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Andrew Wakefield: Scuzz-wo

I don’t know what “scuzz-wo” means, but I agree that Andrew Wakefield is one. My only nit to pick is that the puppet flirts a little too close to conflating the thimerosal scare with the MMR scare. There never was any thimerosal in the MMR vaccine. But that’s just a nit, and as a blogger it’s my job to pick it.

First Stephen Colbert takes on Jenny McCarthy. Now, a puppet eviscerates Andrew Wakefield. He is nothing but a joke now.

You know, though, the puppet Stephen Colbert’s description of Jenny McCarthy reminds me of her son’s doctor, if you know what I mean:

“Now sure, she’s not the kind of expert who relies on facts and figures….She knows what she feels is true. She’s that kind of expert.”

Yeah, that about sums it up.

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]

13 replies on “Andrew Wakefield: Scuzz-wo”

Would be interesting if a puppet had more effect than an actual real scientist. Seems that with the anti-vax crowd, it is a possibility.

I am a little unsure as to where “argumentum de puppeto” fits in the heirarchy of truth and falsehood surrounding the vaccine controversies.
I mean, while Ernie is mostly correct in the order of the letters of the alphabet other muppets can be less reliable. And the continuing presence of the letter “u” in “honour” is still an affront to us Britishists – I blame the Noachian new-spelling flood, myself.
But really, I think that this little piece, true though it may be, is little more that a felt man argument.

San Diego was one place which ended up paying the price for Switzerland’s low vaccination rates–the toll was 12 cases back in ’08, including one little baby who was too young to be vaccinated. Of course, it couldn’t have happened without one of SD’s own little cohorts of anti-vaxers. What year is this again? 2009? Or 1409? What’s next? Back to leeches and trepanning, perhaps? Science? We don’t need no stinkin’ science!

I’m going to go calm down now…

Can anyone out there explain to me why so many parents are apparently more afraid of the at most very small risk of autism (the risk I know isn’t even there, but giving the benefit of the doubt) rather than the actual, well-documented risk of death from vaccine preventable diseases? I just don’t get it.

Can anyone out there explain to me why so many parents are apparently more afraid of the at most very small risk of autism (the risk I know isn’t even there, but giving the benefit of the doubt) rather than the actual, well-documented risk of death from vaccine preventable diseases? I just don’t get it.

If we knew for sure, we’d have much more luck fighting it. Part of it is that these parents have been lied to by ambulance-chasing lawyers and quack doctors, both of whom profit off these parents’ panic and ignorance. It’s also been suggested that the parents perceive “I took no action, and my child was harmed as a result” as somehow making them less guilty than “I took what turned out to be the wrong action and my child was harmed as a result.” Which doesn’t really explain the parents who subject their kids to chelation, Lupron, etc. but might be a factor in some parents, who knows…

It’s also been suggested that the parents perceive “I took no action, and my child was harmed as a result” as somehow making them less guilty than “I took what turned out to be the wrong action and my child was harmed as a result.”

It might also have to do with heredity. Autism is probably the most heritable of all developmental conditions. (That doesn’t mean it’s always inherited, just that it’s genetic). You’ll hear parents insist that they have no history of mental disability in their families, so they are entitled to not ever have it.

It’s probably a bit of entitlement, with some shifting of blame, mixed with the possibility of monetary compensation, plus having a potential explanation that can lead to a cure.

Monetary compensation has to be a big one. Otherwise why haven’t other environmental trigger hypotheses caught on?

Interesting that the Swiss outbreak was in a Rudolf Steiner school. I expect if the parents at such schools are like the ones here in the UK they would have been not vaccinating before the Wakefield business. It is definitely at the alternative end of the education spectrum, – all sandal wearing hippies, eco-warriors, homeopathy etc etc (too generalise somewhat unfairly). Pity as there is lots that is good in the Steiner education theories.

The UK parents I know who didn’t vaccinate (despite all attempts to persuade them otherwise) were invariably middle class, had no understanding of how to compare different risks, had children later, spent too much time on forums getting wound up by the endless people who knew some child who regressed immediately post MMR, and vaguely remembered measles as something that people got and it was fine. Oh and the “no smoke without fire” brigade – the BSE affair has made many here dubious about governmental safety claims.

Katherine said “Can anyone out there explain to me why so many parents are apparently more afraid of the at most very small risk of autism …. rather than the actual, well-documented risk of death from vaccine preventable diseases?”

Much of it is a manufactured fear. Not only perpetuated by personal injury lawyers and quack doctors as mentioned by Antaeus Feldspar, but also by journalists who are writing in an area they have no expertise in, plus trying to boost the sales of the rags they write for.

This is what Ben Goldacre at http://www.badscience.net has been saying for years. If you go over to that website and scroll down you can read about the recent hullaballoo with a radio talk show host named Jeni Barnett. He also talks about this in a podcast interview he did for the Australian Skeptic Zone:
http://skepticzone.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=435049 (by the way, this is a great weekly podcast, my daughter and I were in tears laughing at the fake ear candle commercial in their 15th episode).

Katherine said “Can anyone out there explain to me why so many parents are apparently more afraid of the at most very small risk of autism …. rather than the actual, well-documented risk of death from vaccine preventable diseases?”

Because most people don’t know diddly about risk assesment.
Probability is a complete mystery to most people so they have no way to understand how to compare risks. Look at how afraid people are about flying yet have no fear at all of texting while driving on the highway at 60mph.

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