Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Quackery

A myth memorialized (a.k.a. “Simpsonwood Remembered”)

Here is the myth of Simpsonwood being memorialized on the seventh anniversary of the meeting where, if you believe the mercury militia, the CDC, in cahoots with big pharma, tried to suppress the “truth” that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. it is a myth that was popularized by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s misinformation-laden article two years ago that trotted out every pseudoscientific and fallacious argument claiming that vaccines, specifically the mercury in the thimerosal preservative used in vaccines, causes autism.

Here are some commentaries that reveal the myth for what it is:

  1. flushes its credibility down the toilet
  2. Robert F. Kennedy Junior’s completely dishonest thimerosal article
  3. Simpsonwood redux: Isolation is a state of mind
  4. Lies, damn lies, and quote mining
  5. Simpsonwood, thimerosal, and vaccines (II)
  6. Endangered species
  7. Mercury, autism, and Imus
  8. Mercury and autism: RFK Jr. drops another stinky one on the blogosphere

I had been thinking about waiting until June 17, which would represent the two year anniversary of my deconstruction of Robert F. Kennedy’s totally dishonest and distorted article on in and Rolling Stone about thimerosal, but with the Autism Omnibus hearings starting next week, I decided that today would be as good a time as any to do a blast from the past. Remember that, even though the thimerosal/autism hypothesis is about as scientifically dead as a hypothesis can be, with no good evidence supporting it and a number of large studies now showing no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, the plaintiffs can still win. The reason is that the standard is a legal standard, not a scientific one, as one of the plaintiff’s attorneys puts it:

The plaintiffs acknowledge that their case is far from airtight scientifically. But Kevin Conway, a Boston attorney representing the family of 12-year-old Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., whose claim was designated the opening test case for more than 4,800 plaintiffs, said that even if the science is equivocal, he has a good legal argument, which is all he needs.

“There is a difference between scientific proof and legal proof,” Conway said. “One is 95 percent certainty, and the other is . . . 50 percent and a feather.”

Also, don’t for a minute buy the claims of the mercury militia that they aren’t “antivaccine.” They are. Moreover, it’s not just about the thimerosal; it’s about the vaccines, as Conway confirms:

Besides, Conway added, those who support the vaccine-autism theory did not put all their eggs in the thimerosal basket. They are also arguing that something else in vaccines might be making children sick.

Of course they didn’t. Even they know that the thimerosal hypothesis is a road to nowhere. That’s why they’re backpedaling furiously and broadening it so that it’s in essence unfalsifiable. It’s also all about conspiracy-mongering:

Scientific advocates for the vaccine-autism theory, such as the father-and-son team of Mark and David Geier of Silver Spring, say fears about damaging public health programs have prompted scientists and the government to hide evidence of a problem. Many of the families believe that the medical establishment and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have conspired in a massive coverup.

Remember, this is the same “team” that injects powerful drugs that block sex hormone activity into autistic children (i. e., chemically castrating them) because they think that testosterone somehow binds to the mercury from vaccines and makes it “harder to remove” by chelation. Such are the “experts” the plaintiffs will be presenting.

The Autism Omnibus proceedings will be a real test of our legal system and its ability to rule on science, not pseudoscience. The problem is that the bar for the plaintiffs to prevail in court is considerably lower than the bar that science expects advocates of a hypothesis to hurdle in order to convince science.

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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