Antivaccine nonsense Autism Quackery

Channeling P.Z.: Crash this poll on vaccines and autism

In the wake of Matt Lauer’s interview with Andrew Wakefield, there’s a new poll up at the TODAYMoms website:

Do you think vaccines are related to autism?

Andrew Wakefield, who touched off an international controversy by claiming a possible link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism, has lost his medical license, but says he will continue to fight to prove his case. Do you think vaccines are related to autism?

  • Yes. So many more cases, so many more vaccinations – it can’t just be coincidence.
  • No. There is no scientific evidence the two things are related.
  • I’m not sure. There needs to be more research.

Unfortunately, as of right now, the “yes” votes are at 50%.

You know what to do. This poll needs a readjustment.

ADDENDUM: P.Z. has sent his minions into the fray. The feeble attempts of the anti-vaccine movement to move the poll numbers cannot stand now.

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]

75 replies on “Channeling P.Z.: Crash this poll on vaccines and autism”

Also, if you have problems with high blood pressure or stress, avoidthe comments section. It’s what we’ve all, unfortunately, come to expect for this sort of issue.

Strike up a “No” vote for me!

The number of “yes” votes is… tragic, disheartening, pathetic. So many people just never listen.

The comments section in that poll is unbearable to read. The problem with these interviews is that it always pits the reporter vs. scientist. It’s too easy for a person like this to spew the nonsense if there’s no one knowledgeable enough to defend it. The media knows that though, and so they side with what will generate debate and ratings and not what makes sense to people who have the background to understand the issue.

I put in my vote. I wanted to submit my own comment. I mean, as an autistic, you’d think that my opinion about this would bear some weight. But honestly, I couldn’t stomach the comments.

So I’m going to comfort myself with the pictures I took on Mother’s Day, upon which I burned my copy of Mother Warriors.

(if anyone wants to see the stupid burning, Follow the Link

“Yes” is down to 41.8%, and a bare majority for “No”. Progress is being made.

It’s moving in the right direction. Results so far:

42%, Yes. So many more cases, so many more vaccinations – it can’t just be coincidence. 618 votes

52.4%, No. There is no scientific evidence the two things are related. 772 votes

5.6%, I’m not sure. There needs to be more research. 82 votes

First poll I’ve ever actually crashed, and oh my Lord the comments are pathetic. How hard is it to find this information? I mean, seriously, it took me approximately 13 seconds to search PubMed.

The number of women breastfeeding for at least a year is also increasing, as are the number of women working full time outside the home…I wonder what these commenters would all say if someone suggested these factors are somehow to blame for their childrens’ problems?

Funny how the majority of these moms received their own childhood vaccinations without apparent harm–OR DID THEY? Could the recent increase in public stupidity be connected???

TO VOTE MULTIPLE TIMES: Close the page, clear out your cookies and chache, open the page, vote again.

Remember, kids, vote early, vote often.

DISCLAIMER: The series finale of Lost was a dud. Does that mean that the administration at ABC are duds? No, it doesn’t. Does it?

Anyone who needs instructions on Firefox for multiple, unlimited votes, drop me a line at the usual points of contact.

DISCLAIMER: See above.

Yes, some will question my methods. But you have to understand that these kinds of polls ARE SUBJECT TO BIAS AND THAT’S WHY WE ONLY GO WITH RELIABLE STUDIES WHICH CONTROL FOR BIAS.


DISCLAIMER: Then again, it’s not their fault they have two asses.

OOOOH! POLL FORNICATION! I see the evilness of the zombie master evilutionist PZ Myers has finally rubbed off on other unsuspecting poll takers. Poll fornication is not a good thing. I must go and unfornicat this poll before the influence of pharyngulafornication takes place any further. The webmaster shall know of your evil, that thine days may be shorter on this land of poll. May your fornication dwindle down to a nub and your fornicating instrument shrivle into a pea sized niub as well. On the 10th day God say, “Thou shalt not fornicate polls of innocent folk”. He tehrewith sent his faithful servant and valiant warrior to fend off the evil fornicators hencefore from the poll.

voted no. may vote again… you know early & often. The Nos we in the 70% a few minutes ago.

