Attempts at intimidation

3 Aug

I was interviewed for and quoted in the latest edition of Nature Medicine (oops caught by Ms Clark). The piece in question was an uneasy look at the continuing and escalating violent overtones emanating from the mercury militia – parents who believe against all evidence that their kids autism was caused by vaccines.

The piece started with a look at the experiences Paul Offit faces now and then:

….as Paul Offit, a vaccine expert who served on the committee, tried to make his way through the crowd, one of the protestors screamed at him through a megaphone: “The devil–it’s the devil!” One protester held a sign that read “TERRORIST” with a photo of Offit’s face. Just before Offit reached the door, a man dressed in a prison uniform grabbed Offit’s jacket. “It was harrowing,” Offit recalls.

and….

He has since received hundreds of malicious and threatening emails, letters and phone calls accusing him of poisoning children and “selling out” to pharmaceutical companies. One phone caller listed the names of Offit’s two young children and the name of their school. One email contained a death threat–“I will hang you by your neck until you’re dead”–that Offit reported to federal investigators.

Offit’s crime? He’s performed science that doesn’t support the vaccine/autism hypothesis and spoke out about it.

His experiences mirror those of scientist Paul Shattuck who also published science that didn’t support the vaccine hypothesis. After a highly inaccurate smear campaign from the National Autism Association, Shattuck also received threats:

One person said, “Don’t be surprised if you get a knock on your door in the middle of the night and I’ll be there.” Another message said it was easy in the age of the Internet to find out where people live.

Arthur Allen and Professor Roy Grinker have also been on the receiving end of threats of violence:

these people need to be horse whipped…

I’ve also been on the receiving end of various nastiness. From the cowardly actions of John Best who once compared my autistic daughter to a monkey after I related how well she was doing and his follow ups:

….My wife bought too many bananas so I’ll send some for your daughter …..

…Perhaps you can teach your daughter to swing from tree to tree…

we can see how little the mercury militia actually value children. John followed this up by joining the AWARES conference under the username ‘megan leitch’ and posting more cowardly material. John’s regulars at his blog thought this hilarious. John’s blog regulars are anonymous members of the Evidence of Harm Yahoo Group. People who say they care about autistic kids and the discrimination they face.

Recently, this blog was blessed with a series of short lived visits from Ray Gallup, the co-founder of the Vaccine Autoimmune Project. He started off with a series of sneery comments – par for the course and easily deflected. However, he then decided to start posting under the names of others, including fellow antivaxxer Alan Rees and the afore mentioned Dr Paul Offit. It was easy to spot it was him because the IP address was exactly the same.

Shortly after this I was forwarded an email from someone who had followed the Gallup idiocy (he’s banned now by the way) and had mailed him to ask what he was up to – here is the first reply:

Dear ****:

I heard through the grapevine that the Kevin Leitch crowd and his fellow swine assholes where accusing me and Alan Rees of putting things on their website/blog. These people are a bunch of scumbags and I wouldn’t waste my time with dumb fucken people.

Thanks.

Ray Gallup

Except you _did_ Ray. So why lie about it?

Anyway, that was just the starter. The main course that followed showed yet again, the full extent of the bitter hate and violent tendencies of the mercury militia:

Dear ****:

Since you seem to follow what is going on with the Leitch list let me know if Leitch, Deer and the others get hit with a fast moving truck or bus that leaves their carcasses mangled and bloodly on the street.

I will be devotely praying night and day that something like this happens to them and their followers. Especially since these creeps say such hurtful things to parents. They deserve all the best in something terrible happening to every last one of them and I will pray daily.

I usually pray for good things for families that suffer but in their case I will make a big exception.

Ray Gallup

Jim Laidler was also interviewed for the Nature piece. His words are worrying but I cannot deny their veracity:

This stuff is frighteningly violent,” Laidler says. “With the Omnibus trial looking like [the Cedillos] are going to go down in flames, I would be appalled, but not surprised, to hear that some act of violence was carried out.

Its certainly gearing up for that. It was only recently that Brad Handley of Generation Rescue said to me:

If we were on a rugby pitch, Kev, I’d put my boot in your eye and twist…

These are a set of people winding themselves up like a bunch of toddlers ready to have a major tantrum. But they aren’t toddlers. These are, amazingly, adults. I challenge them to find a single incidence of any Autism Hub blogger threatening violence towards antivaccers/autism believers.

Elsewhere
Orac.
Kristina.

64 Responses to “Attempts at intimidation”

  1. Jeanette August 3, 2007 at 22:22 #

    Kevin,
    The Mercury Militia you speak of are nothing short of propagandist….they rely on scaring others into their beliefs.
    Any “sane” person would not follow these organizations, but then again, we are talking about Sanity.
    I too had the lovely picture of the monkey on a blog entry about myself. Right then, I knew what I was dealing with.
    If you read the various autism message forums, you soon realize that being rational is not part of the protocol for being biomedical or anti-vax….
    More amazing to myself is the fact that every time they show proof of a child being “cured” or “recovered”..what you see is an older autistic child. Shame the child had to go through so many procedures just to grow up.

