Several of you have been sending me this; so I would be remiss not to note that there is a rather lengthy profile of Generation Rescue’s favorite “martyred” anti-vaccine hero, disgraced and discredited British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine entitled The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru. By and large, it’s not bad, but what caught my attention wasn’t so much the story of Andrew Wakefield, with which I have, sadly, become intimately familiar, or the usual self-pitying, self-serving excuses and denials of Wakefield himself. Rather, it’s what the anti-vaccine movement inadvertently revealed about itself to reporter Susan Dominus.
Actually, it’s more about what our old buddy and pal J.B. Handley revealed. Remember how frequently I compare anti-vaccine views to a religion? It’s not, of course, just because the anti-vaccine movement is not at all based on science. After all, there are lots of things that aren’t based on science that are are reasonable, or at least not batshit insane. Nor is it just because anti-vaccine views are clearly based far more on belief than on evidence or science, although that certainly helps. Rather, it’s…well, let’s set the scene with the opening of the story, which describes a talk at the raceview Baptist Church in Tomball, TX:
In his presentation, Wakefield sounded impatient but righteous. He used enough scientific terms — “ataxic,” “histopathological review” and “vaccine excipients” — that those parents who did not feel cowed might have been flattered by his assumption of their scientific fluency. He also tried to defend himself against a few of the charges laid out in The British Medical Journal — offering defenses that did not hold up before the journal’s panel of editors but were perhaps enough to assure an audience of his fans that he did, in fact, have defenses. Some part of Wakefield’s cult status is surely because of his personal charisma, and he spoke with great rhetorical flair. He took off his glasses and put them back on like a gifted actor maximizing a prop. “What happens to me doesn’t matter,” he said at one point. “What happens to these children does matter.”
And there you have a critical element for many religions: A prophet who suffers for his message at the hand of a hostile “orthodoxy.” Andy fills that role. In fact, here’s where our old buddy J.B. comes in. Later in the article, Handley is interviewed, and, while probably not realizing it, he provides an excellent description of why the anti-vaccine movement is very much like a cult or religion:
“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”
Since losing his medical license, Wakefield has depended on his followers for financing and for the emotional scaffolding that allows him to believe himself a truth-teller when the majority of his peers consider him a menace to medicine. The fact that his fans have stood by him through his denunciation may seem surprising, but they may find it easier to ignore his critics than to reject their faith in him. After all, his is a rare voice of certainty in the face of a disease that is, at its core, mysterious.
In any case, this is something I’ve been saying all along. Real scientists realize that autism is a complex and mysterious condition. It clearly has a strong genetic component, but, as is the case of many other complex diseases and conditions with a strong genetic component, identities of the specific genes involved in its pathogenesis has been maddeningly elusive. That’s because autism is likely multigenetic in origin, possibly with an environmental component. It should be noted that hen I say “environmental component” I do not mean vaccines. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last several years, when the anti-vaccine movement refers to an “environmental component” or “environmental trigger,” it’s code for, “It’s the vaccines.” It’s a belief that is immune to reason, science, and evidence, given the numerous studies that have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. Wakefield and other pseudoscientists who push vaccine “injury” as a cause for autism are in reality being incredibly simplistic, and simple answers resonate.
Another aspect of this obsession with vaccines and “environmental triggers” (i.e., vaccines) is that there’s not much that can be done about genes. In contrast, if autism is “vaccine injury,” then there are all sorts of quack treatments that can be sold to “reverse” that injury. Not coincidentally I think, one of the favorite of these quack remedies involves “detoxification” of “toxins” and “heavy metals” using chelation therapy and other nostrums. Think about it this way: Given the vagueness of many of the “toxins” to which anti-vaccine activists ascribe autism causation and the lack of evidence supporting the concept that mercury or other heavy metals have anything to do with autism, “detoxification” becomes a lot like purification rituals common in so many religions, this time substituting a medical form of purification based on pseudoscience for the various means used since ancient times. The purpose, whether acknowledged or not, is to drive the demon autism out and “recover” the normal child parents believe to be within. From my perspective, it’s not for nothing that Generation Rescue is called Generation Rescue and its activists who preach the gospel of biomedical treatments for autism are called “Rescue Angels.”
Moreover, like any good prophet of a new religion, Andy Wakefield has suffered for his promotion of the new faith. Consequently, the more science-based medical authorities reject him, the more medical-legal authorities investigate him, the more he is subjected to the deserved penalties for his scientific fraud, including loss of his medical license and retraction of his fraud-laden paper, the more tightly the faithful cling to him. The only way they could be more faithful is if St. Andy were to be martyred the way early Christians were martyred. There’s a reason I included images of various martyred saints when I wrote about Wakefield’s loss of his medical license.
