap that Olbermann was spouting. How does it impeach Brian Deer's reporting and redeem Wakefield if Deer went to the GMC with a complaint about Wakefield? Did the GMC dismiss the complaint as bogus? Why did Wakefield's co-authors retract, distancing themselves as far as they could from him? How abut the testimony that they could not have reliable determined the presence of measles in the guts of those children?

SenatorX, I think we have each made clear our thinking on these vaccine matters, don't you? There is a good deal more I could say based on my knowledge and experience of them, but I think what I have said in several threads here is sufficient. SenatorX, say whatever more you may care to, but I don't see any point in our going back and forth any more.
2.14.2009 11:43am
SenatorX (mail):
Yes you can appeal to authority all day long and it won't ever sway me. I think you are plenty smart neurodoc but IMO you seem to have a block when it comes to certain things. I still think it must have to do with how you make your money. You are simply incapable of following any logic that might shoot your cash cow in the foot.

The truth is there is no authority only logic and reproducible tests with ever more falsification theories to use against them. We can claim bias against anyone and move on to denigration or we can appeal to authority and move on to praise them but neither methods have any claim to the truth and are just common energy saving gimmicks.

The key point that you and I will likely always disagree on is relating to authority.
2.14.2009 1:10pm
ChrisTS (mail):
SenatorX (mail):
Still appealing to authority neurodoc?


As a logician, I am bound to note that some appeals to authority are perfectly legitimate. This is the tricky thing about informal fallacies - sometimes the form is not used fallaciously.

Logic can help us formulate valid arguments, but it can never determine the truth of our premises. So, I'm afraid that The truth is there is no authority only logic is a serious overstatement.
2.14.2009 6:27pm
neurodoc:
SenatorX, the "authorities" that you reject include: i) a federal court that objective, informed observers (I count myself one) would agree has proved itself very pro-petitioner since it was established by the Vaccine Act of 1986; the FDA, CDC, NIH, and other components of the US Dept of Health and Human Services; the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Neurology Society, the American Academy of Neurology, and every other medical/scientific organization that has expressed an opinion; the Institute of Medicine; the leading medical and scientific academics in this country and abroad; etc. In your view, they are all ignorant of what they presume to speak and/or corrupt and/or dishonest and/or part of the greatest conspiracy ever imagined...etc. Or am I wrong about this and and you would allow that there are some among these, those being (...?... and ...?... and ...)?

Meanwhile, you cite or those you go along with cite as your sources Wakefield, Geier, Hadley, Yazbak, Byer, Aposhian, and still others of their ilk. If you have problems with any of them, you say little or nothing of those misgivings. (Why so many chiropracters, naturopaths and other "alternative" practitioners among the anti-vaccine crowd? They give you comfort, like the Stanford medical school faculty give me?)

You assume (incorrectly) that I have some financial stake in these matters and am thus biased. You have told us that you are the parent of an autistic child, and your inability to see things with any objectivity, notwithstanding what scientific background you or your wife may have, is regrettable, but readily understandable and unfortunately common among the parents of autistic children. I sympathize with you, though you may doubt that, but I think most of what you have to say about the relevant science is pure poopycock.

(Have you looked a neurodiversity.com, especially the expose there about the Geiers and their Lupron protocol, which threatens actual harm to vulnerable children? Don't you think you should?)
2.14.2009 7:00pm
Alan Foos (mail) (www):
The special masters are NOT scientific wizards, nor are they likely (parents of) victims of the vaccination and other medical fraud. In their eyes, a standard deviation is an ordinary peeping tom. Observations of family members and med records provide 100% scientific certainty that autism and many other disorders, however diagnosed, are caused (roughly 90%) by vaccines and/or amalgams, or rather the mercury (MOSTLY, but also other) toxins in them. Claims that vaccines are effective are based on biased studies w/o validated support for cause and effect, aka lies. For those who are affected by the vaccines, your (childs?) life may well become the living hell of one more victim rituallly murdered by the gov/med "system" and ignored by the rest. Do you really think it's just autism or only 1/150? How about ten years from now? For those who can add, you may find the statistical theorem I wrote for spoofing bias in statistical designs to sharpen your scientific wit and open your eyes... the most significant result of my scientific career after being fired for refusing to embezzle money in the gov under dire threat, 1981. The "judges" making such decisions are not well educated in procedures of statistical inference, either, but rely on the conclusions of industry reps paid out of the profits generated from the pseudo scientific lies they concoct. The judges conclusions... not science, only another rubber stamp for fraud...
2.15.2009 12:02am
neurodoc:
SenatorX, do you have anything to add (or subtract) from Alan Foos's post @ 12:02 AM?
2.15.2009 11:22am
SenatorX (mail):
neurodoc you must live on a different planet than me. You see august bodies doing good and all I see are revolving doors and money flows. I am not sure if you are arguing dishonestly or not but you do know all these organizations only will push money towards research that favors the outcomes they want right? Money for large vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies is not provided, studies of susceptible populations is not provided, etc. If you want the money you stick to large epidemiology studies (go back and look through medical records for example) rather than suggest physiological studies and you stick to possible genetic causes. Otherwise you don't get funding. This is why the universities are the only ones going after the valid research these days and why the studies are so small. Of course this allows you to say they don't count. How perfect for you.

by Dr Bernardine Healy, the former head of the National Institute of Health, who told CBS News last year:

"The government has said in a report by the Institute of Medicine, and by the way I'm a member of the Institute of Medicine—I love the Institute of Medicine—but a report in 2004 basically said 'do not pursue susceptibility groups—don't look for those patients—those children who may be vulnerable.' I really take issue with that conclusion. The reason why they didn't want to look for those susceptibility groups was because they were afraid that if they found them, however big or small they were, that that would scare the public away....there is a completely expressed concern—that they don't want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. First of all, I think the public's smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don't think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you're afraid of what it might show.

...When I first heard that there was a link between autism and vaccines, I thought that was silly. Really, I tended to dismiss it just on the superficial kind of reading, just reading what was in the papers, no offense to the media—so when I first heard about it I thought 'well, that doesn't make sense to me.' The more you delve into it, if you look at the basic science, if you look at the research that's been done in animals, if you also look at some of these individual cases, and if you look at the evidence that there is no link, what I come away with is the question has not been answered ...I think that the public health officials have been too quick to dismiss the [autism link to vaccination] hypothesis as irrational."
2.15.2009 2:29pm
SenatorX (mail):
ChrisTS all I meant is that things are not true just because they come from an authoritarian source. Also claiming authority in absence of logic or testible hypothesesis is usually indicative of an absense of truth.

Besides you cut my sentence in half to prove a point "The truth is there is no authority only logic and reproducible tests with ever more falsification theories to use against them."
2.15.2009 2:39pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
[neurodoc] SenatorX, the "authorities" that you reject include: i) a federal court
I am not rejecting those authorities, but those are not not really telling me what I need to know in order to decide whether the MMR vaccine is worthwhile for my child.
2.15.2009 8:16pm

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