  2. Steve D August 3, 2007 at 22:29 #

    Kev –
    This is truly bizarre and scary stuff. I often wondered why there were a preponderance of anonymous bloggers who spoke about the science of autism. This goes a long ways toward explaining it. People who accurately and convincingly present scientific findings that run counter to the mercury militia would be the prime targets. Folks like Not Mercury, Bart Cubbins, Prometheus, Dad of Cameron. If I were a ‘science guy’, I may protect my identity too. Heck, the worst that happens to me is the occasional verbal barb from Harold Doherty.
    Anyhow, I am of the belief that this stuff will never go away. If there is not enough evidence now for these people to change their views, when will there be? It has gone beyond a hypothesis and developed into an entire belief system that permeates people’s views of government, the medical profession, the media, research grant originators, parents of special needs children, adults with special needs, teachers, neighbors, babysitters, you name it. It is astonishing.
    Well, I guess I’ll go now. I have to make it home in time to meet the alarm installer, then I’ll get a few hours training in with the Dobermans before I head off to the shooting range to practice my aim. Wait, actually I have to pick up my Black Belt from the cleaners first.

  3. Joseph August 3, 2007 at 23:10 #

    It’s pretty scary stuff. Take care of yourself, Kev. Same recommendation to everyone else, especially those who don’t blog anonymously.

    Maybe after the trial, and after the merc millitia has had its tantrum, things will start to change for the better.

  4. Broken Link August 4, 2007 at 00:03 #

    Joseph wrote: “It’s pretty scary stuff. Take care of yourself, Kev. Same recommendation to everyone else, especially those who don’t blog anonymously.
    Maybe after the trial, and after the merc millitia has had its tantrum, things will start to change for the better.”

    I don’t think so. The mercury militia tantrum is likely to be vicious and lasting. I just hope no one gets hurt. I, personally, have experienced the wrath of those who have been questioned. And it is not pretty. And it has been going on for many years now. I used to believe that we were in the midst of an extinction burst but I don’t think so now. The problem is that these people are very wound up by the belief that they can cure their children by extraordinary means. They won’t give up that belief, and they will attach all those who contest them. I only see this behavior increasing. The internet has pushed those parents with “recovered” children into a spotlight, and all other parents secretly wish for that outcome for their own children. The only possible positive outcome is to encourage the diagnosing physician to give an updated prognosis to these depressed parents. Realistic but hopeful.

  5. mcewen August 4, 2007 at 00:03 #

    Maybe people are freed from their inhibitions by blogging and write things that they would never be able to say to your face? Perhaps it’s a variation of road rage?
    Whatever may be the cause and whoever may be responsible, I hope that predictions are wrong, that reasonable people will come together to help all our children have a brighter future and that after the trial, calm will be restored.
    Best wishes

  6. kristina August 4, 2007 at 00:41 #

    While the threats and intimidation leveled at Prof Offit and many others are verbal and (being on the internet) virtual, the “intimidators” use language that is violent, savage, intended to hurt, and beyond righteous indignation—–and that is often simply violence, pure and simple.

    Being regularly subjected to road rage (and by semis that brook no patience with my aging stationwagon), even if there is no intent to harm, “accidents” can happen.

  7. Do'C August 4, 2007 at 02:03 #

    I’ve received a lot of e-mail from what I would consider die-hard “Thimerosal did it” believers, a few from those in the “MMR did it” camp, and couple from those faithful to the hypothesis “there’s so many vaccines in the schedule, they must have caused an ‘epidemic’ of autism”. I’ve even had e-mail from a couple of DAN! dokterz.

    By and large, I have encountered very polite, civil, and peaceable people, in my opinion. To be sure, there seems to be a small minority who seem to go beyond the simply unreasonable, irrational, or illogical, but I think the rank and file membership of the “mercury militia” is smaller than it may appear online. It’s probably full of defectors who’ll leave the ranks of that fringe movement and simply take care of, love, and advocate for their kids when they realize the handful of their emperors aren’t wearing any clothes.

  8. Jeanette August 4, 2007 at 03:16 #

    Do’C wrote: By and large, I have encountered very polite, civil, and peaceable people, in my opinion. To be sure, there seems to be a small minority who seem to go beyond the simply unreasonable, irrational, or illogical, but I think the rank and file membership of the “mercury militia” is smaller than it may appear online. It’s probably full of defectors who’ll leave the ranks of that fringe movement and simply take care of, love, and advocate for their kids when they realize the handful of their emperors aren’t wearing any clothes.

    In a perfect world Do’C…in a Perfect world…..

  9. anonimouse August 4, 2007 at 03:29 #

    Do’C:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. Most of the supposedly “civil” mercury loons really aren’t. They’re just better at hiding it in polite company.