From this article, though, I get the feeling that St. Andy’s martyrdom is not all that painful. He has a bunch of mothers of autistic children who absolutely adore him, who–dare I say it?–worship him. As the article describes, he lives in a high-end home in Austin, TX, whose view he likens to Tuscany. When he the medical director at the “autism biomed” paradise Thoughtful House, he pulled in close to $300,000 a year. Where he’s getting the cash to sustain his continued opulent lifestyle, I have no idea, but he’s still living pretty high on the hog. Certainly it’s not his book revenues that are paying for that big house in Austin. Perhaps it’s his speaking engagements. Who knows? Whatever the source of Wakefield’s apparently continued income since he lost his job a year ago, he’s not exactly suffering like a martyr, although he seems to believe that he is. Moreover, the more he is criticized and the more penalties he suffers, the more convinced he becomes that he is right:
His faith in his theory also remains intact, which he made clear when I asked him, in a separate interview, if he still believed M.M.R. caused the autism in the children in the Lancet paper. “Is that a serious question?” he said. “Yes, I do still think M.M.R. was causing it.”
For Wakefield, the attacks have become a kind of affirmation. The more he must defend his research, the more important he seems to consider it — so important that powerful forces have conspired and aligned against him. He said he believes that “they” — public-health officials, pharmaceutical companies — pay bloggers to plant vicious comments about him on the Web. “Because it’s always the same,” he says. “Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield, discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield.” He also “wouldn’t be surprised” if public-health officials were inflating the number of measles mortalities, just as he thinks they inflate the risks of the flu to increase uptake of that vaccine. Having been rejected by mainstream medicine, Wakefield, the son of well-regarded doctors in Britain, has apparently rejected the integrity of mainstream medicine in return.
Notice anything else that’s like a religion? That’s right. Andy Wakefield is turning into a cult leader. He has his followers, his worshipers. The more the outside world rejects him, the more convinced he becomes that he’s right, and everyone else is wrong. Meanwhile, the adulation of his followers feeds his megalomania, just as each new setback feeds his paranoia. He really does believe the medical world is out to get him and that public health officials are exaggerating measles statistics just to get back at him. Because he’s just that important. At least, that’s what he believes and that’s what he wants his followers to believe. As usual, Brian Deer gets it exactly right when he compares Wakefield to “the kind of religious leader who is a true believer but relies on the occasional use of smoke and mirrors to goose the faith of his followers.” It works, too. Even yesterday, the anti-vaccine zealots at Age of Autism were still defending Andrew Wakefield and calling for “revisiting” Deer’s claims that Wakefield fabricated his findings, and a few days ago uber quack Mike Adams posted a video entitled Selective Hearing, which attacks Brian Deer, the investigative journalist who unmasked Wakefield’s fraud. He is, after all, an the enemy of the faith.
Unfortunately, the most disturbing part of this whole story doesn’t come as a surprise to me. It’s noted in the description at the beginning of the article of the Wakefield rally that there was an armed security guard there. Towards the end of the description of the rally Dominus notes:
Michelle Guppy, the coordinator of the Houston Autism Disability Network and the organizer of the Tomball event, said she believed her own autistic son benefited greatly from one aspect of Wakefield’s work: his conviction that untreated gastrointestinal problems could be behind some of autism’s symptoms. It was Guppy, it turned out, who thought to hire the armed guards “to make the statement,” she said, “that this is neutral ground, and it’s going to be civil.” Guppy, a mother of two who was elegantly dressed for the occasion, made no pretense of neutrality herself. She narrowed her eyes when she learned that a writer from The New York Times was there to write about Wakefield.
“Be nice to him,” she said, “or we will hurt you.”
I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like a threat to me. Just like a Scientologist defending the cult, Guppy is using intimidation with armed guards to prevent anyone from asking questions of Wakefield that are too “inconvenient” and threatening reporters. Of course, intimidation and smear campaigns are part and parcel of how the anti-vaccine movement responds to criticism, particularly of its saints and dogma. I’ve been on the receiving end. Journalists Trine Tsouderos, Amy Wallace, Seth Mnookin, and especially Brian Deer have been on the receiving end. Paul Offit has had threats. It’s all of a piece.
Perhaps the best summary of the phenomenon that is Andrew Wakefield comes at the end of this article, where Dominus writes:
It seems very unlikely that any study, no matter how carefully conducted, will assure Wakefield of the safety of M.M.R. at this point: numbers can lie, or be manipulated, and even paranoids have enemies. Didn’t they laugh at the researcher who said bacteria caused ulcers? Doesn’t he owe it to the children to continue on?
Before leaving for the airport with Wakefield and his son, I took in the view from the deck. The hills looked lofty, peaceful, a little bit blurred in the distance — you could believe, as Wakefield had promised, you were in Tuscany. With a little effort, you can believe almost anything.
Just like a religion. Because it really is all about faith far more than science and evidence.
107 replies on “The anti-vaccine movement as a religion with Andrew Wakefield as its prophet?”
This is why…. after 10,000,000 we still need you.
Make it so.
Cue the B – Augie, Sid and Jen – in three, two …
Cue the B – Augie, Sid and Jen – in three, two …
PZ Myers has looked at this story too and the subsequent comments are rather amusing. If Wakefield is really Jesus Christ and Nelson Mandela rolled into one, he deserves to be imprisoned for 27 years, then crucified!
Just to clarify: I’m not saying for one minute that Nelson Mandela ‘deserved’ to be imprisoned – but arguably Andy does!
What do you mean Nelson Mandela didn’t deserve what happened to him? He was a member of an armed revolutionary group that planted bombs in city centres, a convicted terrorist. Some will argue that he was morally justified in taking arms against the repulsive apartheid regime and that he was not personally responsible for the bombings. Either way, he was involved.