OMG the comments following that article almost make my head explode. Obviously NO amount of evidence will be enough to convince the anti-vaxxers that their position is untenable at best.

Ok, I was motivated enough to create an account.

My real hope is that someone at NBC will do a trackback and see where all the votes are coming from, and hopefully read something…..say perhaps the facts about vaccines.

You only need to delete the cookies and refresh to vote again.

In firefox Tools>Options>Privacy tab>Show cookies. Put todaymoms in search box and the five cookies will show. Highlight one of the entries and press clear cookie five times.

Vote until bored.

@Markle Or you can just block the site from installing cookies, much easier. No need to keep deleting what doesn’t get installed. Also, the cookies track your IP address, so it will be damn near impossible for them to see that several people have voted until bored.

I’m working on a greasemonkey script to do the voting for me. Might take me a while, though.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a computer programmer.

Just for the record, I obeyed your crash command before I heard of PZ’s . . .

i love comment #54
” I was vaccinated as a child.

Now every morning when I wake up I have a terrible debilitating headache and an upset stomach. Coincidence? I think not!

It worries me so much that I have to drink large amounts of alcohol each night just to get to sleep.”


Just voted for the second time. 84.2% “No” so far. My favourite comment would have to be #5, containing such gems as:

There is proof of a causal link. If large studies can link pesticides to ADHD then what is so wrong with coming out and saying vaccines can cause autism?


If there was no link then why do we have a Vaccine Court? There would be no need if vaccines didn’t cause ANY injury to children.

I voted first thing this morning, as soon as I knew the poll was there. At that point it was still way over on the Yes side. Good to see it moving the other way.

In an effort to provide at least the appearance of a proper poll, I voted “yes” more than seven hundred times today to prevent this from becoming a rout. Even with my help, the innumerate antivaxxers are struggling, despite, I suspect, similarly voting early and often, and the vote is now 1,385 to 9,232. (Sigh.) I suspect that no one will believe that the results of this poll accurately reflect the beliefs of the general population.

@Corina Becker

Thank you for highlighting comment #54.. too funny!! It took a lot of sifting through crap to find that gem!

Oh godtopus, I wandered into the comments. No. Just no.

As a father of two autistic kids, it saddens me to watch parents disappear into echo chambers like AoA in search of someone to blame. It’s not about coming to terms with your child’s condition or looking for a cure, it’s about seeking vengeance in a dead end.

Google your obsession and the internet will feed it.

The comments are best left untouched.

Also, if I originally saw this poll mentioned on Pharyngula, but only followed the link after I read this post on your blog later, whose minion am I? I need to know. I’ve got a choice between squid-shaped torch and electric torch with blinking lights, you see…


I was tempted for a second to share this on FB then I remembered that a lot of my mommy “friends” are part of the antivax crowd and use homeopathy and even chiropractic on their infants! I was hoping to make friends with them based on real common interests and be a voice of reason in the group but once my views on science and medicine became known I have been slowly edged out and it is getting more and more hostile.

Dastardly, Bastardly,
Lied to his legions and
Basked in their praise

Practiced his dangerous
Playing with matches, he
Started a blaze

Yearningly, burningly,
Well-meaning innocents
Read about Wakefield, and
Swallowed it whole

Choose not to vaccinate,
Fearful and tearful and
Not in control.

Recently, decently,
GMC councilors
Looked at the evidence,
Started to scoff;

Tales of misconduct were
Guilty of charges,
They’ve stricken him off!

Mournfully, scornfully,
Cognitive dissonance
Keeps his supporters from
Seeing the light

Changing their minds would be
Thinking him guilty is
Reason to fight.

The percentages are starting to slip back; if you have not voted, do not assume that all is well without you.

