Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Quackery

The cure for autism?

Given the resurgence of the mercury militia over the last week or so in response to the Poul Thorsen case, I was amused to have found what looks to me to be the cure for autism.

The cure?

Well, if you’re a member of the mercury militia and believe that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism, isn’t the cure obvious? Come on! Think! You must know. Here’s a hint: Similia similibus curentur.

That’s right. We’re talking a 30C dilution of homeopathic thimerosal, baby! Why didn’t anyone think of it before?

Hey, given the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, the idea that homeopathic thimerosal should cure autism is about as plausible, right?

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]

63 replies on “The cure for autism?”

Don’t worry if you pee D.Rose, apparently urine therapy is a good thing the in the world of homeopathy… not so much in the world of hygiene however…

@drose – That’ll take a 30C dilution of pee. If you need some, my baby makes it every time he takes a bath.

maydijo @#2: I SEE WUT U DID THAR

Anyway, if thimerosal is as horrid as the woos think it is, then this has no downside – either it works, or it does them harm. From my viewpoint, I win either way.

@Lexi – Sorry, but as a theistic science-ologist, I only bathe in the blood of newborns or aborted fetuses. And thimerosal.

Diluted in water, of course.

Clearly this concept can be extended. 30C dilutions of the various nasty toxins allegedly in vaccines which allegedly make them so allegedly dangerous will make you immune to, or reverse the effects of, the alleged toxins in the vaccines… And whilst you’re at it, dump some of the dilutions in the ocean to clean up the very real pollution problems; vaporise some to clean up the air, stop AGW, and re-create the dinosaurs. And tomorrow, we’ll solve the problems of Cold Fusion, FTL (Faster Than Light) travel, and “What’s for dinner?”!

Let’s see now. . . this could be useful.
As lead poisoning has been shown to reduce IQ points, we could forcefeed the Anti-Vax crowd some homeopathic pb 90c. . . Or perhaps higher.

Wow… look around a bit on that miserable blog and Captain Kookybird is ranting about world government, CFR, 9-11, and RFID implants….

The fact that the tiny amounts of highly diluted thimerosal in vaccines cause autism is clear proof of homeopathic principles. 🙂

I was sorry I followed the link to the information about the 30C dilution of homeopathic thimerosal. That page links to, which sells the product. As am a frequent customer of Amazon, I was sorry to learn that they tolerate this foolishness.

The product comes from Hahnemann Laboratory. The description of their facility is mind-blowing. Is it really possible that their facility is inspected by the FDA?

@13 … Yes.

The FDA inspect for compliance with the FDA manufacturing practices. That doesn’t mean they are making anything medicinal, it just means that they don’t have the packing equipment mixed with the dirty mop storage.

blf @ 10:

And whilst you’re at it, dump some of the dilutions in the ocean to clean up the very real pollution problems; vaporise some to clean up the air, stop AGW, and re-create the dinosaurs. And tomorrow, we’ll solve the problems of Cold Fusion, FTL (Faster Than Light) travel, and “What’s for dinner?”!

Nah, the “what’s for dinner” problem will never be definitively solved as long as there are households containing more than one small child. 😉

ha. i clicked on the link Orac provided. i found this down the page a bit in the description of the product:

“1 gram size = 1 to 10 doses
Pellets are 80% sucrose, 20% lactose
1/2 dram = 1gram; 2 drams = 5 grams
Homeopathic Medicine”

100% sugar!

no % listing of ANY active ingredient.

finally, some truth amongst the homeopathic bullshit.

(careful though! if you take this and you are lactose intolerant, it may give you farts)

@16 Mr Sweet makes excellent point… this potion will indeed reverse any and all effects actually attributable to the use of thimersal in vaccines…

and ROB at #17 also makes a great point..but I find myself perplexed… if this is really pure sugar pellets… where is the THIMERSAL component they are actually selling?