What makes Mandela a historical colossus is his conversion in prison to peaceful, conciliatory politics.
Having said that, Wakefield is still a class A scumbag.
Yes. Gosh. A “martyr” who has “given up everything” — but somehow retained the very nice house, very nice lifestyle and the adoring public. If only my boring, humdrum, uncontroversial life were nearly so unpleasant.
Good point, but apartheid sucked, and NM turned out OK. I don’t think there’s much hope for Andy though!
I wanted to steal that joke, but restrained myself…
even if Wakefield was imprisoned for 27 years, then crucified, he would eventually be resurrected as another being alive and willing to promote some other kind of woo woo science.
Speaking of Seth Mnookin, I’m just starting his book – it’s excellent so far. Has some very good discussion of the subject of why factual proof that an idea is wrong is so much water off a duck’s a$$ to a true believer, including studies of millenial cultists (The End is Near!) and what happens to their beliefs when the end doesn’t come as scheduled. (As you guessed, they don’t stop believing.)
“And there you have a critical element for many religions: A prophet who suffers for his message at the hand of a hostile ‘orthodoxy…'”
… while being paid a six figure sum for his suffering. The old expression “don’t pity the martyr, he likes his job” is very, very applicable here. Being a martyr nowadays is a very lucrative business.
As I read the original article yesterday, when I got to that “Be nice or we’ll hurt you” bit, I stopped reading in absolute disbelief. I mean, I know that many hardline anti-vaccine types might harbor thoughts like that, but to say it out loud…to a reporter? Just, wow.
Then I got to JB’s line and thought, “Not surprising. Explains quite a bit, though.”
The article was quite well-crafted. Overall, it’s not necessarily damning for Wakefield, but it does have plenty of subtle barbs at him and those who support him.
I’m in the wrong line of work. I wonder if I can start a relatively harmless and have a bunch of
suckersfollowers give me all their money?
Speaking of unethical bribery, isn’t a COI for Andy to be bankrolled by anti-vaccine groups and speak as an “expert” about vaccines?
The article includes the word “believe” or “belief” over a dozen times. Handley bases his very weird comment on how he “feel[s]”. The two people he “feel[s]” Wakefield is like are not scientists and it is this disconnect that causes the problem imo. When folks can’t decouple belief and science, debacle happens.
I’m no theological expert, but Handley’s comparison of Wakefield to Jesus seems a bit off-target. At least, I don’t recall any Biblical references to Jesus living in luxurious digs at his followers’ expense and musing about the view resembling Tuscany.
A more valid theological comparison would liken Wakefield to disgraced evangelists like Jim Bakker or Ted Haggard. Speaking of which, there was news recently that Haggard was to get his own reality TV show. What a great idea for Andy Wakefield! It’d gratify his need for constant publicity, and the cast of characters would make for compelling entertainment.
@#6: Under what definition of “terrorist” was the ANC a terrorist organisation?
Was the Continental Congress also a terrorist organisation under that definition of “terrorist?”
A little of a tangent, but relating to what was said about causes of autism being complex, multigenetic and environmental, I remember a couple of months ago here in Australia there was a news report about a study that suggested an excess of testosterone in the womb during pregnancy may be a contributing factor. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/testosterone-in-womb-linked-to-autism-risk/story-e6frg6nf-1226001079473
Now this may have been referenced here, but I’d be interested how Wakefield’s followers have reacted to this?
“Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one”.
The fanaticism of the Mercury Militia has always greatly disturbed me. Often it makes me afraid for their children. After all, how would you feel if everyday your parents insisted, seriously, that you were brain damaged and would never amount to anything for your entire life? The extremes some of those parents go to “cure” their children sometimes causes permenant damage!!If this is not exactly a cult, it is certainly as dangerous as a cult can get!
@Pagan – I agree, parents are afraid of vaccines, but have no problem using industrial chelation agents on their children (products that have never been tested for their application, because they are too freakin’ dangerous! – and aren’t even regulated for quality control regardless).
Let us hope the the Geirs never get wind of this or they will be giving who knows what bizarre drugs or industrial chemicals to pregnant women to “prevent” autism.
With regards to Struck Off Wakefield continuing to live extravagantly I see 2 possibilities. He may be getting a lot of donations from his followers to support his lifestyle just like any mega church preacher does. It is also possible that like many egotistical charlatans he is simply living beyond his means because he can not live modestly without losing face and he feels entitled.
When I read about Wakefield I feel extremely proud to be a representative of the Dark Side.
There’s always been an element of revivalism in snake oil salesmanship: I witnessed another “defender of the faith” – woo division- who, after first loosening up the crowd with smutty jokes, then whipped them into a frenzy, invoking fear about “last things” and the “end times” (“Fear the fires of inflammation!; “You’ll get cancer”; “You’ll die”) as a consequence of “sin” ( eating meat, non-organics, not exercising), and then promise “salvation” and the cure to all what ails ye ( veganism and supplements) which he alone, as true evangelist, could provide,( along with appropriate spiritual guidance in the form of over-priced books and videos). The converts gasped as he preached about his persecution and near-martyrdom by the entrenched powers of Darkness ( the FDA, universities, doctors, Pharma) and how his perseverence in the face of Evil itself was rewarded by his eventual triumphant elevation to his current status as prophet: fighting dark forces for you. Needless to say, I felt out of place there.