Actually, I was heartened to see a lot of folks fighting the good fight in the comments section. I expect those sorts of polls to be swarmed over by the loonies in the comments, but it’s not an echo chamber.

Though some of those comments remind me of a landlord of mine. Was part of a japanese health-food MLM scheme. One day a tanker ship in the bay crashed and started spilling oil into the harbour. Canola Oil. Of course, being oil, it had much the same effect of a petroleum slick on the local wildlife, wrecking the waterproofing of the seabirds caught in it. As the news reports on the oil slick and wildlife rescue efforts, she tells her friend over the phone;

“Did you hear? Canola Oil is bad for you!”

Followed soon after by the sound of me trying to drive the stupid out of my frontal lobe with a nearby wall.

that’s pretty pathetic that in a mom’s poll, you guys feel threatened that the yes side (vaccines are related to autism) was at 53%.

Bravo. Cuttlefish! I like the meter.

Voted earlier, as an Insoleer, rather than a Pharyngulite, if anyone’s keeping score.
Phil Plait also has a nice post up about Wakefield. Go reason!

Jen, it’s more about making people realize that online polls are usually useless. Some things, like scientific conclusions, can’t and shouldn’t be decided by democracy.

@Jen, 37

It’s more about making people realize that online polls are usually useless. Some things, like scientific conclusions, can’t and shouldn’t be decided by democracy.

@ 37 jen,

that’s pretty pathetic that in a mom’s poll, you guys feel threatened that the yes side (vaccines are related to autism) was at 53%.

It is disappointing to see such a demonstration of ignorance from any group.

Having this ignorance comes from a group that may be mostly mothers does not make that ignorance any more, or less, comforting.

Or are you suggesting that this is a paternalistic attitude?

I am a single parent, so don’t pretend that only a mother can be a good parent. Don’t pretend that emotion is a better protection from illness than knowledge and medicine. Don’t pretend that your fantasy of the vaccines did it is in any way good for children.

Vaccines are not a threat to children, you are a threat to children.

It’s not pathetic, it has a point. Internet polls asking people’s opinions/beliefs on scientific knowledge is stupid. The whole point of science is to remove opinion/belief from the equation. You don’t go into a church and demand facts or proof just like you don’t wander into a lab and base research on belief.

All this is doing is pointing out the absurdity of it and how easily it is manipulated. What people “believe” is irrelevant to the whole discussion – that’s the part that anti-vaxers just can’t seem to grasp.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand that double post earns me +1 Fail, I think. Go team.

@ababa, 42

Good point, but poor analogy. Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, makes all kinds of testable, falsifiable claims about the world we live in, so one could very well demand proof for such assertions. (Whether one SHOULD is another matter.) I don’t want to derail the thread, I just want to point out the flaw in your analogy.

Just checked, and numbers round up to 17% yes, 82% no. It looks to me like things have stabilized.
I find it very amusing that the “Yes” votes dropped by 37 percentage points AFTER AoA sent out a call for votes. Moral: Even anti-vaxxers have nothing to gain by keeping that hate site going.

As I am not very aware of this issue, has anyone actually done a study relating these two? If yes, could someone provide a reliable link or direct me to some source? I do not think vaccines could cause autism, but I would like to be sure of it.

Thanks in advance

@jash.jacob (#46) No one can prove a negative (vaccines do not cause autism). The best science can do is say that all the studies that have been done do not show a link between the two. Currently science is leaning towards genetic causes,along with possibly some inter-utero insults while the fetus is developing.

There have been many studies that looked for a relationship between vaccines and autism. Orac has referenced/reviewed several in his blog posts (use the search box up near the top)

You can also go to the Science-Based Medicine blog site (, which has many articles with references.

Another site is maintained by frequent commenter Todd W:

(sorry, for some reason can’t get the HTML to work to create a link whe I’m at work..)

Todd has a lot of references linked. (another commenter) has some interesting ideas related to nitrous oxide issues and health, including autism.

