Sloppy science – a perfect example of how the anti-vaccine crowd will listen to anything

11 Feb

Both Age of Autism and David Kirby have recently reported on a new review paper with Age of Autism describing it as ‘pretty interesting’ and David repeating a part of the abstract:

Documented causes of autism include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis following vaccination.

So, should we all in the skeptic camp be reaching for our humble pie and our knife and fork? Not exactly. Lets take a look at the contents of this paper. Lets start here:

The vaccine organism itself could be a culprit. For example, one hypothesis of the cause of autism is that the pertussis toxin in the DPT vaccine causes a separation of the G-alpha protein from retinoid receptors in genetically at-risk children (Farfel et al., 1999; Megson, 2000). The pertussis toxin creates a chronic autoimmune monocytic infiltration of the gut mucosa lamina propia and may disconnect the G-alpha protein pathways, leaving some G-alphamodulated pathways unopposed. In turn, the non-specific branch of the immune system is turned on and, without retinoid switching, cannot be down regulated.

Wow, blinded with the cool science yet? No, me neither. Go back to line one where it says ‘one hypothesis’. All that follows from that point is mere opinion. There’s no science to back it up.

Another organism of suspect is the live measles virus…

Yeah except its really not. The issues with the Wakefield hypothesis are so many and so thoroughly debunked, it really isn;t worth my time or yours going through them again and again.

There is evidence that Thimerosal (which is 49% ethyl mercury) is indeed harmful. Since the 1930s, Thimerosal has been extensively used as an antibacterial agent in vaccines (Geier et al., 2007). Thimerosal has been implicated as a cause of autism. Not only is every major symptom of autism documented in cases of mercury poisoning but also biological
abnormalities in autism are very similar to the side effects of mercury poisoning itself (Bernard et al., 2001)

Oh dear. Reliance on more thoroughly debunked rubbish in the form of well, anything by the Geier’s and the ridiculous Bernard ‘paper’. I’m happy to go through why these are rubbish but I think I’d be preaching to the converted.

The rest of the paper is a rogues gallery of debunked and fringe science. Helen Ratajczak cites the Geier’s numerous times, DeSoto and Hitlan, Nataf and Rossignol to name but a few. This isn’t a paper so much as an advert for the sort of poor science that was examined in the Autism Omnibus proceedings and roundly rejected by the Special Masters. For goodness sake, she even cites David Ayoub of the Black Helicopter infamy.

When it comes to this paper – handle with extreme caution. Its toxic rubbish.

252 Responses to “Sloppy science – a perfect example of how the anti-vaccine crowd will listen to anything”

  1. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. April 12, 2011 at 13:43 #

    Chris: “may I ask what your interest in Autism is?”

    My guess is that sniffer doesn’t have an interest in autism. And, given that said person has already posted without actually answering your question, I’m willing to assert that I’m right in this matter. And if you were being rhetorical with your question, on the basis that you yourself think that sniffer has no interest in autism, I’m asserting that you are also right.

  2. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. April 12, 2011 at 14:26 #


    This blog is about autism. This article is about sloppy science being used by the anti-vaccine lot to scare people into refusing vaccination – which will them weaken herd immunity to the diseases from which the vaccine helps to reduce the risks of infection and outbreak.

    Thalidomide is not a vaccine. It has no role in autism. In that sense, it is very much off-topic here.

    Thalidomide was administered initially as an anti-emetic and sedative during pregnancy; it had been found safe for use on the basis of rat testing and, indeed, was safe for use. In rats. But it turned out to be unsafe in humans. This was because of the fact that there are two stereo-isomers of the molecule, neither of which was problematic to the rats, but one of which <i<is problematic to humans. The ‘safe’ isomer is, however, susceptible to mutation into the unsafe one inside the human body.

    The limb malformations associated with thalidomide are known as phocomelia, and it is known that there is a genetic component to phocomelia. I’m reminded of McD’s question to you, which you still have not answered!

    Hey sniffer,
    1)What is the base rate of limb deformities in the population?
    2)What is the rate of limb deformities among the children of thalidomide victims?
    (Hint: the photos in either case look pretty similar! Photos, like anecdotes, have nothing to do with causation)

    Still not answering that? Evidently you have no sensible research skills.