But what type of person goes to revivals and seeks enlightenment? Someone who is troubled, at wits’ end, fearful, and envisions perhaps long term travail streching ahead into the distant future. A candidate for conversion. I’ve always wondered why Wakefield chose *those* two syndromes – autism and IBD- two simultaneous problems whose interaction could prove unnerving to any parent. Now people with autism may not have more IBD than do any other group but would not *any* bowel problem in older children who may be incontinent and incommunicative signal dire straits for caretakers? They may not *have* more problems, but the problems that they *do* have seem worse.
Charlatans peer into people and discern their weak spots in order to capitalise on them. Andy appears to have great talent in this area. He can rely on his followers and perhaps branch out into other areas of quasi-medical care, earning a decent living. I wonder how he sleeps at night?
“Was the Continental Congress also a terrorist organisation under that definition of “terrorist”?
It never occurred to me that Wakefield really still “believes” in his bogus study. I thought he was just lying and trying to protect his own interests. However, even if he does think he is right, it doesn’t let him off the hook. If he wants to put himself forward as a leader and a scientist then he has a responsibility to BE a scientist. It is unethical to act otherwise.
And Wakefield heads into worldwide conspiracy theory territory too. That’s usually a sign you’re grasping.
@23, Cairne, it always amuses me how people ask that question like it’s so clever. As though the fact that I, as a modern American, personally benefit from it changes the fact that our forebears fought a dirty war against the British colonialists that would be considered guerilla (if not outright terroristic) if it happened today.
As someone else said, I like how Playboy spread = stupid, and heroin addiction = street cred. It doesn’t add up.
Jen D. Troll, is that the best you guys have as an attack? Really? You can’t prove it away with science so you’ll prove it away with attacks. What about you, Jen, what addictions do you have? Can we use that against you? Is that fair? Are we allowed to bring your past into your discussions? Tell us all about you, Jen.
Hahaha, nice dodge, Renee. It’s a fair observation and you know it! You guys throw that at her all the time.
Rene’s point stands: being a model does not make someone an expert on autism or any other medical topic. The same would be true if she were a famous singer, novelist, or pilot.
As for the “heroin addiction = street cred” part, who here is giving someone credence because of an addiction? I suspect from what you say that I am in fact ignoring someone’s past drug use for the simplest reason: not being aware of it in the first place.
Having used heroin in the past is no more, and no less, a qualification or disqualification than having used alcohol. (I have never used heroin, and rarely touch alcohol; I also make no claims to expertise on the causes or treatment of autism.) An active drug addiction is a problem, but may or may not be relevant to the topic.
New Title for short essay.
The Pro Mass Vaxxine movement as religion with the ORACle as it’s god(actually demi-god but he’ll take it).
While I haven’t seen yet *Casa Wakefield*, it’s a nice spring day, so allow me to escort you on a little “fact finding” tour of other properties owned by entrepreneurs who bank on pseudo-science:
1. Quackwatch / Recently Posted Articles/ “FDA Orders Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims”, 4/19/11 ( see photo of Illinois property and details, costs).
2.NaturalNews; google box ” Vilcabamba Real Estate”, go to “Top Ten Things to Love about Vilcabamba…”( 6/16/10). #9 “Affordable Homes”, click on “Imagine Your Own Private Paradise” Photos of Adams’ home in Ecuador- for sale @ $695K.
3. Gary Null.com/ photos, videos; click “more photos” below images, see “Paradise Gardens” ( Naples, FL),ad nauseum.
I may not be a lawyer, but I rest my case.
Well, if I got the right address for him, according to the tax assessor for Travis County, his home appraised at $1,018,600 last year. However, the property is not owned by Wakefield, personally, but through a living trust.
So, yeah, he’s not exactly living the pauper lifestyle. (Amazing what public records can do.)
@ Jen: Why don’t you post that comment on Age of Autism…where I’m sure it would be “more” appreciated? Oops, you already did post that idiotic comment today at 12:07 PM…you were the first one to comment about Handley’s (yet another tiresome) rant against Seth Mnookin.
I’ve been following the hundreds of comments on the NY Times Magazine website (see motherlode blog at bottom of page). Most are evenly divided between chastising the NY Times for publicizing Andy’s work and praising the NY Times for writing about his “activities” since he came to the USA; they are all in agreement that he is a charlatan rightfully “struck from the register” a fraudster and indignant that he has been accepted by the fringe group.
About 10 % of the posters are equally divided between some fence-sitters (“maybe he is on the right track”), some who believe in the antenatal exposure to chemicals, and the out and out zombies who believe that Andy is a great scientist now martyred for “the cause”. Some great push-back postings from people who really know some science, know some epidemiology and know the entire sordid mess concerning Wakefield’s study and his conflicts of interest.
To my community, Andy Wakefield is (Professor) Harold Hill, Gary Null and Steven E. Jones all rolled up into one. And a touch of Jim Jones.