Winningly, grinningly
Verse-master Cuttlefish
Gives us a Wakefield ode
(One of his best).

He wins an Internet
(Goes in the trophy case
‘Longside the rest).

Vaccines are not a threat to children, you are a threat to children.

@Rogue Medic: A very appropos statement. +1

there have been many times in my 10 years so far Mommy career that I wished I had a circle of other Moms to hang out with. When I see stuff like this I realize I’m probably lucky I’ve been spared.

@ Shannon

I’ve found the “mommy culture” to be pretty dismal, at least here in the PNW. Very disappointing. It’s worse than high school. However I have met a few very good friends through such groups, but never found an actual group itself that was anything other than catty, judgmental, gossipy, etc ntm the CAM and antivax crap.

Kel, you are not the only one. It is very dismal, especially in some schools’ PTAs. Though I did find some nice parents through music and certain sports (mainly swimming, the noncompetitive type).

It’s not pathetic, it has a point. Internet polls asking people’s opinions/beliefs on scientific knowledge is stupid. ”


It’s even more stupid to fornicate an internet poll.

Guardian of the Poll,

If something is promoted as being capable of providing an answer to a question, but that something is completely unreliable, is it wrong to point out the lack of reliability?

There are many appropriate uses of polls, but internet polls are not effective measures of scientific merit.

We enjoy disproving myths. Crashing a poll is just a mildly amusing way of doing that.

Actually, I find the comments thread over there educational. To anyone paying attention, it soon becomes apparent that moving goalposts is what it’s all about.

“My kid had MMR and got autism. MMR causes autism.”

“Correlation doesn’t equal causation”

“My kid had MMR and got autism. So MMR causes autism.”

“Studies show no MMR/Autism link”

“What studies?”

“These studies – list, list”

“Wakefield showed MMR causes autism”

“Quack. Real studies show no MMR/Autism link”

“What studies?”

“These studies – list, list, list, list, list”

“It’s the aluminium and all the other jabs”

Bingo! Goalposts successfully shifted!

A (now estranged) distant relative insists her son’s autism was triggered by his DTaP at 4 months. He changed immediately, the parents insist. He now sees a DAN “doctor”.

So it’s not just the MMR that gets blamed, as others have pointed out. She believes he was born with a genetic predisposition, and the “toxins/chemicals” pulled the trigger. Of course now that he is on a gluten free, casein free diet, he’s much improved! /rollseyes

Mama said you can’t reason with an unreasonable person. But I can’t resist trying, and ending up in a bitter argument with these loons regularly. Something has got to be done.

I am always somewhat bemused by the outlandish claims of some of these parents. You know the type – “At 12 months old my child had a 50 word vocabulary, was putting together sentences, could use a knife and fork to feed himself, and was potty trained.” Either they are remembering wrong or they had a child who was absurdly advanced. It’s kind of hard for me to believe the rest of their story, when the first bit seems, well, kind of made up.

Kel, been there, done that. And it is horrible.

Remember, if these are people you know and interact regularly you cannot argue with them constantly. They will never change. The only thing you can do is model your own behavior.

Though I did have one relative send me a link (look up Scopie’s Law) warning me about vaccines. My anger was evident in my reply when I told her she was endangering my children (one who had a seizure disorder so was not vaccinated for pertussis, but who had seizures when he got rotavirus!). My reply was enough to get me off of her scare email cc list. In her previous scare emails I had just sent her the Scope site debunking a certain urban legend.

I could on for a long time on this one relative, but that is neither here nor there (though she did commit suicide, and our family is still dealing with it… but that involves an even longer rant, especially on alt-med folks).

What I did was to actually ask about the vaccine status of the children my medically fragile son would come into contact with. I did not do this as a confrontation, matter of factually. I would say that my son has a medical condition that makes him vulnerable to certain diseases, so are your children fully vaccinated for their age. If they answered in the negative (which happened once, and the reason I spell the name of a certain magazine and from “sMothering”) I never bothered with them again.