As far as I am concerned, those that purchase such CRAP, get what they deserve… unfortunately, and as the web site notes, it can be used for self diagnosis and self treatment. AT LEAST this looks harmless for children being misdiagnosed and mistreated by the misguided and mistaken parents who believe this nonsense. Unless they are diabetic, of course.

I saw no claims that Thimerosal 30C is intended to cure autism. Instead I found this:

“Thimerosal can be used to treat a wide range of diseases, all of which have a unique general pattern of effects upon an individual. Homeopathic medicine seeks to treat the whole person and not just a symptom or two because we are whole beings and not collections of unrelated symptoms.”

So it seems that you are attacking a straw man.

@17 as you quoted from the link Orac provided, “1/2 dram = 1 gram, 2 drams = 5 grams.” So then does 1 dram equal 2 grams or 2.5 grams?

Also, why does this product necessitate the warning “do not take if pregnant or nursing” if it’s 100% sugar?

ROFLMAO, is this for real? Brilliant. Only 30C though, eh? Must be for mild autism. For the kids with really severe problems, you need to dilute it and beat that water up a whole lot more!

And… if a vaccine causes immunity, maybe they could make a 30C vaccine to cure you of the immunities, so you can instead “build your immune system” and become healthy as a horse by contracting measles, pertussis, and diphtheria, and cause some birth defects while you’re at it by spreading rubella to pregnant moms! Makes sense, right?

given the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism,

Are you trying to be intellectually dishonest? All of the outcomes in the current body of evidence were / are conflicting.

There is a vast amount of dating relating to the suggested link between vaccines and autism but few know anything about it or want to know. It is the seeming absence of autism in around three millions of UK individuals who had no childhood vaccines. That’s data but not as they want to know it!

Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.

When I first read this, I thought you were just making a quip, which would have been a good one.

Then I clicked. Oy…..

Why stop at 30C. Keep going baby!

(BTW, where will you get all of the water?)

“given the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism”

1. Has the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism proven that thimerosal never causes, or contributes to, autism in ANY cases?

2. Has the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism proven that thimerosal never causes, or contributes to, autism in children whose mothers received vaccines containing thimerosal during pregnancy?

3. Has the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism proven that thimerosal never causes, or contributes to, autism in vulnerable subgroups of children who are, or might be, susceptible to developing autism in response to vaccines, vaccine ingredients or the vaccination schedule?

4. Are the studies which produced the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism ALL epidemiological studies?

5. Did the epidemiological studies which produced all or some of the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism methodologically unsound because they spanned several years, or even decades, during which diagnostic definition changes occurred in the DSM and ICD manuals, autism awareness increased, and services for autism improved enticing more parents to seek autism diagnoses for their children?

Harold L Doherty:
Other things that have not been disproven as causes of autism in ALL cases:
Unbalanced chi
Demonic possession

Shall I go on?

Thank you T. Bruce. I am not sure how your very intelligent comment replies to the questions I asked about the vast amount of data which allegedly refutes the idea that thimerosal causes vaccines?

I will assume you couldn’t answer the specific questions I asked and decided to opt for school yard nonsense instead.

Any other “science” bloggers here that feel up to actually answering the questions I posed?

I won’t hold my breath waiting.


While “I asked you first” is an effective retort among 4th graders, it really doesn’t have any scientific significance. As Bruce notes, that he doesn’t answer your questions about thimerasol has no more significance than the fact that you are unable to match the same evidentiary standard you require for the stuff that he mentions. I would add in my current favored possible causes of autism: Creamy Desitin and Car seats.

We have just as much evidence for and against them causing autism as we do thimerasol.

Actually, that isn’t true. Thimerasol has been investigated a lot more extensively, so there is a lot more evidence against thimerasol causing autism than there are these things.

Has the vast amount of data refuting the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism proven that thimerosal never causes, or contributes to, autism in ANY cases?

If someone screams that there’s a huge purple elephant roaming around a school playground, I only need to look in those places where a huge purple elephant can hide. If they start screaming “It must be a miniature huge purple elephant! Now you have to look under the swingset, because it might be hiding there!” then not only have they changed the goalposts, but their new hypothesis makes no sense; you can’t have something that’s “miniature” and “huge” at the same time.