It’s the Jim Jones component that I think bears the closest watching. Dr. Wakefield’s most recent public statements have included some disturbing references to wide-spread conspiracies to “suppress” his “findings” and to silence him. How long before he starts claiming that “they” are out to kill him?
I suspect, however, that Andy won’t be asking his followers to drink Kool-Aid – a nice Chianti would be more his style.
I suppose you might want to consider why antivaxxers attack the work of one recovering heroin addict (Seth Mnookin) while whole-heartedly embracing the ideas of another recovering heroin addict (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)
Wait, wait! I know, I know! It’s because the first recovering heroin addict writes things that you don’t like, while the second recovering heroin addict writes things that you DO like!
Attention Pharma Shills and Associated Minions… JB Handley (or someone writing under his name) is over at Seth Mnookin’s blog, defending his god.
Make an RNA virus proud and go over there and regulate. Please. Thanks.
Nice one, J.B. With a single complex analogy you just managed to piss off both black people and Christians.
Denice Walter #23 wrote:
I’m a gun for hire, I’m a saint, I’m a liar
Because there are no facts, there is no truth
Just data to be manipulated
I can get you any result you like
What’s it worth to ya?
Because there is no wrong, there is no right
And I sleep very well at night
No remorse, no retribution
Just people selling t-shirts …
— Don Henley, The Garden of Allah
I can’t even fathom this. J.B. just stated outright the Andrew Wakefield is a sort of god to him and his followers. And the faithful agree? No antivaxer has come out and said that statement goes too far? The “we will hurt you” statement doesn’t go too far?
My first thought upon reading this: “They’ve gone to plaid”. Ludicrous crazy.
@ Sastra: Big round of applause for the lyrics..thanks.
@ Sastra: You may be correct but I seem to recall ( several occasions via video and audio) a certain tightness to his jaw, an edge to his voice, and a smile that certainly wasn’t easy- which tells me he isn’t a happy man. As well he shouldn’t be. Just desserts.
With a single complex analogy you just managed to piss off both black people and Christians.
“During CNN’s lynching of Andy Wakefield, I was talking to one of Anderson Cooperâs producers….”
What an inaccurate, exaggerated, kangaroo court styled report. All said can be reversed to apply to the author, a lowly minion of an industry whose lack of scientific knowledge is destroying millions. The author isn’t concerned with evidence or proof from Pharma. Too busy impersonating Brian Deer and Paul Offit. Nothing original either, simply going to the Wakefield well again, searching for some personal legitimacy as a writer. His mimicing exposes his true bias and lack of objectivity, and places him on the highway to hell that those like him are on.
“Playboy spread = stupid, and heroin addiction = street cred. It doesn’t add up.”
It doesn’t have to add up, Jen, because that’s not the equation. The equation is: Google+(Mommysmarts)= wrong, research+facts= reliable.
the highway to hell
So, Ross Coe… what statements in the article were inaccurate and why? Specific statements and specific refutations, please. Your (badly written and flat-out wrong) accusation of Susan Dominus being a “wannabe” won’t get you very far here. We like facts.
I called the FBI in Texas and the general FBI number in DC after I read the NY Times piece. Clearly, Wakefield is a psychopath who is staking out new territory, those with MÃ¼nchhausen’s disorder, because of their psychological vulnerability. Classic.
His history of being a global threat to public health as well as his purposeful fraudulent activities should be investigated.
Dang. Thanks, sciblogs, for screwing up my #2 which was going to be the funniest thing ever. Now I’ve forgotten it. Suffice it to say the usual people arrived and did their usual blathering. But boo, hiss to #33. Augs, you phoned that in. Put some effort into your one-liner hit n run trolls for Christ’s sake.
Speaking of Christ, I’m curious to know what the Disease Movement at large thinks of Handley’s comparison of childrens’ blood-purchasing, narcissitic, money-grubbing fraud Wakefield with, of all people, Nelson Mandela & Jesus Christ. Considering Wakers is still alive, living in comfort and free to gad about telling whoever will listen that he’s still right, damn it, despite all the evidence to the contrary, one wonders what the fuck Handley was thinking. And why didn’t he throw in MLK and Ghandi for good measure? Perhaps leaving himself some martyrs to compare himself to, if he’s ever taken down as the con artist he is.
It’s revealing though: on one hand we have the antivax fraternity comparing Big Pharma and science in general to Nazis; on the other we have Handley comparing his hero to a legendary prisoner of conscience and the western world’s most famous martyr (one of whom definitely exists – but that’s not really relelvant). Nazi paranoia, conspiracy theories and delusions of holy grandeur – could this anti-science movement look any more like a cult?
That right there!
Seems the anti-vaxxers prefer to direct donated money into the lifestyle of their anti-vaxx propaganda prophet rather than into any research, or services, which may aid those affected by autism.
Whenever I read of Wakefield’s high priest status with the anti-vaxx congregation, I’m reminded of an old Onion piece .
Who Knew It Would Be So Easy To Impersonate A Priest?
I’ll agree with all of those except poor Professor Hill. While a flim-flam man, he’s a bad example of one. He’s reformed at the end of the movie, and it’s made clear that his con isn’t as bad as we think from the beginning. As awful as the kids are, the parents are proud of them and see them as if they were a magnificent band.
