Autism Quackery

Vox inserts his foot into his mouth regarding autism and vaccines

Oh, lovely.

Before I leave the topic of mercury-autism conspiracy mongering for a while, something perverse has led me to feel the need to point out something I’ve become aware of: Not surprisingly, it looks as though our favorite “Christian Libertarian” commentator from WorldNet Daily, tireless fighter against women’s suffrage, and overall antivaccination loon Vox Day has foolishly and credulously falls hook, line, and sinker for the Geiers’ claim in their mind-numbingly bad dumpster-diving paper that autism rates have fallen since the removal of thimerosal in vaccines.

Vox, whom I’ve not yet introduced since moving to ScienceBlogs, is really not worth my spending much time debunking, especially since I and others have deconstructed in great detail the Geiers’ bad science in general and the awful article cited by Vox in particular (although when I’m made aware of something particularly idiotic that he’s said I sometimes decide to respond.) So I’ll simply list for Vox some blog posts (by both me and others) that dissect the Geiers’ work and show what a steaming pile of crap the “science” to which Vox refers is. Hope springs eternal that Vox might actually be educable (or at least learn to look at the actual study, the massive flaws of which are quite obvious to anyone with even minimal formal training in statistics or science). After all, as he mentions in About Vox Day, he does belong to Mensa, evidence that IQ tests don’t necessarily measure critical thinking skills.

Here are some in-depth analyses of the flaws in the paper itself:

The Geiers go dumpster-diving yet again (and again)
Math Slop: Autism and Mercury
A Review of “Early Downward Trends in Neurodevelopmental Disorders Following Removal of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines”
Foreordained conclusions

Here, it’s pointed out what a low-quality, ideologically biased antivaccination “journal” the study was published in:

Strange Bedfellows
The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons: Medical “science” as dubious as it gets

(Personally, I like Citizen Cain’s quip that “‘peer review’ in JAP&S means approval by a panel consisting of Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry, Jack D. Ripper, and a chipmunk.”)

Next, let’s turn Vox on to some discussions of the real science that shows that there almost certainly isn’t an “autism epidemic,” a concept that is one of the key underpinnings of all this mercury-autism conspiracy-mongering in the first place:

Evidence against an “autism epidemic”
Autism groups turn to misrepresentation

And, finally, let’s just give Vox an example of the other “science’ the Geiers have contributed to the world that should be considered:

Why not just castrate them?
Below junk science
Armchair science versus real science
Patent medicine
The Geiers try to patent chemical castration as an autism treatment

And, let’s not forget one of my favorite examples of the Geiers’ reliability, an incident when, as an “expert” witness in a case against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Mark Geier overstated the concentration of endotoxin in Wyeth’s DTP vaccine by an order of magnitude, admitting that “when I did the calculation, I must have missed a zero.”

If I did that with a patient, very likely I’d rapidly become a defendant.

Vox is so predictable on this issue that I’m actually quite surprised it took him over a month to find the Geiers’ “study” and trumpet it on his blog. (On the other hand, that’s a good thing, because it allowed time for all the links that I cite above to be posted.) Of course, no doubt Vox didn’t bother to actually read anything other than the news story. Besides, it’s been over three months since I last fisked Vox for his antivaccination nonsense. I’m overdue.

I had also considered debunking some of his “I’m not anti-evolution, but…” creationist apologia or his other antivaccination wingnuttery (maybe Tara could take this latter one on in more detail than I, given that she’s already addressed the situation once, although Vox’s “criticism” is not all that difficult to demolish). However, there’s only so much of Vox’s blog that I can take in one dose. Maybe some other time. That’s the thing about Vox; if you ignore one of his wingnut columns, you can be sure that he’ll produce more. He’s like the Energizer Bunny that way.

In actuality, I now wish I hadn’t become aware of this stuff. The next time someone sends me links to anything by Vox, I promise to try to resist the urge to click on them. I probably won’t always succeed, but I’ll try.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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