The only basis that ever existed for the vaccine-autism hypothesis was the impression some people had that there were too many cases of autistic symptoms appearing shortly after vaccination to be coincidence. This was always a dubious proposition because human brains are not well-equipped to calculate matters of probability by intuition; for centuries they have perceived “lucky strucks” and “unlucky streaks” that don’t exist in the effects of random chance. And when the hypothesis was investigated with epidemiological techniques that had previously detected effects occurring only 1 in 100,000 cases, and the results showed no increase in autism with vaccination, an increase that would have been there if vaccination caused autism, that should have been the end of it. There wasn’t ever much “evidence” for the vaccination-autism hypothesis to begin with, just unscientific observations, and scientific observations of the same left no evidence for the hypothesis.

But fanatics can make themselves believe anything, no matter how absurd. So the vaccine-autism fanatics decided to believe in the miniature huge purple elephant: the hypothesis that vaccination caused so much autism that parents with no scientific training could detect the connection just by comparing notes with other parents with no scientific training, but at the same time, only in subgroups of children with some undefined pre-existing vulnerability so rare that it evaded the most sophisticated epidemiological techniques. That wacky purple elephant! It’s so miniature that it can’t be seen with a microscope and at the same time so huge it can be seen with the naked eye! … As long as that “naked eye” belongs to someone who already believes in the existence of the huge purple elephant and will keep believing in it no matter what anyone says.

tl;dr: No matter what fanatics who want to believe a hypothesis will tell you, there has to actually be some evidence for a hypothesis before you can start whining “no one has disproved it yet!!”

I didn’t answer question 5 because it doesn’t make any sense.
As far as the others go, my very intelligent comment is entirely appropriate for your very intelligent questions.
If you don’t like it, Pablo and Antaeus explain it all for you.

Odd, I got the impression that question 5 was the only sensible question, in the context of the wider discussion.

“Any other “science” bloggers here that feel up to actually answering the questions I posed?”

Here’s a better idea: why not tell us why you think the questions are reasonable, rational and relevant? Not what someone you read about somewhere thinks – what you think.

“I won’t hold my breath waiting.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Science bloggers? LOL. You guys have no clue what you are talking about. You responded with more school yard nonsense.

You didn’t answer my questions because you are fundamentally ignorant about the topic under discussion.

Try reading Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Jon Poling or Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto if you want to inform yourselves.

Ya know, it is still pretty amusing to me when anti-vacc commenters declare the knowledgeable commenters “ignorant” and completely disregard or misunderstand the replies pointing out their mistakes in reasoning/logic etc. And throw out names of known quacks and tell us to “inform” ourselves. Even better when the commenter declares they have “won!” because no one “answered” their questions (that last hasn’t happened in this thread…yet?).

I’m sure the amusement will wear off eventually, but for now it’s still enough to make me point at my screen and go “teeheehee!” 😀

Thank you, Harold. I knew you were going by what someone else told you, rather than thinking for yourself. Thank you for confirming it.

Now, if you seriously want your questions answered – how aabout giving us some idea of why a person such as yourself – who has been repeatedly and directly instructed on the scientific method, the current state of vaccine-autism research and the futility on relying on person such as Dr Healy – should think these question advance the discussion, rather than simply act as pedantic sniping?

A person with the background and knowledge you like to pretend you have should already know the answers to 1-4, and should also know what those answers mean in the wider context, and thus, why they aren’t actually very good questions. So, with that in mind, you will have no trouble providing your justification for them.

You will do this in your next post.

No childish aspersions, no faux outrage, just answers. Professional behaviour from a professional person.

Think you can manage that?

As a matter of policy, refusing to answer questions which were asked with no intention except the furthering of a pseudo-scientific agenda is a very good idea.

I’m under no obligation to answer Harold, thus there cannot be a refusal.