    Do us all a favour, sniffer: fuck off out of here, and get a life, and – if you must blog on thalidomide issues (in and of itself, not a bad thing to blog about) – blog on your own blog!

  3. Chris April 12, 2011 at 16:36 #


    Chris: “may I ask what your interest in Autism is?”

    Actually, Sharon asked that question.

  4. Chris April 12, 2011 at 16:50 #


    1)What is the base rate of limb deformities in the population?

    A student speech therapist working with my younger son was born without one hand. Apparently it just happened, without any use of any drug. My son asked me why she only had one hand, and all I could think of was that it is very hard to make a baby. When all those parts are coming together, sometimes something can go wrong.

    I am convinced Sniffer did not want to discuss his pet interest. He came in here blazing, and when countered with evidence that his facts were lacking he went into defense mode. He is not open minded enough to actually learn anything, least of all what constitutes real evidence. I’m sorry but the “official” thalidomide UK website is just as valid as Age of Autism. It seems they are also zealots like many of the anti-vax crowd (like Ken above).

  5. Sniffer April 12, 2011 at 19:57 #

    Dear All,

    Daedelus has the whole world population in a sentence(excluding the regulars on here).
    “The anti-vax advocates don’t have any data, they don’t have any science, all they have are their feelings that somehow, someway vaccines are bad.”

    Sharon just now is interested in Autism .
    @sniffer, may I ask what your interest in Autism is?”

    Chris doesn’t know whether he’s Arfur or Marfur.
    “Sniffer, thalidomide is off topic”
    follows with
    “I am convinced Sniffer did not want to discuss his pet interest.”

    Make yer! mind up lad!!

    McD Wants a reply-ish.

    David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    Just wants me to F++K OFF(charmant)
    “Do us all a favour, sniffer: fuck off out of here, and get a life, and – if you must blog on thalidomide issues (in and of itself, not a bad thing to blog about) – blog on your own blog!”

    Dammed if do comment,dammed if don`t .I have no wish to be goaded ,or to annoy anyone on here.So I shall reply and then let you nice,charming people ,pick up where you left off with all the other bl-o-ge–r`s but, where are they? I am the only one on here for days??all been f+++ed off no doubt?(Davids lingo)

    Sorry I will leave you guys to have a chat and whether you want me to let me know..unitl then.



  6. Chris April 12, 2011 at 20:46 #

    Sniffer, you did not want to have a discussion. You wanted a soap box to stand on and shout to us all. You had no intention of learning nor in engaging in civil discourse, which is what is how a discussion is defined.

    Perhaps someday you will have an open mind to ideas beyond your narrow focus. Only then will you know and understand how to have a discussion.

  7. Dedj April 12, 2011 at 20:54 #

    “I stop posting concerning thalidomide and then the goading starts moderator you see this ?”

    “Dammed if do comment,dammed if don`t .”

    See, here’s the thing: you were expressly told thalidomide was off topic. Your response was to talk about thalidomide. You then went on to deny talking about thalidomide in your response.

    You then went on the slate and disparage this site and many of the commentators, which has been the only consistant behaviour to run throughout your posts. You then cried to the moderator and called foul when people were a bit nasty back.

    You either have an amazing lack of insight or you are behaving this way deliberatly. Either way, please get lost and stop wasting our time.

  8. Sniffer April 12, 2011 at 21:53 #

    Dear Chris,

    I could copy and paste your above remark to any one of your supporters, the self-proclaimed pro-dis-abled bloggers.

    The fact is that not a poster on this blog here has the stomach to look at the babies born with flippers(Thalidomiders use this term not me), have they? Just to close to the quick, really brings it home to you all the damage your “un-tested as safe” lethal drugs can do.

    Copied from David`s post before he blew it!!
    FWIW David,Thalidomide is also officially guilty of causing Peripheral neuropathy..isn`t Autism along those lines as well? Some asked from me..