Wakefield is much more like a televangelist, taking money donated by poor old ladies to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Or a faith healer promising a cure, while his victims ignore things that could really help. He’s causing real damage out there and living high off the hog while doing so.
By the way, Mr. Coe, have you ever figured out why Roald Dahl’s daughter was unable to say “I had measles and I am fine.”? Truly you have finally figured out that what happened was not like what happens to autistic children?
@ Art K
Surely as money and time are wasted on useless supplements and treatments for autism ( see ads, Age of Autism), the tragedy additionally involves the parents’ nattering away time, energy, and emotion on support for their champion and their cause *instead* of seeking psychological support for their own woes and challenging life issues. A support group of like-minded co-miserators like AoA can devolve into cult-ism if it is grounded in pseudo-science. I compare it to the activities of HIV/AIDS denialists who fight off pharmaceutical approaches like HAART and their advocates while their own t-cell counts drop precipitously. The anti-vaxxers shouldn’t be so focused on retaliating for our so-called attacks on their hero as on improving their own day-to-day well-being and coping skills: they’re looking for relief in the wrong place!
Assuming Ross Coe isn’t a hit-and-run troll, he should get used to the following request:
Composer99, did you click on my link? Mr. Coe seems to think what happened to the first born of Mr. Dahl and Ms. Neal was equivalent to autism. I don’t know about other parents, but my son is still disabled, and unlike Olivia, still breathing.
Transcripts as individual files available online.
Wakefield’s sycophants have been hard at work lying about the GMC disciplinary hearing against him.
They’ve had an easier time because until now the transcripts have been hard to find and work with. Two priceless gems are: One,the testimony of Mrs. 12 on day28 which, by itself, trashes most of the defense. Two, Wakefield being forced to admit (as part of his lies) that a 4 year old can give informed consent to give blood for a research project.
I’ve grouped the transcripts by witness type,numbered them consecutively and converted them to pdf format. They’re available through my blog, http://www.sheldon101blog.blogspot.com at http://sheldon101blog.blogspot.com/2011/04/wakefield-disciplinary-hearing_22.html
I’m still waiting for him to tell me what happened to Roald Dahl’s daughter when she got measles.
Sheldon101, thanks for the links. The testimony of the parent of Child 12 was, as you indicated, thoroughly at odds with Wakefield’s account.
@sheldon101 Thanks!!!!! Those links are great! Very nice organization.
I located yesterday’s interview with Susan Dominus on MSNBC at
msnbc tv: The crash and burn of an autism guru
Jeez, the article hasn’t even appeared yet in the print edition of the NY Times Magazine and it is all over the internet. I suspect that on some blogs she will be portrayed as just another paid pharma shill…intent on taking Wakefield down.
As I stated on a prior post, Wakefield’s decision to participate in this article was “definitely not the best decision he ever made”.
When folks can’t decouple belief and science, you get the Dr. Oz show.
I’ve mentioned this before, but why is it always the mothers one hears of? Don’t these children have fathers?
Well, there do seem plenty of defenders who are male. Examples include John Stone and JB Handley.
I’m not certain, but I think the reason that A.W. is such a magnet for mothers of autistic children is because they desperately want something to blame for their children’s condition. In some perverse way, their belief in A.W. lets them salve their own conscience, because otherwise they feel as if they are somehow to blame for their child’s condition.
Andrew Wakefield: world’s most expulsive emetic?
Andreas: It’s probably just a result of gender-based division of household labor: in Anglo-American culture, when an opposite-sex couple has kids, dealing with their health and nutrition generally falls into the mother’s province.
@ Prometheus: Sure, when you can attribute cause to an external factor you’re off the hook. Including the concept of a corrupt pharma-medico-media Mafia additionally allows a parent to claim that they were duped by the Establishment thus de-implicating their own actions. The odd thing though, is that we also are not responsible for our genetics- we had no control over what we inherited, or later random mutations for the child- however, I think that some people may feel “tainted” or are stigmatised by the genetic concept. I had some experience with families of the SMI who weren’t as thrilled with the genetic cause as you might imagine- although it certainly beats “Schizophrenigenic mother”.
Genetics are an easy cop-out. Especially when you don’t know what your’re talking about. Shrug Shoulders. Must be genetics. OK that settles it.
Meanwhile everyone is still shuffling their feet looking at the ground.
So tell us, oh geneticist. What specific gene or set of genes is it?
In what percentage of autistics is this gene found? In what percentage of the population is this gene also found. What percentage of people who have this gene become autistic.
The public will need a little more than “well, uh, well, uh, it’s a little more complicated than that” or “you don’t understand genetics therefore I can’t answer the question”.
Augustine, genetics may or may not be the cause of autism, but the evidence seems to lean that we. We haven’t yet isolated any genes yet, true, but genetics is far more complicated than you seem to realize. If you really think that’s an excuse, please explain the entirety of the human genome here.
