Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The New McCarthyism

Just read the article at the above link. Not sure which ticks me off more, the fact that Jenny McCarthy is still putting this nonsense out there or that any news organization would actually listen to what she has to say.

For those of you who don't know, Jenny McCarthy is one of the leaders of the anti-vaccination movement. These people believe that vaccines cause autism. It doesn't matter that every study (except for one done by a researcher who was trying to push his own vaccines and was later shown to have falsified data) has shown that there's no connection between vaccines and autism. It doesn't matter that Thimerosal, a preservative that used to be in vaccines, which the anti-vaccination crowd claimed to be the culprit was removed and not only did rates of autism not go down, they went up ! The facts are of no concern to them. They'd rather listen to a woman who has no medical or scientific training, a "D list" actress most famous for posing naked, a woman who calls herself an "indigo mom" and says her son is a "crystal child."

Why would people listen to this woman instead of doctors and scientists ? There's a number of reasons :

1) The media

Their part in this is two-fold. First, of course, is the fact that they follow the mantra "There's two sides to every story." Well, no, there isn't. Sometimes people are just plain wrong. If someone wanted to present a theory that the Statue of Liberty was given to us by giant green aliens and is a depiction of their queen, should this person get "equal time" ? Sometimes one person has their facts right and the other person doesn't, it's just that simple. Second, they constantly run stories about how "scientists say" eating a certain food will give you cancer and then two months later run a story that "scientists now say" eating that food may prevent cancer. What happens is that they hear about a story published in a journal that shows a possible causal link between the food and cancer , but instead of pointing out that this is just one study and that it's not something on which all scientists necessarily agree, they just tell you that "scientists say" and leave it at that.

2) Science education in this country

It sucks. That's really all there is to it. There is almost no effort to teach people how science works or what the Scientific Method is. If you were to throw out the term "double-blind randomized trial" in a conservation, most people would probably just give you a blank stare.

3) Anti-science mentality

This is the "scientists don't know everything" school of thought. It's true. Scientists don't know everything and they will tell you so themselves, but just because scientists don't know everything doesn't mean they don't know ANYTHING. But people make that leap all the time (partly thanks to the media and what passes for science education in this country). Somehow, all these people who have spent their lives studying Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, etc., suddenly know less then one woman claiming to know better then all of them because she has a child with autism.

Here's the thing, though. Some of these researchers have kids with autism too, so her child having autism doesn't make her any more of an expert then them. And there's a reason for research, a reason we don't just listen to someone who THINKS they know something. If you were about to have open heart surgery, would you want a trained surgeon with years of experience doing it or someone who has no training, but has seen every episode of "ER" ? Would you stick your hand into a rattlesnake den because someone had told you they do it all the time and they've never been bitten ? There's a reason certain people are called experts. There's a reason why you should give more weight to what's being said by someone with specialized knowledge and training versus someone who doesn't.

Finally, there has been no connection shown between vaccines and autism, but it HAS been shown that children who don't get vaccinated can get sick and that it can be fatal. Measles, diptheria, and whooping cough are among the potentially fatal diseases that are easily preventable with vaccines. Thanks to people like Jenny McCarthy urging people not to vaccinate their kids, these diseases are making a comeback in certain areas where large numbers of people have followed her advice. The blood of every child that dies because of the nonsense she's spreading is on her hands and , if there's a hell, I hope she burns in it.

For those who are interested, I've included three links below.

This one is a site that keeps track of all the preventable illnesses and deaths that have occurred since Jenny McCarthy started her anti-vaccination campaign.

This one is a magazine article that does a really good job of explaining the so-called "controversy".

Finally, this last one is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about it.


  1. I've never been one to buy in to her take on Autism and Vaccines. But I have read a bit of Dr. Sears books and articles on having a delayed vaccination schedule and in some cases agree that it's not a bad idea to space the vaccines out a bit. Some of them are quite painful and kids do get a reaction or fever afterward, but when they are combined with other shots it makes me nervous because I don't know which shot is causing the reaction. I especially am concerned that people are very dismissive of "standard" shots since my boys were the 1 in 100,000 allergic to the Synagis shot that helps prevent the likelihood of preemies and kids with lower immune systems get RSV. The reactions the boys had were dismissed by several medical professionals, but it wasn't until we as parents pushed for action by reporting it to the CDC vaccination reactions tracking website that we got the Synagis company involved and they were the ones that said the boys were allergic and not to give it to them anymore. It's very strange how people chose to listen to some things and make a production out of them, but not figure out their information sources properly.

  2. I totally agree with you on this. I can understand wanting to space vaccines out. And some children are allergic and that is a valid concern. My problem is advocating not getting kids vaccinated at all, especially when the reasons for doing so have no factual basis.