  10. Do'C August 4, 2007 at 03:33 #

    “I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. Most of the supposedly “civil” mercury loons really aren’t. They’re just better at hiding it in polite company.”

    That could be anonimouse. What do you think about the idea that they are mostly just loons?

  11. isles August 4, 2007 at 04:50 #

    It seems to me that the die-hard believers feel as though society has turned its back on them by allowing their kids to be harmed by vaccines and never acknowledging it or offering recompense, so they no longer feel any duty to follow the normal rules of society, like “don’t make death threats” or “don’t stalk and harass people” or “leave people’s families alone.”

    I do find it worrisome. When they lose the autism omnibus case, as I assume they will, it only takes one of them to decide extreme means are necessary to bring public attention back to their cause.

  12. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) August 4, 2007 at 04:57 #

    Jeanette: “I too had the lovely picture of the monkey on a blog entry about myself. Right then, I knew what I was dealing with.”

    Same here. Nice of John Best Jr to post a pic of himself doing what he does best, isn’t it?

    They’re all people too unintelligent to realise when they are wrong. Certainly no civility in them.

    Joseph: “Maybe after the trial, and after the merc millitia has had its tantrum, things will start to change for the better.”

    Doubt it. They can’t think rationally enough to handle what is coming. They’ll only get worse. This is not me daring them to prove me wrong (I wish they would… but I doubt their abilities to figure out how to!); this is me being honest about what I think they will be like.

    mcewen: “Perhaps it’s a variation of road rage?”

    Not really. They’ve been like this for too long for it to have much similarity to road rage.

    Kevin: “These are, amazingly, adults.”

    You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure that their attitudes and behaviour warrant the description, to be honest.

  13. 666sigma August 4, 2007 at 12:35 #

    ” . . . parents who believe against all evidence that their kids autism was caused by vaccines.”

    I know this is off topic, but just where is all of this evidence? I would like to see one decent, statistically credible study. Until the medical community puts together a solid study, I don’t think the MM will stop.

    While there appear to be serious issues with the study recently done by GR, it does raise questions. I think it is time for the government to step up and do a real study. After all, it is they who require children to be vaccinated. They have a responsibility and they have shirked it.

    One credible study is all it would take for most people. The US and UK have a trillion dollars for Iraq, I’m sure one of them could scrounge up a few million for decent study on autism and vaccines.

    BTW, this is not just about autism. More-and-more children are going unvaccinated because of fears over the safety of vaccines. It is everyone’s interest to put this issue to rest.

  14. Kev August 4, 2007 at 13:02 #

    There are several good studies refuting the MMR hypothesis for example. Afzal for example and D’Souza are both good _clinical_ studies.

    However, the main evidence refuting the vaccine hypothesis is the lack of any credible science to support it.

  15. Joseph August 4, 2007 at 13:36 #

    And there’s epidemiology, from Japan at least, which is an ideal place given that the MMR was only used there from 1989 to 1993.

  16. Fred August 4, 2007 at 14:30 #

    Know a swine asshole? try sendahole.com.

  17. Suzanne August 4, 2007 at 15:26 #

    Kev, Kudos on doing the interview for Nature!

    Jeanette: “the fact that every time they show proof of a child being “cured” or “recovered”..what you see is an older autistic child. Shame the child had to go through so many procedures just to grow up.”
    exactly
    and anytime adult autistics describe torturous therapies they endured, the MM turn away, as if it has no relationship to what they are doing to their children.

  18. Tom August 4, 2007 at 17:34 #

    666Sigma says, “I would like to see one decent, statistically credible study. Until the medical community puts together a solid study, I don’t think the MM will stop.”

    The debate over vaccines has raged ever since the 17th century when Cotton Mather first inoculated Bostonians with sera from smallpox sores. It will continue long after you have gone to meet your evil maker. You might want to read Arthur Allen’s Vaccine to get a thorough history of this debate. It’s a great read.

    People and institutions make mistakes. I can certainly understand parents being concerned about thimerosal in the 90s. The onset of autism is well-timed for people to have feared there was an association with vaccines. The regulatory agencies and manufacturers should have realized the ramifications of additional vaccines.

    But for some time now, we have had overwhelming data from scores of “decent, statistically credible” studies that find no association. This issue has been settled to the satisfaction of the scientific community. No matter what scientific data is presented, the MM/anti-vaxers will persist. For them, it’s not a lack of data; it’s a matter of belief.

    So, what is it for you 666Sigma? Are you part of the MM and haven’t come out of the closet? You seem to constantly beg the question by claiming the science is not yet credible. Yet, the only people who claim the science is not credible are the true believers.

    Also, contrary to your claims, vaccination rates have actually INCREASED during the same time as the thimerosal/MMR controversy. In 2005, 82 percent of young children were fully immunized, an increase of 13 percentage points since 1994.

    You say you want a real study. What is this illusive real study? Why hasn’t GR, Safe Minds, NAA, etc. funded this study? The burden is on them. They clearly have the money. I would suggest they don’t have the guts because they cannot distance themselves from their own results.

