The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005

14 Dec

That’s the title of a new blog post by Seth Mnookin, author of “The Panic Virus“. The title is spot on (and could be the the title of a book in its own right): The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005.

Seth Mnookin took a look at unscientific thinking that can lead to dangerous results. Not surprisingly, he found that the anti-vaccine movement and the autism-vaccine discussion in particular made an excellent core for his book. In his first blog piece related to Panic Virus, Mr. Mnookin takes a look at how the Huffington Post reported a recent study on mitochondrial dysfunction and autism. The Huffington Post piece, authored by Mark Hyman, made claims well beyond those supported by the paper itself.

A brief quote by Mr. Mnookin:

If you’re confused as to why The Huffington Post would run Hyman’s piece — well, I have my theories, but suffice it to say that the site arguably features more scientific quackery than any other mainstream media outlet.

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6 Responses to “The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005”

  1. AutismNewsBeat December 14, 2010 at 20:01 #

    If you’re confused as to why The Huffington Post would run Hyman’s piece — well, I have my theories, but suffice it to say that the site arguably features more scientific quackery than any other mainstream media outlet.

    HuffPo is an entertainment business poorly disguised as a news outlet. Its primary mission is to generate page hits. Accuracy is an afterthought.

  2. Sullivan December 14, 2010 at 21:26 #

    AutismNewsBeat,

    I have to admit, if it weren’t for the autism stories they run (95%+ really bad), I wouldn’t even know the Huffington Post exists.

    Then again, I had never heard of Jenny McCarthy before she decided to spend a few years with autism as a focus to her career.

  3. Julian Lieb,M.D December 23, 2010 at 18:04 #

    1. Access Pubmed, and enter “antidepressants” and “autism.”
    2. Enter “Prostaglandins” and “autism.”
    3. Enter “Antidepressants” and “prostaglandins.”
    4. Ask Huffington for the name and credentials of its medical editor.

  4. AutismNewsBeat December 23, 2010 at 19:59 #

    Here is HuffPo’s policy, regarding medical reporting, as emailed to me by an HP editor:

    Medical/health related posts have a strict policy on HuffPost – that is to say any posts that offer medical/health information or advice are only published if authored by a licensed medical professional and the post has gone through medical review with our Medical Editor, Dr. Dean Ornish. Any other pieces written by individuals without a medical license must be treated journalistically with statements sourced, etc.

    I was asked to “tone down” several sentences, including this one:

    “The real tragedy, according to this crowd, is that too many children are protected against too many diseases. Fortunately, we have a talented songwriter to whip the masses into a frenzy.”

    http://tinyurl.com/28dgzp6

    In HuffPoland, noting that vaccines prevent disease is “offering medical information.”

    The editor also warned me that ad hominem attacks are not allowed anywhere at HuffPo. Really. She actually called my house to tell me that. When I asked which part of the article was ad hominem, the editor said my piece was “quite close to approaching an ad hominem attack.”

  5. Julian Lieb,M.D December 23, 2010 at 20:36 #

    Dev Med Child Neurol. 2002 Oct;44(10):652-9.

    Fluoxetine response in children with autistic spectrum disorders: correlation with familial major affective disorder and intellectual achievement.
    DeLong GR, Ritch CR, Burch S.

    Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. Delon006@mc.duke.edu

    Comment in:

    Dev Med Child Neurol. 2003 May;45(5):359; author reply 360.

    Abstract
    One hundred and twenty-nine children, 2 to 8 years old, with idiopathic autistic spectrum disorder diagnosed by standard instruments (Childhood Austim Ratings Scale and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) were treated with fluoxetine (0.15 to 0.5mg/kg) for 5 to 76 months (mean 32 to 36 months), with discontinuation trials. Response criteria are described. Family histories were obtained using the family history method in repeated interviews. Fluoxetine response, family history of major affective disorder, and unusual intellectual achievement, pretreatment language, and hyperlexia were used to define a coherent subgroup of autistic spectrum disorder. Statistical analyses were post hoc. Of the children, 22 (17%) had an excellent response, 67 (52%) good, and 40 (31%) fair/poor. Treatment age did not correlate with response. Fluoxetine response correlated robustly with familial major affective disorder and unusual intellectual achievement, and with hyperlexia in the child. Family history of bipolar disorder and of unusual intellectual achievement correlated strongly. Five children developed bipolar disorder during follow-up. Fluoxetine response, family history of major affective disorder (especially bipolar), unusual achievement, and hyperlexia in the children appear to define a homogeneous autistic subgroup. Bipolar disorder, unusual intellectual achievement, and autistic spectrum disorders cluster strongly in families and may share genetic determinants.

    PMID: 12418789 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
    —————————————————————–
    Fluoxetine speaks only for fluoxetine, and not for the others. Thus fluoxetine failures may well have responded to sertraline, mirtazapine or others. The molecular basis concerns prostaglandins, and their ihibition by antidepressants.

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  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005 « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com - December 14, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Alltop Autism. Alltop Autism said: The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005 http://bit.ly/haKwzG [...]

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