The Observer – Liars

11 Jul

A story in the Times reveals the full extent of the utterly vacuous weekend report published by The Observer:

One of the two team members reported as resurrecting the discredited theory that MMR causes autism is Dr Carol Stott, a developmental psychologist who once worked at ARC. Baron-Cohen says she left ARC some time ago. She is now listed as a member of staff at Thoughtful House, a research centre in developmental disorders in Texas. Thoughtful House is run by Dr Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist who first raised the possibility of a MMR-autism link in 1998. The other figure named as having revived the MMR-autism link was Dr Fiona Scott, who still works at ARC as an honorary research associate and runs training courses on how to diagnose autism. Scott has issued a statement denying that she privately believes in any link between MMR and autism.

Baron-Cohen says the news story is alarmist and wrong. He does not believe that MMR has anything to do with autism. “We are gobsmacked, really, at how this draft report has got out,” Baron-Cohen says. “It was only in the hands of the authors – about half a dozen people. There are three professors listed, including me, and none of us was contacted. It was also seen by two PhD students for whom I have the utmost respect because they are very careful scientists.

Be gob-smacked no more SBC. I’m betting it was Carol Stott, scaremongering on behalf of her employer Andrew Wakefield.

The draft report was leaked a week ahead of their GMC appearance. Baron-Cohen puts it like this: “We think it [the report] has been used. They’ve picked out the one figure that looks most alarmist.” Cambridge University is now trying to hunt down the source of the leak.

So, what are the facts on autism? Does the one-in-58 figure hold up? Baron-Cohen says their study of Cambridgeshire children, which has been running for five years, comes out with a range of figures from one in 58, to one in 200, depending on various factors. The draft report, he says, “is as accurate as jottings in a notebook”. He adds that the data is with public health officials, who are crunching the numbers.

About as accurate as jottings in a notebook. A phrase that could equally apply to the whole Observer piece.

And as I and others discussed at the weekend, the methodology utilised to reach the figures:

….does not provide a diagnosis and is known to result in a high number of false positives. Around half the children flagged up by CAST as possibly having autism turn out not to.

Simon Baron-Cohen closes with:

Research is sometimes slow but it is better to go slowly and get it right. Now things have been taken out of our hands and it’s very dismaying.

It certainly is.

Lets make no mistake about this. This was a calculated attempt by Andrew Wakefield’s supporters to utterly falsely bring the validity of MMR into question again just ahead of his GMC hearing. The figure of 1 in 58 has no basis in accuracy and is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot. The Observer contacted none of the three professors on the team and it seems that at least one of the people quoted as privately believing their is a link between autism and the MMR actually doesn’t and has issued a denial to that effect.

This leaves us with Carol Stott. A woman who is obviously about as familiar with truth, reliability and common decency as a frog is familiar with the works of Daphne du Maurier.

The Observer, in my opinion, got suckered by this woman who seems determined to do everything she can – including deliberately placing children in harms way by scaremongering false associations between MMR and autism – to save her bosses neck at the GMC.

19 Responses to “The Observer – Liars”

  1. Ms. Clark July 12, 2007 at 01:35 #

    It seems to me that the Observer article was much less accurate that the jottings in a notebook. It sure looks like some serious duplicity on the part of the article’s author who never called up SBC to check with him to see if he had been concerned about these numbers. The jottings in a notebook may just be ideas, unproven, but what went into the Observer looks like flat-out lies from several people.

    I hope there’s some serious grovelling planned by the Observer.

  2. Kermit the Frog July 12, 2007 at 03:00 #

    Ummmmm… Who’s Daphne de Maurier?

  3. mcewen July 12, 2007 at 03:41 #

    Gobsmacked! Now there’s a word I’ve not heard in a long while, it’s so apt that I’m sure it will translate well into all languages.

  4. Justthisguy July 12, 2007 at 05:11 #

    Daphne DuMaurier was the wife of Boy Browning, a General in the British Army. She persuaded him that British Airborne troops should wear red berets, because that would look cool. So they did, and those fellows have worn them ever since.

    I think she also wrote some books, or something.

  5. dyslexic_angeleno July 12, 2007 at 05:25 #


  6. frogs would sooner think of daphne July 12, 2007 at 08:03 #


    SBC was backstabbed by Stott of Thoughtlesshouse.