    You claim the GR telephone survey raised questions. It actually found that vaccination protected against autism and that unvaccinated kids get autism at a rate much higher than peer-reviewed studies have found. That question seems to be, “Why are you risking the health of your child and increasing his/her risk of autism?”

  19. Matt August 4, 2007 at 17:52 #

    “One credible study is all it would take for most people.”

    Most people are already convinced. The mercury–>autism crowd is the minority by a long shot even for those who have autism in their families. For the general population, most people don’t even know there is an argument.

    Matt

  20. Ms. Clark August 4, 2007 at 18:43 #

    http://news.speeple.com/autismvox.com/2007/08/02/mercury-rising-in-nature-medicine.htm
    Looks like the whole article is here.

    Small correction, Kev. The article was in **Nature Medicine**. I was interviewed for the article, too, but didn’t get quoted. 🙂 I’m glad you were, Kev.

    Ray Gallup was listed by Wakefield as one of Wakefield’s three “superheroes”

  21. Regan August 4, 2007 at 21:02 #

    Matt said:
    ‘Most people are already convinced. The mercury—>autism crowd is the minority by a long shot even for those who have autism in their families. For the general population, most people don’t even know there is an argument.”

    Matt, quite honestly I would like to believe that. Do you have a source, or some background on this conclusion?

    My limited experience is that people may start out not knowing that there is an argument, and if they stay very busy…may not (I didn’t find out that there was a controversy until 3 years ago), but there is a lot of media coverage, and the several autism groups that I belong(ed) to kept the pressure up to accept the vaccines-cause-autism theory and to take on biomed to “heal the gut before any learning can take place”. It didn’t take with me, but informally and anecdotally via various statements made by members, 90% jumped on at one time or another and the rest were put in serious doubt or under suspicion if they didn’t. One of the organizations completely collapsed because of the controversy. Although it was a loud and abusive minority who were primarily responsible, a great many people started out quietly and built up into full appeal to emotion and ad hominem as the arguments heated up. I did not know how generalized this was, hence my interest in what is going on elsewhere with others. I am somewhat concerned and watching with interest what is happening with the merging and coalition of organizations of ARI and Center for the Study of Autism with the ASA and, now Easter Seals via the ASA. I don’t know how or whether that will change the mission and recommendations of those organizations.

    In re: the hate speech, because I consider the threats, lies and harassment to be in the realm of hate speech, it has always been the dark side of this whole thing egged on by the bandwagon effect. If it restricts to just talk, it is regrettable because of the nature of the discourse and may be a historical embarrassment. If it goes up a notch, like Jim Laidler alluded, I would also be appalled, but not be surprised. As isles noted, once there is permission to give in to lesser qualities, where might it end?

    I hope you are right but it seems like a case of an expensive and disturbing tail wagging the dog.

    All just my opinion.

  22. notmercury August 4, 2007 at 21:47 #

    Ms. Clark said: “Ray Gallup was listed by Wakefield as one of Wakefield’s three “superheroes”

    Ray Gallup gave money to Wakefield’s research and had his son scoped by Krigsman. Super. Hero.

  23. Ashleigh Anderson August 5, 2007 at 04:21 #

    Lenny’s reaction to the MERCURY RISING article
    “Some idiot freelance writer recently warned that mob groups of angry autism parents are waging violent actions against the establishment mercury apologists. . .making nasty phone calls, shouting mean words!
    She compared Moms Against Mercury to the Animal Liberation wackos — these are the folks who put spike nails in logging trees at great peril to loggers. This is pure yellow journalism in the Brian Deer mode.

    If there are hordes of angry parents ready to man the guillotines for the public health and pharma scoundrels responsible for the explosion of chronic diseases, I don’t see em. Maybe in addition to a Generation Rescue, we could use “Autism Avengers” or “Mercury Avengers” or “Herd Immunity Assassins”. Oh [bleep], there goes my blood pressure, not to mention tripping Homeland Security filters. Gotta go, someone’s knocking on my door. . .

    Lenny”

    Lenny’s heart is in the right place. But isn’t it Earth First that does teh spiking of the trees? I don’t quite get what Animal Liberation Rescue Generation would be doing trying to stop loggers. I thought they usually went after vivisectionists. Lenny, try not to get this upset over the fact that your friend Dr. Kenneth Stoller the HBOT expirt is one big time animal rights activist.

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:4xtR9QXU4y0J:www.abolitionist-online.com/interview-issue05_aids.ebola.sars.kp-stoller.shtml+kenneth+stoller+animal+rights&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=safari

    “Abolitionist: As an animal liberationist you were Science Editor, of the Animals’ Voice Magazine which was published in the late 1980’s. And you were the doctor who tried to have Dr. Leonard Baley indicted on murder charges for putting a baboon heart into an infant. That’s a stroke of genius. Can you tell us how that came about please?