    Hey sniffer,
    1)What is the base rate of limb deformities in the population?
    2)What is the rate of limb deformities among the children of thalidomide victims?
    (Hint: the photos in either case look pretty similar! Photos, like anecdotes, have nothing to do with causation)
    “The United States, Canada, and the UK have no mandatory reporting of most birth anomalies. As a result it is often impossible for researchers and clinicians to determine the incidence of a particular condition. The data provided by clinics and from various birth defect monitoring programs are not sufficient to specify the incidence of a given category of birth defects. By combining information from several sources, it has been possible to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the incidence of congenital limb deficiencies.”

    Its not all drugs,two for one Autism link on this one

    Over £1 million have been spent already on defense in a case brought against a UK council by families of kids born with webbed hands, or without fingers altogether, even though toxicology experts say that the rate of abnormality in Corby runs 10 times as high as the national average.

    Many more stories, that probably Chris will refer to as lies ..we just cant ask WHO Chris ,do they mention Corby??who?


  9. Dedj April 12, 2011 at 23:43 #

    The fact is that not a poster on this blog here has the stomach to look at the babies born with flippers(Thalidomiders use this term not me), have they? Just to close to the quick, really brings it home to you all the damage your “un-tested as safe” lethal drugs can do.”

    First up, no one has indicated that they are generally uninterested in thalidomide, just that you haven’t shown it has any relevance to the pre-existing discussion. I’m sure I’m not the only person with past or present associates (and/or clients) with limb deformities, and I’m sure I’m not the only person utterly unperturbed by Cerrie Burnell being on CBBC, or Alison Lapper getting a spot on a Trafalgar plinth.

    You are making claims about people that portray them in a bad light and are doing so without any evidence.

    Secondly, it was indicated to you that the FDA never actually approved thalidomide due to safety concerns, and that you had no effective knowledge of the fundamental key player in that chapter.

    This lack of knowledge indicates that you are only interested in this subject as far as it can be used as a weapon, and your screams of ‘look at the children!’ derive fron a desire to portray others negatively against yourself and thus is an attempt to gain validity through superior morality, all in order to support a pre-existing anti-mainstream bias.

    Third, none of us here deny that drugs can and do cause deleterious effects. This is precisely why we want stringent controls and oversight.

    You, however, appear to be stuck in the 1960’s, and you tripped up big time on that too.

    I have no idea where you think you’re going with the Corby link. I have yet to hear of any case of autism being linked to the clean-up, despite personally knowing a number of people with possibly linked limb deformities. Having lived there during the full duration of the excavation, I would be very interested in where you got the Corby-autism link from as your link does not mention it.

    You appear to be proving the sentiment in the opening post. You have thrown a rag-bag of items together in the desperate hope that something will stick.

  10. sharon April 13, 2011 at 00:01 #

    Sniffer say “Sharon just now is interested in Autism?” I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. I live with Autism day in and day out.
    I did ask what your interest in Autism is as I am genuinely curious. I am always interested in what motivates people. AS you probably know most people posting on this site either have an ASD or love and care about others living on the Spectrum. I wonder if that is your experience too? Not that you have to be either to comment here of course, just an interest in Autism is enough. So I am asking again what your interest in Autism is?

  11. McD April 13, 2011 at 00:45 #

    Sniffer, the Corby case has absolutely nothing to do with Autism or Thalidomide, or even vaccines. Although it does represent some progress in the area of environmental responsibility from a legal point of view – it adds absolutely nothing to the discussion. You are just dredging up drek, suspiciously like a chatbot.

    What I do find interesting about your link though is that the Corby case involves dioxins and heavy metals (e.g. cadmium, lead and chromium) causing limb defects. These are some of the usual suspects in developmental disorders and ASDs, which are conspicuous by their absence in the Corby case.
    Corby case in more detail on Wiki:

    And do you think this guy was a first or second generation thalidomide victim?

  12. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. April 14, 2011 at 00:38 #

    Chris & Sharon … I beg your collective pardons … was busy with a number of lovely things to do (sorting out references for a text for publication as a course manual for Finnish professionals).

  13. A Scientist April 22, 2011 at 17:56 #

    It takes only a quick cursory glance at this blog and its regular commenters to realise that this has no relevance to scientific discourse. Ad-hominem attacks prove nothing, regardless of who is making them about whom.