@ augustine: “genetics” does not mean a simple, easy to identify pattern ( e.g. blue/ brown eyes). I’m not a geneticist but anyone who can read can get an inkling of the complex pattern that is emerging about autism- such as familial patterns ( Oh, Prometheus, where art thou?). In SMI, poly genes are involved- we can see this because the concordance rate in identical twins is neither 100% nor what would be expected by chance alone ( Danish studies; Fuller Torrey). There is also this little thing called “mutation”.BTW- there about books about these things- find some.
Wakefield is still on at least one board: http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/advisory.php
It does not mention whether he receives any sort of salary from them but the site is chock full of anti-vax nonsense and misinformation.
Hey moron, farmers were successfully using selective breeding long before Mendel. It’s not necessary to know the exact gene(s) involved to know that there is a large genetic component (see twin studies, just for one line of evidence).
Gary FAlcon non answers with:
Beam me up? Well he doesn’t really know anything.
Well, augustine, if you’re such an expert at genetics, why haven’t you given us a complete map of the human genome? Why are you lecturing us on a subject you clearly know nothing about? Are you really that arrogant?
Hmmmm….let’s see – dozens of studies that show no link between vaccines & autism. On-going studies that show promise regarding a genetic link to autism (autism running in families, twins & autism, etc) sounds like something that deserves more research (and is getting it).
Again, you paint everything in black and white, when no one here has ever done so (well, unless you count the failed vaccine-autism hypothesis). A lot more research is needed to find a definitive cause – and given that autism isn’t a singular ailment, but an entire spectrum, the answer will probably be complicated.
And, at the end of the day, since you haven’t detailed your own views, at all, relating to anything other than your own sense of self-inflated ego & claims of intelligence (and hey – what is your educational background again?) you can continue to spout off your nonsense all day long – and no one is going to care.
Let’s face it, all augustine’s given us is childish outright dismissal. I’d hate to have him for an employer:
Employee: “You want me to log readings from before when the program was installed? That’s not possible without time travel?”
Augustine: “Blah blah blah, time travel, excuses! All you have to do is change a couple of line of code, right?”
I’ll use very small words so Augie might get it.
If the way autism shows up in families follows the pattern expected of a largely genetic condition (as it does) then that is strong evidence that it is largely genetic. The fact that if a twin has autism, their twin is more likely to have autism if they are identical than if they are fraternal is one such fact.
You look for the specific genes after you know that it’s genetic. You don’t demand that the genes be known before you say it’s genetic. That would mean that nothing can ever be genetic since you can’t look until you know what to look for.
So, are you still too clueless to get THAT?
Poverty runs in families. Do you think it’s genetic?
You just said it was genetic. Where’s the gene?
Or Are you saying that it might, possibly, someday be found out with lot’s of funding that a gene may be possibly involved, somehow?
Your scientific sounding answer isn’t so scientific.
I think anybody with two neurons to rub together can see that Augie the Troll doesn’t have any answer, so he just makes stuff up.
The fact is that poverty doesn’t “run in families” the way that autism does. Anyone who feels that it does is invited to submit the evidence that when a twin is impoverished, an identical twin is more likely to also be impoverished than a fraternal twin is.
Well rub you two together because you seem to be left with your mouth gaped open.
Can you help your friends out here with your genetic hypothesis? What are the genes? How many autistics have them? how many nonautistics have them? etc,
Read again. You’ll notice that your response had not a whit to do with anything I said.
I will now demand that you tell me the exact wages for every member of the Praetorian Guard before I will believe they existed.
How many genes does one person have, auggie? How long did it take to map the human genome?
Denice – eye color isn’t a great example of monogenetics, because there are at least six genes involved in eye color. Cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell disease are better examples.
How is anything proven to be genetic, at this point in genetic studies? Oh, twin studies, statistics and forensic anthropology.
Mother have breast cancer? Well we can’t find the specific gene, so you’re good, don’t bother getting tested more often.
Adopted twins both have autism? Can’t be genetic, must be due to poverty.
Damn, augie, you really are just a lame troll, aren’t you?
Boring troll – when studies have revealed the answer (either way), then we’ll know. Unlike you, we wait for the evidence before coming to a definitive conclusion. At this point, we can say that there are promising signs that there is a genetic component involved – but it will take time to determine exactly how it relates (if at all – because the answer may still lie elsewhere).
Examining the evidence for clues as to where to look is a basic principle of science – when you see a bit of smoke, you investigate further to see if you also find fire.
In the case of vaccines & autism, the hypothesis was proposed that there was a link – so investigations were done, and at this point, no evidence has been found to show a direct causation between the two factors.
Now we are looking at a possible genetic component – again, there is circumstantial evidence, so we look & see what we find. So, we let the researchers do their thing & if gene or gene markers are identified, we go from there.
So, tell us again why research is bad? I mean, you might be egotistical enough to say that we already should know everything that is to be known, right?
Er, The American Journal of Human Genetics is available (full articles too) at:
Archives of American Journal of Human Genetics
(Just one of many articles in the Journal that you may find of interest)…available in the November 12, 2010 issue of the Journal:
“Deletion 17Q12 Is A Recurrent Copy Number Variant That Confers High Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia”
A quick scan of just the past two year monthly issues available on the web, reveals that many research teams have identified many of the other genes associated with autism.
It’s assumed that people who have basic science backgrounds and understanding of genetics will be able to differentiate between genetic impact and socio-economic influences.