    KP Stoller: I think the important point is less about my muse and more why the authorities never stepped up to the plate, because as a society every time we let someone get away with murder, the fundamental underlying issues never get resolved. Baley, now long gone from Loma Linda, was considered a local hero, and the courts in Redlands were star-struck (as it was explained to me). The assistant District Attorney told me that they did not want to cost taxpayers the expense of putting on a case they could not get a conviction on. Baley would have his witnesses and the County would have their witnesses and the Judge would say this doesn’t belong in a court of law and was over his head, and the case would be thrown out.

    I have to say there may have been a great deal of truth to that excuse, but it was an excuse. I am a little sad that I never learned of any other bio-ethicist step up to the plate and put pressure on Loma Linda the way I did. Nevertheless…they never did another transplant.”

  24. Matt August 5, 2007 at 04:52 #

    Regan,

    I recent study surveying a number of autism parents showed that only 10% have chelated, and of those, about 1/2 had stopped. About 1/3 have tried the GFCF diet, and, if I recall, about 1/2 had quit. I don’t think that all of the GFCF crowd is also vaccine injury. My experience is that people either take parts of it, or the start it and then quit, or, in some cases, keep trying things until they get to chelation.

    Outside of people with autism in their families, I usually get blank stares if I mention the vaccine–>autism supposed connection. I have no hard data on how many may buy into it, except that vaccination rates are still fairly high.

    Matt

  25. Joel Sax August 5, 2007 at 05:24 #

    You’d think that cold scientific inquiry would be enough to resolve this issue….so many people live for outcomes to conform to their expectations….my sympathies.

  26. 666sigma August 5, 2007 at 07:18 #

    Kev, I believe that you are correct when you say “the main evidence refuting the vaccine hypothesis is the lack of any credible science to support it.” However, there is no credible evidence that exonerates vaccines as a cause. Given the government’s and medical community’s stance on vaccinations, it is time for them to step up to the plate and do a real study. One thing the MM has done is get their story to the press.

    Tom, you are obviously the other side of Mercury Militia coin. Go back and read your rant. The GR study did not find that vaccinations protected against autism. The problem with their study, as well as the studies the government, CDC, IOM and others, is that they have relied on data that is not credible. GIGO. The studies are basically worthless other than to draw attention. If you feel otherwise, please post a link to a decent study for me to read.

    Bones, I disagree with your comments about the MM. I think the vast majority are caring parents who truly believe that their children were damaged by vaccines – whether it is true or not. As with every crowd, there are some who have other motivations – money, power, influence, ego, etc.

    I am a little surprised, however, that no onr has been willing to point to a study which shows that vaccines have not contributed to autism. It’s pretty simple to do. Here’s a group of unvacvinated children and here’s another group of vaccinated children. Follow their development for the next 5-8 years and see what happens.

  27. Kev August 5, 2007 at 07:27 #

    _”Kev, I believe that you are correct when you say “the main evidence refuting the vaccine hypothesis is the lack of any credible science to support it.” However, there is no credible evidence that exonerates vaccines as a cause. Given the government’s and medical community’s stance on vaccinations, it is time for them to step up to the plate and do a real study. One thing the MM has done is get their story to the press.”_

    I totally disagree. If someone believes in something then its up to them to prove it. What you are suggesting is negative proof.

    To me, there is no credible evidence that whistling ‘Moon River’ whilst fixing a leaky tap has been exonerated as a cause of autism. Its time for you to step up to the plate and do a real study.

    We need to get real here. Its been ten years since the autism/vaccine hypothesis first gained traction. During that time neither the ‘official’ epidemiology (Japan etc), nor the unofficial epidemiology (CDDS/VAERS), nor the clinical science supports any causative relationship. At some point we have to say – time to move on. Lets start altering the distribution of research monies to where they will actually help, rather than what they currently are which is serving as a panacea to hurting parents being huckstered by quacks.

  28. Tom August 5, 2007 at 12:01 #

    666Sigma,

    So your position is that all of the studies published over the last decade or more are GIGO?

    All of the vaccine, epi, toxicology experts who sat on the IOM panel are unaware of the terrible flaws in these studies and so they have arrived at the mistaken conclusion that the data supports the rejection of thimerosal as a cause of autism. The Institute for Vaccine Safety and Neal Halsey somehow lack the expertise to understand the issue. Steve Goodman, an internationally known epidemiologist doesn’t understand his field.

    There are three possible scenarios that underpin your position.

    You are part of MM and can’t admit it.

    You lack a scientific background to understand the issue.

    You know better than all the leading experts that have examined this issue.

    Which is it?

  29. notmercury August 5, 2007 at 14:36 #

    (d) All of the above.

  30. bones August 5, 2007 at 14:57 #

    “Bones, I disagree with your comments about the MM. I think the vast majority are caring parents who truly believe that their children were damaged by vaccines – whether it is true or not. As with every crowd, there are some who have other motivations – money, power, influence, ego, etc.”

