Friday, July 03, 2009

Autism and Vaccine Safety - Has the Scientific Method Been Abandoned?

There is currently a persistent and strenuous effort being made to end discussion of possible vaccine connections to autism spectrum disorders. Led by vaccine patent holder Dr. Paul Offit the mainstream media and Internet based forums alike have been regurgitating ad nauseum Offit's position that the science is done, the evidence is in, that it has been proven conclusively, forever and ever and ever and ever, that vaccines and vaccine ingredients do not and can not ever cause autism disorders in children. But is that how science actually works? Does the scientific method actually involve arriving at an absolute truth not to be challenged forever? Or is such a position more properly characterized as idol worship?

Those who ask questions about the golden calf, about vaccine programs, are denounced as heretics, irresponsible and selfish types that refuse to protect the herd, and their own children, by having their children immunized for everything recommended, this month, or the next, by public health authorities. If someone, somewhere, dies from some disease whether it be measles or swine flu, there will be someone will blame the death on parents concerned about the safety of injecting chemical and biological materials directly into their child's bloodstream on a frequent basis. But is demonizing those concerned about vaccine safety part of the scientific method? Is rejecting forever challenges to the theory that vaccines do not cause autism in any children the way the scientific method is supposed to proceed? has an article on the Scientific Method simple enough for this lowly parent to follow. It lists a number of steps which it describes as constituting the scientific method. One of the points highlighted in the article is the provisional nature of a scientific theory or law :

Provisional essentially means temporary, conditional or transitional:

provisional adjective 1. temporary, interim, transitional, stopgap, pro tem <<> Collins Essential Thesaurus 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2005, 2006 .

The scientific method recognizes that further evidence may refute a generally accepted theory. The scientific method encourages further evidence and challenge to accepted theories. Dr. Bernadine Healy, who has pointed out some of the limits of the existing epidemiological studies has also questioned the policy set out in the IOM 2004 report on vaccine safety, and pushed in the media by Dr. Paul Offit, of discouraging further research of possible vaccine autism connections as being contrary to the scientific method.

also emphasizes the importance to scientific investigation of control sets:

Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding and Dr. Duane Alexander have all called for comparison of autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. Those who oppose such research complain of costs and complexity. Some claim that the science is done, the evidence is in.

To this humble parent, and small town lawyer, it seems that the voices who have declared that the science is complete have in fact abandoned science when it comes to vaccine autism issues. Because of the important role played by vaccines in fighting diseases it is no longer acceptable to raise concerns about the chemical and biological agents which we inject, with increasing frequency, into the bloodstreams of our children. No one may ask whether autism, and other neurological disorders, may be triggered by these chemical and biological agents. No more research may be done on vaccine safety. The theory that vaccines do not contribute in any way to the onset of autism disorders will not be tested any further. Vaccine safety will be exempt, for public policy reasons, from further research or challenge as the scientific method contemplates.

Dr. Paul Offit is the high priest of the official public health religion that worships the golden calf of vaccine programs. In this religion no questioning of the golden calf will be permitted. The ultimate form of questioning, scientific investigation, will be forbidden.

The comparative studies of autism rates amongst vaccinated and unvaccinated populations will not be conducted.

If Dr. Offit prevails idol worship will replace scientific method.

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Marni Wachs said...

So true.

I was thinking about (and wrote about) this topic last year - about the mainstream circumvention of the scientific method - and I progressed into looking at the history of science, and philosophy thereof. Look up Thomas Kuhn. He discusses how and when scientific revolutions have occurred in history.

Also, if anyone else has relevant history of science philosophers, please post.

Science is a great thing, if it IS true pure science. If it's an agenda disguised as science, it's just religion.

Unknown said...

Harvey Karp in his huffington post article: Cracking the Autism Riddle: Toxic Chemicals, A Serious Suspect in the Autism Outbreak suggest:

"Beside the NCS, I support other new studies to look at: 1) the autism risk in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated kids; 2) the metabolism of vaccine ingredients (like aluminum, added to make shots work better), 3) more accurate determinations of the true incidence of autism. (The number of kids getting autism is unclear. Some studies suggest that much of the autism spike is just a labeling shift: kids who used to be labeled "mentally retarded" increasingly are being labeled as "autistic.")"

navywifeandmom said...

"Add to this,Paul Offit's reaching out more and more to neurodiversity,and you can see that this is shaping up to be one of the defining biomedical issues of our time."

That's why, right there, the militant pro-vax camp looses all credibility with me.

If you read any of the scienceblogs on this subject, the blog owner will say that vaccines do not cause autism and we need to move on so that the real causes and treatments for the disorder are found. However, if you look closer, the comments sections are overwhelmed with those in the ND community. How can someone claim to want to find the real causes and cures for a disorder yet they get in bed with those who oppose a cure and say that it is "not a disease, but a way of life"? Regardless of what you claim you believe, you are known by the company you keep.

I have not read "Autism's False Prophets" yet and probably will not unless I can borrow it from someone (I refuse to pay for the book) but from what I understand from others who have read it is he uses a lot of neurodiverse rhetoric to make his argument, such as Kathleen Seidel's being offended at being called "toxic". Being offended is not science. The pro-vax/anti-biomed camp is always accusing the vax questioners of being emotional instead of reading the science. Well, here you have an example of that same camp doing the exact same thing in a published book.

I have visited the Autism Science Foundation's website and their blog and from what I can see all the blog is is another bashfest aimed towards Jenny and biomed community. Other than a study saying that Celexa is ineffective, I have seen very little helpful information on their blog that is actually relevant to treating or finding a cure for autism.

I'm not completely in the "it's all the vaccines' fault" camp, either because it obviously isn't. Yet when my own child has a lot of the same issues that the biomed community says these children have and responds to some of the treatments positively then I cannot ignore that evidence that this is a whole body condition, not a disease that just lives in the brain and is 100% genetic. Yet the medical community keeps trying to do just that.