    This blog seems to be setting up a strawman semblance of the article in question, by implying that vaccinations are the only subject of the work, and even then seems to overlook most of the references in suggesting that there is only one to support that particular claim.

    Nevertheless, it would be far more productive to investigate all those causes that do have strong data behind them, rather than to waste what appears to have been many hours of various people’s lives childishly attacking proponents of the most controversial theory.

  14. Chris April 22, 2011 at 18:35 #

    A Scientist: Do you have a point?

    Though I do agree that Dr. Ratajczak cherry picked what data she was going to list, and ignored more recent research.

  15. daedalus2u April 22, 2011 at 22:48 #

    Yes; a scientist’s point is to do what he says (don’t use ad hominem arguments) not what he does (use ad hominem arguments). 😉


  1. Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News | Health Articles - October 5, 2011

    […] The rest of Dr. Ratajczak’s article is a hodge-podge of virtually every anti-vaccine hypothesis, speculation, idea, and brain fart there are mixed with the occasional–and I do mean occasional–grain of scientifically supportable hypotheses regarding autism. The vast majority of what is discussed, however, is pure vaccine pseudoscience. The scientifically unsupported idea that mercury in vaccines causes autism? It’s there. The work of the tag team of Geier père et fils, the same team who came up with the idea of chemical castration as a treatment of autism that “works” because according to them testosterone binds mercury, making it easier to chelate? Copiously cited. True, Ratajczak doesn’t specifically cite the Geiers’ unethical clinical trial testing Lupron as a treatment for “precocious puberty” and autism, but she does cite the “scientific” basis that the Geiers used to justify that trial, as well as a lot of the Geiers’ usual execrable studies linking mercury in vaccines with autism. Mitochondrial dysfunction, which has been co-opted by the anti-vaccine movement as an “explanation” for how vaccines supposedly cause autism? It’s there too. She even cites David Ayoub, who is known for thinking that black helicopters are watching him. In other words, her review is 95% pseudoscientific garbage, maybe 5% reasonable science. On second thought, I’m clearly being generous. […]

  2. Vaccinarea, encefalopatia si autismul | Nostrabrucanus - October 13, 2011

    […] Evident, scepticii sunt pe pozitie desi realitatea este ca stiinta si oamenii de stiinta au fost de nenumarate ori fata in fata cu evidentele si nu au fost in stare sa vada dincolo de limitarile paradigmei in care inoata. Este o chestie interesanta si cu paradigmele astea; iti impun nu numai solutiile dar si modul de a pune problemele. Orice persoana pune problema altfel decat “da voie paradigma” este automat eretic. Thomas Kuhn ( cel care a definit pe larg  distinctia paradigma si efectele sale inclusiv in lumea stiintifica) mentiona adesea cazul descoperirii planetei Uranus. Ei bine, Uranus fusese observat de cel putin 17 ori de diferiti astronomi; toate astea se intamplau in perioada 1690 – 1782. Credinta preponderenta era ca luminile de pe cer sunt stele, dar observatiile legate de ceea ce mai tarziu a fost numit planeta Uranus nu aveau sens daca era considerata stea. Apoi Sir Herschel a venit cu o noua perceptie – “steaua”este o planeta pe orbita! Si totul a devenit clar!  La fel a fost si A. Wegener si teoria lui “ridicola”cu deriva continentelor si provenienta dintr-un singur continent, la fel a fost si cu super-conductorii de temperaturi ridicate sau laserele, la fel se intampla acum cu perceptia legata de efectele adverse ale vaccinarilor dar si cu perceptia legata de influenta mintii individuale si colective asupra modelarii realitatii, chiar daca studiile arata ca aceasta influenta exista si este clara, dincolo de orice dubiu probabilistic si chiar daca in rapoartele guvernelor ( de exemplu SUA in timpul administratiei Reagan) este clara aceasta influenta si mai mult, este considerata un pericol – “recunoasterea generala a gradului de interconectare a mintilor ar putea avea implicatii imense sociale si politice pentru aceasta natiune si pentru intreaga lume”. ( vezi cartea “The roots of consciousness” J. Mishlove 1993). […]

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