    666Sigma, you need to read. I said:

    I do not believe that the dozen or so self-absorbed juvenile ego-centric ignoramuses who control the dialouge on EoH nor their egomaniacal “experts” (Geiers, Haley, Wakefield, Bradstreet, et al.) are a true representation of all parents who suspect (and I stress, “suspect”) vaccines caused their child’s autism.

    …and…

    The MM of ilk referenced above [666Sigma, that would be the dozen or so self-absorbed juvenile ego-centric ignoramuses who control the dialouge on EoH nor their egomaniacal “experts” (Geiers, Haley, Wakefield, Bradstreet, et al.)] are merely attention seeking bullies who attempt to persuade and influence parents of autistic children in order to gain recogniton, money, a moment in the spotlight, or all of the aforementioned.

    Lastly, your comparing the GR study…errr…uhh..telephone poll to Verstaeten, Hviid, and Fombonne studies?? That’s like comparing apples to sand.

  31. Joseph August 5, 2007 at 15:48 #

    It’s interesting that 666sigma gives weight to GR’s phone poll, but when it comes to peer-reviewed studies, he says they are not credible or not good enough. Is he one of those guys who pretends to be in the fence but really isn’t?

    The results of GR’s phone poll were so underwhelming, so irrelevant to autism, and the rates it found so ridiculously high (probably because the introduction to the questionnaire warned respondents that it was a survey about vaccination and health outcomes), that spending another $200,000 (or whatever it was) on a follow-up would be a humongous waste of resources.

    (Kev – I posted message with lots of links to studies and it’s probably stuck in the spam queue – thanks).

  32. 666sigma August 5, 2007 at 16:12 #

    Tom, the problem is that I have the statistical background to know garbage when I see it, So, why don’t you just admit that you have never even bothered to look at any of these studies to see if they were worth a sh*t? You are the other side of MM coin. Your mind is made up so you don’t require any proof.

    Joseph, I have given zero weight to GR study. The high rates of autism prove that their sample was skewed – GIGO. It is not a credible study, but in terms of trying to compare vaccinated with unvaccinated children, I would say they are on the right track. Show me a better study. All I ask is one. Surely, the IOM and CDC relied on at least one decent, credible study.

  33. 666sigma August 5, 2007 at 16:32 #

    “I totally disagree. If someone believes in something then its up to them to prove it. What you are suggesting is negative proof.”

    That’s right. The CDC and IOM want to vaccinate every child so let them prove that it is safe.

    The negative proof argument is another one of the myths of the autism hub. Who ever came up with this one needs a lesson in statistics. If vaccines are not a cause, it would be very easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The real issue is getting credible samples to compare between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. It is that simple.

  34. bones August 5, 2007 at 16:55 #

    “The CDC and IOM want to vaccinate every child so let them prove that it is safe.”

    Define “safe”.

  35. bones August 5, 2007 at 16:56 #

    “If vaccines are not a cause, it would be very easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. ”

    Exactly. It has been.

  36. bones August 5, 2007 at 16:59 #

    “…the problem is that I have the statistical background to know garbage when I see it,…”

    Apparently not.

  37. Joseph August 5, 2007 at 17:12 #

    The real issue is getting credible samples to compare between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. It is that simple.

    No, it’s not that simple. How do you avoid selection bias? You would have to randomize the groups, and this is simply unfeasible.

    The kind of survey GR conducted does not avoid selection bias, and if you were to improve that survey (e.g. by removing the introduction that warns respondents about it being a questionnaire on vaccination and health outcomes) you might not make the required numbers for statistical significance. There would be too few respondents with autistic kids, and much less respondents with unvaccinated autistic kids. You might have to spend a million bucks instead of $200,000 on a survey that is still prone to obvious confounds, such as parental avoidance of healthcare in general.

    That’s why the best kind of studies available are those that look at kids not vaccinated with thimerosal, or not vaccinated with MMR. Really, do you think every ingredient should be looked at before ruling out a connection? What is the compelling reason to suspect vaccines in the first place as opposed to a dozen other random things? Did you know that most parents attribute regression to factors other than vaccination, such as the birth of a sibling? Why are you not clamoring for a study on that?

  38. Kev August 5, 2007 at 19:00 #

    _”That’s right. The CDC and IOM want to vaccinate every child so let them prove that it is safe.”_

    Safe? 100% safe? Of course it isn’t. This isn’t an issue of safety. This is a really simple issue: do vaccines cause autism? Despite failed epidemiology, failed clinical science and failed legal proceedings, some people believe it does – so let _them_ fund a study to establish that.

    _”The negative proof argument is another one of the myths of the autism hub.”_

    I appreciate the compliment but this fallacy has been around much longer than the Hub.

    _”If vaccines are not a cause, it would be very easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”_

    Exactly – it has been.

    _”The real issue is getting credible samples to compare between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. It is that simple.”_

    lol….what you mean is that nothing has been done to satisfy _you_ .To the vast majority of people the fact that no epidemiology or clinical science supports the vaccine hypothesis settled the matter awhile ago.

