"Nevertheless, it moves"*

"My, my, my. One wonders what Jenny McCarthy will make of this," thought I.

The medical journal which originally published the discredited research linking autism and MMR has now issued a full retraction of the paper.

The Lancet said it now accepted claims made by the researchers were "false".

It comes after Dr Andrew Wakefield, the lead researcher in the 1998 paper, was ruled last week to have broken research rules by the General Medical Council.

My opinion about vaccine refusal is something I have made plain, here and elsewhere. By creating an environment in which illnesses, once fleetingly rare, have a chance to reestablish themselves in the pediatric population, the health care Luddites within the anti-vaccine movement have made the world a less safe and healthy place. Not only have countless studies debunked any link between vaccines and autism, now the study that started the hysteria in the first place has been repudiated as junk by the journal that originally published it.

Of course, none of this will actually make any difference to the people who have clawed their way into continuing relevance because of their campaign of disinformation. Ms. McCarthy, pneumatic queen of them all, will doubtless continue to sell her books and peddle her particularly telegenic brand of snake oil, despite the crumbling of the cornerstone in the facade of her legitimacy. I'll get to that in a minute.

I came across the BBC article linked and quoted above by way of an article in Salon. Rahul Parikh, a fellow pediatrician, writes:

Rather than dig for details, many reporters rely on "balance" instead. My favorite comment about this comes from, of all people, Arianna Huffington. Sometimes, she says, there simply aren't two sides to a story. Evolution, for instance. Or global warming. And given the weight of scientific, legal and ethical evidence against anti-vaccinationists, you'd think Huffington would heed her own rhetoric. Yet there was her Web site, with stories turning Wakefield into a martyr and twisting innuendo into medical fact. And it's not just HuffPo -- CNN, in a report on Wakefield, added "balance" to its coverage by featuring Kim Stagliano, the co-founder of anti-vaccine group Age of Autism. [Ed: Ironically, I can think of at least one person who would dispute the one-sided nature of the global warming question.]

It is indeed somewhat perverse that Arianna Huffington would be holding forth on media probity. It was in Huffington Post that Jim Carrey's painfully dishonest anti-vaccine piece appeared, which is what led me to write my guest post for Ordinary Gentlemen in the first place. Madame Huffington is complicit in the ongoing promulgation of a lie, and a dangerous one.

But let's get back to Jenny McCarthy. How has her organization reacted to the news that one of their shining stars is more than a little bit tarnished? How do you think it reacted?

A statement from Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey
Los Angeles, February 5, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield is being discredited to prevent an historic study from being published that for the first time looks at vaccinated versus unvaccinated primates and compares health outcomes, with potentially devastating consequences for vaccine makers and public health officials.

It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers reporting on the retraction of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 by Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues.

The retraction from The Lancet was a response to a ruling from England's General Medical Council, a kangaroo court where public health officials in the pocket of vaccine makers served as judge and jury. Dr. Wakefield strenuously denies all the findings of the GMC and plans a vigorous appeal. [emphasis in original]

Friends, this is so painfully absurd that I almost pity these cretins. England's General Medical Council is the body that registers physicians in the United Kingdom, analogous to the various state boards of licensure in this country. It is no more a kangaroo court than, say, the American Bar Association. When faced with the incontrovertible fact of their champion doctor's fraudulence and venality, McCarthy and Carrey instead attack the legitimacy of the body that keeps quacks and frauds from practicing in Britain. The reanimated corpse of Louis Pasteur could rise from the grave to denounce their position, and they would stick up for rabies. Truly, they are beyond help.

However belatedly, I am glad Lancet has issued the retraction. Better late than never, I suppose, though the harm has already been done to an appalling degree. As for McCarthy, Carrey and the remainder of their ilk, one imagines they will release their vice-grip on their particular brand of insanity at roughly the same time that California slides into the Pacific.

* For those of you who want to know what the hell this means, it's a reference to a (probably apocryphal) story about Galileo. When forced by the Inquisition to recant his theory of a heliocentric solar system and an orbiting Earth, supposedly he muttered "Nevertheless, it moves" under his breath. It took the Catholic Church a mere 300+ years to admit its error.


  1. It is particularly unfortunate that Dr. Parikh uses the two examples he does. One, glowball warmening, as you mention, really does have serious credibility problems these days, and the other, while I'm convinced is correct in the large to medium scale picture, nevertheless AIUI has quite a few outstanding issues that we just do not have a handle on (e.g., punk-eek). A better choice would be flat-eartherism.

  2. In regard to the comment on Global Warming, I would suggest that you read the British press, and you will find, now that there is information available, that there are actually two credible sides to this story.

    Not that this justifies arguing against vaccination, rather that the two are not analogous.

  3. Dr. Bit tooth! So nice to see you here, although I can't say I'm at all surprised.

  4. hey gj, if you are so in love with greenhouse gases and their non-harmful effects, might I suggest you sit in your garage with the car running and the garage door closed. The only credibility problem is with you. (and anyone who refers to it lamely as glowball warmening already has a problem, do you really think that is funny or cute?) and only gj could screw up an innocuous thread like this with his misguided rants against scientific truth.

    Global warming is an incontrovertible fact, the polar ice caps are melting and islands in the pacific are disappearing under the waves, islands which have existed for all of mankinds recorded history. There is a difference between climate and weather, so just because there was snow in DC doesn't mean there isn't global warming. One need only look at sat. pictures from Nat. Geo. over the years to see it happening, but hey, why trust science since we have Palinsanity.

    Beyond this, why do you people want to help fund Al Qaeda? The more oil we use the more money finds its way into the jihadists hands. Have you people not noticed that a lot of oil is in Saudi Arabia, home to the Wahabbis?
    So lets see, we have National Security and pollution alone as two compelling reasons to develop alternative energy sources (even forgetting global warming), but hey, why worry about any of that, Jesus will come to save us.


  5. I really hope now that researchers move on to investigate a variety of ideas and figure out why in the hell autism, aside from increased diagnosis and reporting, is freaking skyrocketing. Environmental causes (such as pesticides and toxins in industrial processes)? Biological causes (maternal or paternal, hormonal or genetic, iatrogenic or spontaneously occurring)? Something. There simply *has* to be something, some combination of causes that makes this a horror that strikes about about the same age for most children and completely reverses developmental processes. That shite scares me, Dan, unlike any other childhood issue.
    Do you have a theory?

  6. Naptime, I have no particular expertise in developmental pediatrics, so any theory I would have would be purely speculative. I know that there are lots of areas of ongoing research. My guess is that the more profound cases are largely genetic, and the subtler cases are related to something environmental. But that's just a guess.

  7. charo, you are so mistaken, you aren't even wrong.

    NTW, what about assortative mating? It is genetic, it makes at least some sense, and researchers have found that fathers and grandfathers(!) of autistic children have statistical overrepresentation in engineering fields. According to Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge's autism centre, the mothers tend to display visual processing abilities typical of males rather than females. Surely it isn't all biology, but surely it isn't all environment either.

  8. wow, gj, what a great rebuttal of my points, you have shown how the photographic evidence is misleading by...no wait,you just had a smartass nonsensical remark. Well then, you at least explained to me why buying oil from Saudi Arabia and not developing alternative energy is both right and necessary, nope, you didn't do that either.

    As to Autism, diagnoses are being done better than before, previously many diagnoses were not of autism but of severe and profound mental disability, or other such things. I would like to see any evidence of it "skyrocketing"