Like biased county nurses? Does the retired local LPN think that autism is caused by a gene(s)?
Does the local county nurse think that autism is just an aberration of dx?
To quote an SBM cliche. “Association does not equal causation.”
This is a weak tantrum even by your standards, Augustine.
Wow, no surprises it ignores presented facts and responds with ad hominem attacks.
True colors are true.
Would you accept that schizophrenia, another neurological disorder that remains incompletely articulated as being primarily genetic in nature? Or, are environmental factors driving the disorder in otherwise normal individuals?
Ugh troll, I am a retired public health nurse, still licensed as a registered nurse, not an LPN. I attended a 4 year university and graduated with a BS-Nursing degree.
Where did YOU go to school?
Are you gainfully employed?
I am biased toward science-based genetics…and certainly not an expert on genetics, although I have some very personal experience with genetic counseling, having undergone genetic counseling after my son was born.
Genetics was in its infancy in 1976, but my son’s karyotype (chromosomes) were normal. I provided and continue to provide financial support to the geneticists who are involved in researching this very rare syndrome. The researchers determined that the syndrome is caused by new gene mutations and and that the syndrome is expressed through an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance.
I don’t think there is any genetic research being funded for the transmission of Internet Troll Syndrome.
No. Schizophrenia is not a genetically determined disease.
Facts? What facts?Nothing substantive or comes close to settling a conclusion. I can give you a bunch of facts. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Augustine, beamup pointed out that “The fact that if a twin has autism, their twin is more likely to have autism if they are identical than if they are fraternal is one such fact.” That strongly suggests that autism has a strong genetic component, in the same way that a human body found shot from behind at three hundred yards strongly suggests the cause of death was not suicide.
Boring troll just resorted to the tried & true, “LALALALA I can’t hear you,” routine.
Gray, You are accepting a conclusion. You should read the science and make your own conclusion.
Who did the study? Why was the study done. Did the authors have any coi? How big was the study? How was it conducted. What was the question of the study and what assumptions does it make before the conduction of the study? What was the inclusion criteria? What was the exclusion criteria? Are there any refuting studies or evidence that refutes the claims. Have you examined them? Is there merit in them? Why not?
What specifically does “more likely mean”. I’m afraid these are baited words that you are too willing to accept because of your prejudices.
I can tell you, from the post he’s made, that beam up is no scientist.
Then ask beamup for his references. Not that you’re in a better position, your argument is equivalent to insisting, in my previous example, that since you can’t yet tell whether the death was a murder or an accident, perhaps the body might still be alive.
Well, augie’s last post shows that he/she/it can learn. Very good job parroting what you’ve heard before augie. Now, do you actually understand any of it?
Gray, You are accepting a conclusion.
Do your neighbors complain about your repeatedly shouting things like this from the bathroom, Augustine?
From the Archives of Pediatric Medicine, October 2009:
Characteristics and Concordance of Autism Spectrum Disorders Among 277 Twin Pairs.
“I am biased toward science-based genetics….”
the study Lilady cited:
That’s very impressive, in a study of 277 twin pairs, and very strongly suggests a genetic component in ASD. I can’t find any studies that refute these findings.
To put it in simpler language, in 86% of identical twins, if one twin was autistic, both were. In 31% of non-identical twins, if one twin was autistic, both were.
There’s a good review of genetics and autism here which concludes:
Krebiozen beat me to it. It’s easy to find the references on Pubmed, and I’d have happily provided some to Augie had he asked.
I didn’t originally because it’s really a side point; my main focus was pointing out how utterly nonsensical the fool’s rationale for rejecting a genetic basis was.
@94 augustine: “No. Schizophrenia is not a genetically determined disease.”
@97 augustine hypocritically criticizes Gray Falcon for lack of a citation, which lilady then provides because, unlike augustine, Gray Falcon and lilady actually use evidence.
@ LW – the lit I’ve been watching for a while now not only has schizophrenia and autism as having a basis in genetics but also can involve the *same loci*. ( recent examples discussed by Y.Dvir and J.A.Frazier, Autism and Schizophrenia. Psychiatric Times, 3/15/11
It is so easy to locate studies of twins…merely using the word “concordance”. If ugh troll wasn’t so busy trashing each and every comment that is posted here, troll might learn something…and might add something to the discussion.
Krebiozen has found and cited the granddaddy of articles at PubMed Central which detail the many gene deletions, gene variants, spontaneous autosomal genetic disorders and chromosomal syndromes associated with ASDs.
(hint) I am not a specialist in genetics, but most of the children diagnosed with genetic disorders that result in intellectual impairment also display some autistic-like (ritualistic, self-stimulatory and self-injurious) tendencies.
I still don’t see any published troll syndrome studies (ugh variant).
“I am biased toward science-based genetics….”
lilady & Krebiozen:
Wow! That’s a pretty impressive correlation. ASDs and other learning disorders run in my family (on both maternal and paternal sides) so I have a strong interest in this sort of thing.
Denice — interesting that some commonalities are being found in the genetic differences seen in schizophrenics and autistics.
Under what definition of “terrorist” was the ANC a terrorist organisation?
Was the Continental Congress also a terrorist organisation under that definition of “terrorist?”