    _”the problem is that I have the statistical background to know garbage when I see it,”_

    The problem seems to me that you, as a statistician (apparently) you see proof solely in those terms.

  39. Tom August 5, 2007 at 19:46 #

    666Sigma,

    It’s not a matter of whether I have examined these studies (which I have). It is a matter of whether the scientific community as a whole has examined them and finds them worthy. They were credible enough for the IOM panel to reject the thimerosal hypothesis. If these studies were so lacking, the IOM panel and the greater scientific community would have stated that data was lacking and further study was required. They didn’t.

    666Sigma, in previous comments you have alleged, “the IOM has released a Clintonesque statement designed to intentionally mislead Americans about the safety of vaccines.” This little gem underscores how little you understand about the IOM.

    IOM panelists are independent researchers who are asked to volunteer their expertise when questions of science arise. These people are among the best and the brightest. They have a deep commitment to science and public health. Their decisions are not made lightly. Their reputations rest on these decisions.

    Your position on this thread is that you know better than all the experts. You previously stated that vaccine rates are dropping when in fact they have increased over this same period. You allege ridiculous conspiracy theories. Your credibility is not real strong.

  40. Matt August 6, 2007 at 02:49 #

    Here is a statement from the IOM’s “executive summary” in the 2004 report:

    Thus, based on this body of evidence, the committee concludes that
    the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal containing vaccines and autism.

    Bold is theirs. They didn’t bold a whole lot in that report. Claiming a “Clintonesque” statement is in there somewhere is pretty much spin from where I sit.

    One of the other bolded statements was this:

    Insofar as monitoring of ASD occurs, one area of complementary
    research that the committee continues to recommend is surveillance
    of ASD as exposure to thimerosal declines.

    Guess what has happened in this arena? Thimerosal went down and the numbers of people gettng services with ASD’s appear keep going up.

    Of course, I don’t expect pro-mercury-theory folks to read the bolded statements…since they include this:

    Because chelation therapy has potentially serious risks, the committee recommends that it be used only in carefully controlled research settings with appropriate oversight by Institutional Review Boards protecting the interests of the children who participate.

    Note that IRB’s are supposed to protect the interests of the children, not the researchers…but that is another thread entireley.

    Matt

  41. 666sigma August 6, 2007 at 12:15 #

    Tom, IOM’s original statement about vaccines and autism was written in a way that only a statistician would understand what it meant. It was designed to intentionally mislead the public. It was no different than “sexual realtions.” Clinton did not lie, but he knew people would misinterpret his staterment,

    My professional background makes me very qualified to read these studies because it is what I get paid a considerable amount of money to do for a living. As a sophomore in college, I was required to take graduate level statistics courses so, yes, I think I am more qualified than the average Joe. The only study that I read that was crafted to try to discern the answer was Verstaeten, but it’s problem are well document (including the lack of statistical credibility).

    All I have asked for was one study. This blog is made up of people who largely believe that the scientific community has put this issue to rest so where is that study?

    BTW, what the heck is the “scientific” community? How do you become a member? My profession contains the word “science” so I guess that makes me part of the community. I find it amazing that a psychologist would be qualified to do epidemiological studies

  42. Sic sigma August 7, 2007 at 00:02 #

    666 Sigma, I think you are over-estimating your greatness. It’s so hard to believe you have a professional background in anything but denial and thick-headedness. You’ve never demonstrated an understanding of statistics at all in what I’ve seen you write. You’ve never demonstrated any understanding of autism, either. If you had the slightest understanding of statisitcs you’d see that there’s no evidence for a real increase in autism, so no reason to implicate anything that changed in the environment. If you had any clue about the rapid activities of antivacciners you’d know how the idea of vaccines causing autism came about.

    Seems that you made up your mind that the mercury/vaccine hypothesis has merit and nothing is going to budge you from that. Or, maybe you’re just trolling here.

  43. bones August 7, 2007 at 01:40 #

    666Sigma asked: “…so where is that study?”

    Interesting, I was about to ask you that very same question re one that demonstrates a causal relationship between thimerosal containing vaccines (or the MMR if you wish) and autism.

  44. 666sigma August 7, 2007 at 10:32 #

    Sic – you flatter me with your frustration and ineptitude. I have not written anything that you claim I have. I have privately written to someone who has posted messages on this board and stated that I don’t think thimerosal is involved in autism. I don’t beleive that I have ever made any statements about MMR.

    I think the VAST majority of the so called increase in the rates of autism is due to a MUCH broader definition, greater awareness and better diagnosis. I also believe that there has been an actual rise, but without consistent definitions and application over a period of time it will be impossible to prove. I don’t personally believe that the spectrum is one disorder. It maybe 100 or more. Considering Asperger’s the same as autism is like entering the Special Olympics because you’re missing the ring finger on your left hand.

