4/29/2010

Being on the Wrong End of Science Must Really Suck

Age of Autism writers really didn't like the Frontline piece, if you hadn't noticed. I mean, they really hate it when reporters, journalists, people in general listen to their histrionics, take a dispassionate look at the epidemiological studies and follow the science.

You know,  this doesn't lend credibility: "A growing number of parents say that vaccines can cause autism and that more studies need to be done." So what?  They also believe homeopathy is real, the moon landing was fake, that aliens abduct people and probe them, that psychic hotlines are genuine, that 9/11 was a government conspiracy, that a tanning bed is safe (or, if they've been buying what Mercola says, that it's an ideal way to get Vitamin D), that Deepak Chopra is worth over 80 grand a speaking engagement. You getting my point? Sheer numbers of people saying something is real ought to be wholly inadequate for making reasonable people aware of how the brain works believe that proves anything other than how easily people can be made to believe anything at all.

Dachel, unwittingly, does state something, though, that I think we should cherrypick and run with as proof that even hardline AoAers admit the truth: "There’s no need for more research because multiple, large-scale studies from around the world have looked at the question and the answer is no."

They just don't like the truth. It ruins their comfortable narrative that explains the autism and gives them a bad guy to fight against.

Dachel pits her tens of thousands of parents against a few scientists: "Paul Offit, MD, Anthony Fauci, MD and Eric Fombonne, MD declared that regression following vaccinations is mere coincidence."

These scientists aren't declaring this out of nowhere. Remember the sentence just two paragraphs above where Dachel explicitly states that there's no more need for research? Unlike the parents who put together disparate events, declining to link the watching of television, the playing of video games, the happy meals, the bologna sandwich, the being read to, or any of the thousands of other events that occurred between birth and diagnosis to their child's autism (or frak, looking around at themselves, their traits, behaviors, etc), these scientists reviewed the existing literature, looked at the conclusions and followed the science. They did far more than declare it.

It's simply not reasonable for people to ignore the conclusions of scientists. It's not reasonable for people to resort to the threat of violence or violence itself when science disagrees with their belief system. Reasonable people, when it's pointed out with overwhelming science, pull their heads out their backsides, and decide that, geez, the mind, and memory are incredibly malleable, that our biases, heuristics, and need to self justify can all work to really kick us in the ass, and that the best way to avoid getting blindsided by these potential ass-kickers is to look to the science. It saves us from looking like complete dumbasses.

Dachel continues her piece: "I think a better name for the show would have been, 'The Anti-vaccine Movement: Misguided and Dangerous.'”  I'm so glad she agrees. It is. It is both misguided and dangerous. And it is based on an overwhelming ignorance of basic anatomy and physiology of the immune system. You don't get taken seriously by scientists and doctors not trying to cash in on you for a reason.

Age of Autism rarely gets anything right and it fosters a climate of hate and fear-mongering. It is not about finding the facts, getting to the truth, helping any one (well, other than themselves and their sponsors. Buy my MB12 pop please).

Dachel would like to deny this idea that there's crap on the internet (and especially, I am sure, the idea that AoA is part of the problem): "Maybe the answer is that despite the best efforts of health officials and their willing followers in the media, the public isn’t buying it.  Parents are scared.  Autistic children are everywhere in our schools and no one can reasonably explain where they’re all coming from."

Parents are scared because they read the garbage that AoA, TACA, GenRes, and all your followers put out. They're scared because they have woefully inadequate science educations, poor critical thinking skills, and are unaware of basic psychological principles that would help them avoid falling into the traps that the internet helps set. When any fool with internet access can write anything he likes and profit off it, and the masses aren't equipped to recognize woo when they see it, we've got a potent tool for the woo to spread and fear to grow.

I find it really interesting just how many times Dachel writes sentences (total sentences, I'm not cutting them like some would to make it say something else) that are straight out what the science shows: "Parents continue to hang on to the false belief that vaccines can harm children."

Yes, they do and you're helping them. Maybe AoA should stop doing that?

Oh, I see. It's because she really doesn't get it: "Where were the experts on our side?  Why did PBS make it seem that only parents are concerned about vaccine safety?  Did they make any effort to find any of the well-credentialed scientists and doctors who disagree with the main-stream medical community?"

Sears and Gordon are most emphatically not experts. They're doctors with a vested interest in promoting your perspective because they directly profit from promoting that perspective. They get their mug on tv and they sell books. They aren't scientists in addition to being doctors. Oh, and pulling Gordon's little blurb off his Huff page and not putting it in quotes, especially when you're the media editor, for goodness sake. And just because Gordon thinks he's "nationally renowned" doesn't mean he's all that, you know? I mean, look at Lanza's bio on himself over at Huff. So easy to puff one's bio up and it's completely meaningless.

Contrary to Dachel's contention that "these people have everything at stake in this debate," referring to the scientists and medical professionals, there is no reason to create a global conspiracy to hide the cause of autism. Stay off of whale.to and other conspiracy sites, and maybe you'll be able to think more rationally.

Dachel continues to conflate autism and vaccination schedules and insists "The real problem is, AUTISM ISN’T GOING AWAY." Okay, but that has nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to do with vaccinations. And all the histrionics and all the puffing and conflations in the world aren't going to make them.

And if you're really concerned with helping families and autistic individuals, you get your facts together, you calm yourself down, and you start looking at ways to help the folks here and now have better quality lives.

Age of Autism doesn't do that. No, they scream into their pillows because people don't buy into their disproven ideas on what's responsible for their children's autism.

Dachel doesn't get it. And neither do the other editors of AoA. And unfortunately, today, like every other day, will prove that their intent is to stir up people's emotions, let them post over the top comments, and draw more hits to their sponsors. They continue to prove that they have nothing to do with being a daily newspaper, unless they meant those tabloids you can buy at the checkout counters.

And proving my points, here's the second comment up over there: "The people responsible for funding and producing Vaccine Wars, as well as all of the people who appeared in it making excuses for the current vaccine program, are complicit in genocide." Really? Do you people even know how to define words? Really? I can't imagine why you are scorned or ridiculed.

3 comments:

Attila The Mom said...

Brilliant! Thanks so much for writing this!

Sullivan said...

Frontline has a link to AoA in their resources.

Frontline discusses AoA thusly:

"An online newsletter with articles and blogs marked by a strong anti-vaccine sentiment."

Frontline was a wake-up call for the AoA crowd. If there are outbreaks of diseases, future documentaries will not be so kind.

Jenny McCarthy can't point to her interviews where she claimed "It's not my fault".

The public won't buy it.

storkdok said...

Wow, that was so well stated, Kim! I'm going to go see where Frontline discusses AoA...