  7. bones July 12, 2007 at 15:00 #

    Speaking of liars…anybody check out Kirby’s latest putrid rant re the California DDS numbers for the 2nd quarter of 2007??

    This fool is attempting to calculate rates from a database while completely ignoring, and failing to inform his readers, its limitations re interpretations of data.

    Why doesn’t he explain to his readers that the following factors should be considered when interpreting the data (direct from CA DDS website):

    1. Increases in the number of persons reported from one quarter to the next do not necessarily represent persons who are new to the DDS system.

    2. Differences in the numbers from quarter to quarter reflect the net changes between individuals who are newly reported…and individuals who dropped out.

    3. Newly reported may include:
    • Individuals newly entering the system who have a CDER
    • Individuals already active in the system who have a CDER in the current quarter but did not have a CDER in the prior quarter
    • Individuals already in the system who have a CDER and active status1 in the
    current quarter whose status was closed2 or inactive3 in the prior quarter
    • Individuals who had changes made to their CDER in the current quarter that
    resulted in them being reported under new categories

    4. Dropped out may include:
    • Individuals who were included in the prior quarter but are not included in the
    current quarter due to a change in status (e.g., from active status to inactive
    or closed status)
    • Individuals who had changes made to their CDER in the current quarter that
    resulted in them no longer being reported under certain categories

    5. Individuals using DDS Quarterly Client Characteristics Report data for any type of trend analysis should be informed about the causes of increased CDER population numbers first reflected in the report for the quarter ending September 2002. Over 4,000 CDER records were added to the CDER database in July 2002 due to a revision in the information system transmission program and a change in DDS policy to include the records of CDERs not updated within the required three years of last report date.

    I can hear him and Geier on the phone laughing:
    DK: Dude! Guess what?! I calculated rates from CA DDS. Can you believe that?!?

    MD: Pshhhh…that ain’t nuthin’, man. Listen, Kirbs, when you can calculate incidence from VAERS, then talk to me.

    DK: Incidence from VAERS?!? Wow, now that takes some Cajones.

    MG: Ya think? Try doing it with a straight face…eh..hang on a minute Kirbs-babe…D-David!! David, god-@#$!, how many times do I have to tell you pee-pee goes IN the toilet??? …gotta run Kirbs.

  8. anonimouse July 14, 2007 at 03:55 #

    Of course, Kirby made sure posts were closed when people started figuring out his entire rant was stupid and made no sense. If thimerosal played any kind of significant role in autism incidence, the decline should have been swift and dramatic – not nominal.

  9. bones July 14, 2007 at 19:12 #

    “Of course, Kirby made sure posts were closed when people started figuring out his entire rant was stupid and made no sense.”

    Actually, HuffPost themselves closed the posts because Kirby “outed” Dr. Roy Grinker. Apparently, Dr. Grinker posted a rebuttal using a pseudonym, Kirby (ie, his ego) took offense, and informed everyone on EoH that Dr. Grinker was hiding behind an alias.

    Good news, however, was the powers that be at HuffPost scolded Kirby, and he, in turn, posted a formal apology on EoH.

    Quite amusing, actually.

  10. dyslexic_angeleno July 14, 2007 at 21:40 #

    Not a surprise on Kirby’s part knowing that one of his first journo jobs was for OutWeek.

    _OutWeek is probably best remembered for sparking the “outing” controversy._

  11. Kev July 14, 2007 at 22:05 #

    So I see. Seems old habits die hard. Unfortunately this time there was a set-in-stone Privacy policy violated. Tut-tut.

  12. Jon July 15, 2007 at 17:26 #

    btw, this is the Observer’s effort at an apology –,,2126649,00.html


  13. Chris July 18, 2007 at 11:26 #

    Dear Sir

    I was not sure whether your website says vaccines are good or vaccines are bad.
    Please clarify.
    Who are the writers of the website, this is not clear.

  14. Kev July 18, 2007 at 11:30 #

    Chris – I’m the writer/owner of the website. I think vaccines are by and large a good thing.

  15. Kev July 19, 2007 at 08:13 #


    There’s a lot of comments going straight to Akismet Hell (Akismet is a spam catcher). In order to prevent this and ensure your comments make it through please:

    1) No more than 2 links per comment
    2) Avoid swear words linked to sexual slang
    3) Avoid words that are associated with porn

    I’m not saying you need to be puritanical just that you need to avoid patterns that might be interpreted by a piece of software as spam.


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