    I have QUESTIONED whether vaccines (not mercury or MMR) play a role in autism (not the increase). Big difference. I don’t know the answer, but it sure as hell looks to me like the government and medical profession do not want to find out. That, in and of itself, makes me suspicious.

    It is very easy to point to the kooks and discredit them, which is what has been done. If you fall for the b*llsh*t, I think that would qualify you as part of the Pharma Militia – that’s the other side of the Mercury Militia coin.

    NOW, WHERE’S THAT STUDY?

  45. bones August 7, 2007 at 13:06 #

    I was about to list about a 1/2 dozen or so, but then I had a better idea (Idobn’t want to do your home work for you).

    666Sigma, why don’t you list all the articles you have read on this subject, the particular problems with each, and then I’ll let you know if your infinite wisdom has missed anything.

    That way I won’t be telling you something that you already know. What do ya say?

  46. Joseph August 7, 2007 at 16:04 #

    I also believe that there has been an actual rise, but without consistent definitions and application over a period of time it will be impossible to prove.

    In other words, you believe that based on hunch and speculation.

  47. Tom August 7, 2007 at 17:05 #

    666Sigma,

    Despite your educational background in statistics, your insistence that a vax vs. unvax study is the last word in finding an association with autism is naïve in the extreme and lacks any real understanding of how science is conducted and managed.

    There isn’t any compelling data to support a link with vaccines. If there is a link, it’s very uncommon. As the IOM stated, “Unsubstantiated concerns about vaccines must be weighed against the broader benefit of vaccination.” Even if there is a small subset at-risk, vaccination is not going to stop nor should it.

    Let’s forget for the moment about whether such a study is warranted. The true goal of this work would be to identify the biological mechanism that places this proposed subset at-risk. In this way, one can theoretically screen this population from vaccination.

    Now, let’s also forget for the moment how totally unlikely it is that vaccination programs will include universal genotyping to find the few needles in the haystack. What is the best way of reaching this goal? It certainly isn’t going on a wild goose chase.

    It is much more fruitful to continue doing genome wide association studies to understand the genetics of autism. Find the genes and proteomic studies will give you clues as to mechanisms and possible environmental triggers. It is much more fruitful to continue conducting epi. studies such as CHARGE and CADDRE to look for risk factors. It is much more fruitful to continue conducting exposure biology studies under the NIH Genes and Environment program to look at environmental risks.

    In this way, you are considering the whole of autism and not spending inordinate amounts of money to chase down one highly speculative rat hole for what at best is a very small risk factor. This is how science is conducted; it is the correct and reasonable way to sort through the unknown.

    There are many other reasons that the vax. vs. unvax study won’t answer the question you demand answered. Read Prometheus’s “Let’s Do a Study.” Also, the only time that autism is known to develop is in the pre-natal period. There’s not yet any evidence that post-natal exposure is a possible risk factor.

    Government funding of highly speculative, expensive and terminal research at the behest of a scientifically ignorant but vocal minority is questionable. Funding is precious and agencies do not go off half-cocked to conduct costly studies without any preliminary data or even a biologically plausible hypothesis. If vaccination rates tanked, then maybe for the sake of public confidence, governmental organizations would be forced into such a study. But vaccine rates have increased.

  48. Prometheus August 7, 2007 at 21:55 #

    There is a study nearing completion that looks into the thimerosal issue – it’s part of the vaccine safety datalink (VSD) project

    http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/iso/research_activties/vsd_studies.htm#tns

    A summary of the study:

    Thimerosal Neurodevelopmental Study:

    VSD researchers are currently collaborating on a retrospective cohort study that will provide the additional data needed to assess the relationship between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders. As part of this important VSD study, researchers will administer a neuropsychological test to a cohort of children aged 7-10 years whose vaccinations n the first year of life could have contained thimerosal. Outcomes will include speech and language skills, fine motor coordination, motor tics, academic and intellectual functioning, and ADHD symptomology. Results will be stratified by level of thimerosal exposure. In addition to comparing the neuropsychological performance of children exposed to different quantities of thimerosal from vaccines administered during the first year of life, this study will also investigate the possible relationship between the amount of thimerosal received in different trial study arms and subsequent neurodevelopmental disorders.
    Data collection and analysis are completed for this study. A draft manuscript is being prepared for publication.

    Since this is all publicly available information (I found it in ten seconds with Google), I wonder why all the hue and cry for “a study”.

    Now, if someone wants to look at the broader topic of vaccines and autism, I’ve made an offer to either broker a study or run it myself if any of the autism advocacy groups would care to provide funding. I’ve contacted the folks at the CDC Research Data Center and they’ve outlined how to access the VSD database (and the cost).

    So, if you want the study done, let me know and I’ll get you together with a researcher who’s willing (and able) to do the work. It should cost somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

    Prometheus

  49. Matt August 8, 2007 at 00:02 #

    Is it the same as this study?

    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/acip/downloads/mtg-slides-feb07/07-izsafety-3-davis.pdf

    They were supposed to finish their data collection last month.

    Matt

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