This is not a court. No one here is compelled to answer any question – although several people here have already provided reasons for why the questions are not valid* – it is entirely your responsibliity and yours alone to indicate why you believe the questions must be answered.

Toodle off and do so Harold.

*reasons that are very clearly outside of your capacity to understand, despite your totally self-alledged knowledge and understanding.

Show us that we have any responsiblity to you, Harold, or stop your side-tracking table-thumping.

No other person has misunderstood the meaning of the statement you have took exception to (that there is no evidence to implicate vaccines in the current alledged autism epidemic), yet only you read it literally and pedantically.

It’s time for you to explain yourself and to explain your behaviour and your demands.

Dodging my questions won’t work Harold – you’ve already established that you are compelled to answer, otherwise I am free to extraploate whatever I want from it. Your logic, not mine, Harold.

BTW the answers would be “No”, “No”, “No”, “No” and “Not a grammatically correct question”. The longer answers are much more complex and would require an understanding of the scientific method, and the available literature, that would preclude regarding those questions as reasonable.

But, enough blurb, it’s your turn to answer questions.

Harold Doherty whines:

“Science bloggers? LOL. You guys have no clue what you are talking about. You responded with more school yard nonsense.You didn’t answer my questions because you are fundamentally ignorant about the topic under discussion.”

Well, Harold, since you didn’t understand the answers you got, perhaps you are the ignorant one. Let me explain.

As I read them, Harold’s questions really boil down to two:

[1] Have the studies done to date shown that thimerosal has never caused a single case of autism, ever, under any circumstances?

Of course, as anyone who understands how science (or logic) works knows, the answer to that question is “no”. However, there is a corollary question that Harold didn’t ask:

[1*] Has any study ever shown unequivocally that thimersosal has caused a single case of autism, ever, under any circumstance.

Unfortunately Harold, the answer to that question is also “no”.

In the absence of any data showing that thimerosal can cause autism, it seems a bit presumptuous – or should I say arrogant – to insist that science must demonstrate that thimerosal cannot cause autism. That, I believe, was the reason at least one person responded with a list of things that have not been shown to cause autism. It seems that Harold missed the point.

The second question, and the only one that holds any hope of intelligent discussion (even if it was hopelesly garbled in Harold’s comment), is:

[2] Can epidemiological studies covering different years be compared?

Given the way that the “autism” diagnosis has morphed and shifted over the years (officially and unoficially) and the variable sources of data, I’d say that the answer to that question (although I’m open to debate) is also “no”.

Again, since there is no data unequivocally showing that the increase in autism prevalence is due to thimerosal (or anything, for that matter), that doesn’t support Harold’s position that thimerosal causes autism.

In fact, given that the prevalence of autism just kept on climbing at the same rate when thimerosal was taken out of children’s vaccines, it would seem that whatever is causing the increased prevalence isn’t thimerosal.

Now, I don’t for a moment expect that Harold will accept this as an answer to his “questions”. He’s not here looking for information, since he already has all the answers he needs.

So, who has the closed mind?


Good job there Prometheus, although I do have to warn you that Harold requires concrete and direct answers in order to understand them. As an adult with autism (albeit aspergers) I can remember at time when I had the same needs.

I do have to pull you up on this though:

“that doesn’t support Harold’s position that thimerosal causes autism”

Harold is very careful in not stating his actual posistion, and he would be right in pointing out that he has not stated this point.

However, as his absolute complete and total schooling at the hands of Dawson, Arnold and Murray has taught us, Harolds attempts to hide his actual beliefs are very weak and quite obvious. It’s almost as if he believes that if he doesn’t say it, he can claim it was never his belief. I can remember when I thought that way too.


I had noticed that Harold was….reluctant to be pinned down on his actual position, but his questions pretty much do that for him. I realise that he will undoubtably try to weasel out by saying “I’m just asking questions!” or some such weasel phrase. I’ve come to expect it from him.

However, you and I and every other English-literate person who reads Harold’s comments should be able to discern his position, whether he admits it or not.