Why is it the moment you hit “Post” that you see a stupid error? It is supposed to say forum, not “from.”

“It’s not pathetic, it has a point. Internet polls asking people’s opinions/beliefs on scientific knowledge is stupid. ”
It’s even more stupid to fornicate an internet poll.”

Hear Hear! Skewing the results of an online poll by voting multiple times just to validify your point of view? Following Wakefield’s example perhaps? So much for Scientific Ethics. Makes one wonder if this methodology is being used in Scientific Studies too?

The “scientists” here seem more like adolescent know it all’s who know very little.

If an online poll was anything like a scientific poll perhaps there would be a point but an internet poll is generally pretty pointless when it comes to actually being informative about the opinions of the general populace. However, people do abuse them, people do present them as evidence they are correct, or in the majority, so by crashing them you stop them from being able to use it for that purpose. I do not go vote at a poll like this to show my view is correct, but to make sure it cannot be used by anti-vaxers.

Now, I would also hate to see any people on my side actually use a poll like this as evidence they were but so far I have never seen this happen. Probably because many of them are evidence based people who realize the pointlessness of most online polls.

One last point, would the “scientists” (and many of those who comment here actually are scientists, not “scientists”) here be wrong if they acted like adolescent people? No, of course not. People can act like children and still be correct. If you have any actual arguments to make about the science surrounding vaccines then do join in on one of the many posts here dealing with that.

Also, crashing a poll like this demonstrates the uselessness of such polls (though due to the self selected nature they already are pretty useless). All it takes to completely trash a poll is one or two sites posting a link to them.

Travis…it’s about INTEGRITY. Evidence based people don’t try to defraud any data, like the people posting here are doing. Evidence based people would be ethical and let the data present itself as it is, and that is how you’d get HONEST results. So anyone here who’s playing the adolescent game of “lets crash this poll” by that simple dishonest and unethical act, nothing they do or say has any merit. Who would ever believe the words, work or claims of anyone who is so lacking in integrity that they’d blatantly attempt to skew the results of anything? Shows a total lack of a moral compass. Sorry but the people here who are playing this game have no Integrity.

Integrity in an internet poll?

I guess cd is disappointed that the anti-vax poll crashing has not been successful.

Honest results in an internet poll?

It appears that cd has been inhaling a bit too much medical marijuana.

I am here on my faithful steed Rocinante to defend the integrity on honesty of this virtuous internet poll!

There should probably be a Downfall version of cd plotting to use an internet poll to prove the science of his anti-science. MwaHaHaHaHa!


Thanks to Rogue, I can rest my case about the adolesent mindset here.

Good on you. I am sorry you had to leave so soon. Can’t have you wasting your valuable time with us adolescent minded people lacking integrity.

Travis…it’s about INTEGRITY. Evidence based people don’t try to defraud any data, like the people posting here are doing. Evidence based people would be ethical and let the data present itself as it is, and that is how you’d get HONEST results.

cd, you are still arguing from the already-known-to-be-false premise that an Internet poll is “data.” It is not “data”, just as anecdotes are not “data,” just as testimonials are not “data.”

You are arguing as if the duty of any evidence-minded person is to prop up the pretensions to being evidence of anything that anybody, anywhere would like to be evidence. This is in fact 180 degrees from the truth. Science could not progress if it did not tear down superficially-plausible “evidence” obtained by non-evidence-generating means, and subject even evidence obtained through legitimate processes to tough testing, to determine whether it represents real knowledge or something else.

You are asking us to show consistency not with the principles of the scientist, but those of the advertising executive.

Antaeus Feldspar…well said. You are a shining example of stating your opposing view in a matter befitting a scientist. And I compleletly agree with you about legitimate processes. Also I agree with you about tearing down what you may believe is invalid, silly, stupid, trivial.

