Monday, January 10, 2011

UPDATE: Well educated otherwise normal parents in CT are STILL listening to Jenny McCarthy for medical advice. Absurd.

Today is  crimes against logic day, or so it has been for me. Here's one reason why:

 An article in the Chicago Tribune today claims that, Many Connecticut Parents Of Autistic Children Convinced Of Vaccination Connection.
Why? Because people like Jenny McCarthy ""have a lot of credibility with parents." 

Crime 1: Ad Hominem Fallacy
This is a belief system, pure and simple. It stems from a culture that is at present profoundly anti-expert. Parents in this article state that they believe that the recent claims of fraud in the Lancet study have suspect timing and therefore must be discarded. That's a logical error. It even has a name "attacking the motive" which is a subset of an entire class of logical fallacies called "ad hominem" attacking the person, (i.e. he may a creep, but that is neither necessary nor sufficient to say that he is wrong).   

Crime 2: Failure to take a position to it's logical conclusion
One of the mothers is apparently incapable of higher order thinking.  She claims that she has not had any of her children vaccinated. However, were she to engage in international travel, then she would consider vaccination. let me get this straight.  You live in a bubble in CT. Your children play with other children in this bubble. Since your children will not leave said bubble they will never be exposed to icky things like polio. What about your children's friends? We live in a highly mobile society with these cool big bird-like devices called airplanes. They go to places where icky things like polio live and bring things back to. So when your children's friends bring back something icky to your bubble, don't come crying to me.

It seems to me that this anti-expertism and conspiracy theory susceptibility are a function of a country where science is not taught well in even the "good" schools. The most destructive part of this entire mindset is that , "we all have a right to our opinion." Well, when my child, or any other for that matter is sickened as a result of your ill-conceived right to your opinion, it is no longer a right, but a menace.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best, "Your rights end where my nose begins." And my nose would prefer NOT to contract measles, thank you very much.


  1. I'm keeping a list of positive responses to the BMJ (Yes Wakefield is a fraud, and here are the implications...) and negative responses (Wakefield's research IS TOO valid and vaccines cause autism anyway) at A roundup of responses to the BJM & Wakefield's research was motivated by fraud.

    Some observations
    1. The positive responses come from a broad range of sites -- politically left and right; people who are skeptics/ people who have heretofore (to my knowledge) never commented on vaccines or autism before, and so on. The negative responses are from a predictable set of sites and people.
    2. The news coverage in the US has (perhaps inadvertently) perpetrated the idea that all parents of children with autism believe in the vaccine causation myth. It is a complete falsehood. Many parents of children with autism and adults with autism robustly reject the myth.
    3. Kev Leitch, whose daughter has intense autism, has a moving post on how Wakefield's actions have damaged everyone affected by autism

  2. Thanks for your comment. I actually think that there are more parents who believe the link between vaccines and autism than one would expect. I DO agree that all of this has caused valuable resources that could have been spent finding actual causes and cures for autism. My greatest fear is that children who are too young to be vaccinated and/or those with compromised immune systems who cannot be vaccinated will suffer a the hands of a myth.