Something I learned long ago is that a person’s questions can tell you as much (or more) about what they know and how they think as their statements. Harold’s “questions” demonstrate an unwillingness to let go of the long-dead hypothesis that thimerosal causes autism and a very poor understanding of how science works.

I’m not trying to “correct” Harold – his mind is closed. What I am trying to do is help those people who read his comments and think, “That’s a good question!”.


Regarding Harold’s question 5, I’ve already explained to him that it’s possible to analyze autism time series even though we know that the administrative prevalence of autism can be affected by artifacts like changes in criteria, awareness, increased demand for services, and so on. There’s a discipline called Math.

But it’s like talking to a wall.

Scienceblogging has an article on its AutismAwareness page in which the author is described as ” Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., Professor, UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute and Chief, Environmental and Occupational Health at UC Davis, an internationally renowned environmental epidemiologist who has published widely on environmental exposures, including metals, pesticides, air contaminants and persistent pollutants like PCBs, their interactions with nutrition, and their effects on pregnancy, the newborn, and early child development”.

You can read the rest of Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto distinguished career profile at:

In her article Environmental Factors Contributing To Autism Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto states:

“Much attention has focused on vaccines as potential causes of autism. Several different hypotheses have been proposed. No rigorous study has demonstrated a link either with the MMR vaccine or with vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal. Nevertheless, the studies of thimerosal have been noted to have methodologic problems that would have reduced the ability of these studies to validly test the theory, underscoring the need for stronger science on this question.”

I assume that this distinguished group of scientists agrees with Dr. Hertz-Picciotto’s statement that no rigorous study has demonstrated a link between autism and either MMR or thimerosal?

And what about her second point? “Nevertheless, the studies of thimerosal have been noted to have methodologic problems that would have reduced the ability of these studies to validly test the theory, underscoring the need for stronger science on this question.”

Any of you distinguished scientists in agreement with that point as well? If you disagree will you be putting your sterling science creditials to the test with a stinging on line rebuttal of Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto view that the thimerosal studies were flawed and that stronger science is needed on this issue?

Harold – you were asked to validate your original 5 questions. Your failure to even attempt to do so – despite being free enough with casting snide little remarks about – speaks volumes for just how much contempt you are willing to have for people just because they disagree with you.

But let’s play your game.

Yes, there are currently no sound studies linking autism to any vaccine or any vaccine component.

Yes, some of the studies did have methodological weaknesses, as often identified by the authours themselves. Now Harold – in your own words , not something you have cribed from someone else – can you tell us the significance of those flaws? Are they invalidating? What would a synthesis of the studies tell us? Is the core hypothesis in any danger from the ‘flaws’?

How does any of this relate to your questions? People have poked holes in your questions – casting severe doubt on your knowledge and comprehension – and your only response is to name-drop (something you were expressly told not to do) and cut-and-paste?

So, Mr Doherty – what is your actual view on this? Presented in a mature manner please – it’s time for you to stop your tittle tattle little snide remarks and underhand digs that you so like to criticise yet engage in so much.

Answers, Mr Doherty, your dodges are transparent and tiresome. Answers. Why did you ask your 5 questions, and why did you so freely cast about insults and accusations the monet you got challnged? Are you even the real Harold Doherty?

I find it hard to believe an ‘award winning’ autism advocate should behave in such a manner as you, sir. But then again, I’ve seen how you behave on other websites too.

And still no effective response from Harold, despite direction, reminders and evidence of related activity.

If that’s how much faith Harold puts into his abilities, I’m suprised he bothers at all.

when we find a cure for autism, there will be another new condition brought on by our environment which is an infinite feed back loop caused by us responding to the feedback thus changing the environment again and so on, and that we cant cure. give it up, just let things be and stop Trying to work it out.

@50 That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. By that line of “logic” we would still have a life expectancy of less than 30 years. After all, why bother trying to discover the causes of, prevent, treat, or cure disease since that “infinite feedback loop” will invent something else we don’t understand that will kill us all by the age of 30? Moron.

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