But there is a way, an ethical METHOD to tear-down these kinds of facts, and that way would be honest and maintain integrity. So to artificially skew the facts just to be Malicious, frankly I’m ashamed of the people here who call themselves scientists. I am in no way, shape or form condone that kind of “science”. And to say in essence “we’re skewing the facts because it’s a stupid poll read by stupid mothers and hence they don’t matter anyway” is childish, immature, stooping to low levels and really destroys the public faith in Scientists and Science.

An ethical scientist who does favor being evidence based would be not only fair, consistent and honest in his or her profession, but also personally, morally, ethically. I find it shocking that the premise of this article and some of those posting here would be proud to attempt to skew the results of a public opinon poll, even how trivial it may seem to them, it shows an innate dishonesty and disregard for the Public. Just because someone is a Lay person doesn’t mean they’re deserving of Malicious Dishonesty. And this poll has an audience of probably thousands of Lay People, some of whom are dealing with medical issues that are extremely difficult.

Also some of the comments that are demeaning toward mothers as well as Autism patients. The devaluing of any Human life might demonstrate a rationale as to why someone would find it trivial to Maliciously and Deceptively skew a poll about an issue that some people may take very seriously, such as these Mothers and Austism patients. IS IT ANY WONDER THAT WITH SCIENTISTS BEHAVING THIS BADLY THE PUBLIC’S LEVEL OF TRUST OF SCIENCE, SCIENTISTS AND MEDICINE IS CONSTANTLY ON THE DECLINE?

If those here truly are ETHICAL Scientists, they would be mindful of the audience of not only Lay People, but of other Scientists by being mature about the matter, respectful of others and show a value for others’ opinions. I’d like the people here to take the high road, be the bigger person, rise up to the challenge of Scientific Ethics, Honesty, Respectful Scrutiny of all the information and to realize the true value of being perceived by the public as such.

cd, internet polls are not real data. They are self-selected surveys, which are by definition in any basic statistics book are not scientific. Read up here on Sampling Bias.

A real public opinion poll would include random sampling over a broad demographic. Yesterday I did participate in a survey by the school district on how my child is being treated in the school. It was a phone call from the district, and involved fifteen questions.

By the way, who is being malicious towards parents? I see mockery towards those who promote nonsense and fraud, but not towards parents. Unless you count the nasty remarks that parents like Kel and I have received (see above). I might also add that your comments are also malicious to us parents.

@ cd

OK, tell us.

What’s the ethical method to tear down an internet poll?
If possible, one method which does work?

Actually, I will go so far as to say that an internet poll (or any vote which does not control who votes when) is not even an anecdote, but pure fabricated data.
OK, pure artificial data, let’s not be too mean.


Geeze, get a grip. It’s a stupid online poll. Pharyngulation is all it deserves.

And what’s with the purple prose and excessive capitals? Your comment comes off as ridiculous.

Here’s another “poll” that needs adjustment. Surely we don’t need more woo on Oprah. You could consider voting instead for the young man linked on my ‘nym.

Hello! My name is Dr. Renee Tocco. I am a Defeat Autism Now! practitioner and the founder of Hope For Autism –

I have a project that would be incredibly beneficial for the whole world of autism and I NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Oprah is holding a contest for a daytime talk show on her new network. Please watch my video audition for an AUTISM focused show (link below). I entered just a few days ago and have already received thousands of votes to move to page 7 of 120. I hope you will support me in this endeavor as I vow to represent the families affected. I have passionately dedicated my life to be part of the solution and this is an outstanding opportunity. The increased awareness, funding and public discussion would change the world of autism. Would you consider sending an email blast, asking your contacts to vote as much as possible? I cannot imagine a new health-related show that would be more important than one that is autism-focused. Oprah will make her decision soon, so if you will help, please act quickly!

The goal is to get as many votes as possible before July 4. People can quickly vote multiple times by pressing the back button and then voting again. Please help me show Oprah and the world that we want to discuss autism openly in the mainstream media! If you have trouble with the link above, search video auditions for “tocco” and you will find it! Also note that the votes are only updated once every 15 minutes so THE COUNTER DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY GO UP, but every vote counts!


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