April 28, 2008

Huffington Post is a Denialist Website

There's no other explanation for a site that regularly publishes David Kirby's anti-vaccination denialism, Jenny McCarthy's insanity, and conspiracy theories from the like of Diedre Imus.

The latest came this weekend from David Kirby and his goalpost-moving piece, which based on the egregious misinterpretation of the Hannah Poling case, represents the new front of anti-vaccination denialists in their war on reason. In the never-ending quest to pin autism on vaccines no mater what the evidence, the anti-vaccine denialists now are trying to make autism a mitochondrial disorder in order to fit their latest imagined victory. Despite the obvious fact that the disorder in the Poling case was a pre-existing genetic dysfunction that was possibly aggravated by vaccines, Kirby has decided to add to the confusion by now suggesting that this was a "concession" by the government of a causative link between vaccines and autism.

There is no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines.

This post from Kirby is joined by this article from Barbara Fischkin which has the chutzpah to blame autism on thimerosal:
These people were poisoned. One of the culprits is, no doubt, the mercury preservative that was put willy-nilly into so many vaccines.
Let's make this completely clear, the thimerosal-autism link is one of the clearest examples of a failed hypothesis that I can think of. It was extensively studied, and roundly disproven by the fact that 6 years after it's removal autism diagnoses continue to increase (A longer discussion for why this is). Even Kirby won't support this nonsense, yet the HuffPo will gladly let other cranky celebrities and other morons write whatever the hell they want about science as if they have any idea what they are talking about.

This is something that concerns the scientific community as all overvalued ideology ultimately represents a threat to scientific or rational thinking. Science doesn't respect political values or preconceived notions about how the world works. Liberals may side with global warming because it fits with their preconceived paranoia of corporations and technology, and conservatives may love evidence-based medicine because it protects Dick Cheney from the Grim Reaper but its clear no matter what the ideology, whenever there is a conflict between science and politics there is always a constituency that favors rejection of fact to maintain a fixed belief.

Medicine is no exception. Conservatives don't generally object to medicine, but are happy to lie about contraception, abortion, embryonic stem cell science or the evil FDA regulators when it conflicts with their pro-life or fundamentalist free market agenda.

Public policy should be informed by the evidence first, and ideology should always play a second fiddle to what can be demonstrated by facts. When that order is reversed you are playing a dangerous game. HuffPo, by supporting this denialist claptrap is risking its reputation on writers who are little more than kooks. I hope that contributors to HuffPo who care about science will realize that HuffPo shouldn't get a pass just because they might happen to be right on global warming or evolution. These types of posts from pseudoscientific crackpots are an embarrassment, and the inclusion of these kooks undermines the legitimacy of the site as a whole. If there are people who care about making HuffPo sound like a source of legitimate opinion and analysis, they should take a stand, now, before its too late.

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Dean said...

Thats a damn shame, I like HuffPo. Adrianna Huffington is one of the few hardnosed progressive voices out there, but her coverage can be a little sloppy. She seems to focus a great deal on political gaffes and "gotcha" stories, and there is always way too much celeb bullshit and gossip on her site too.

Tye said...

agreed, there has actually been a big to-do about getting the HuffPo an actual "Science" section as many bloggers at ScienceBlogs and others have started to really sink their teeth into Adrianna and her coverage. Hopefully this is something that will stop because she has built up a huge following that trust a lot of the information they put out there.

quicksilver said...


Bit worried about calling geniuses clowns.

It offends my opinion that your blogging can be anymore than hot air.

Mercury in vaccines is a serious problem especially to the families who lose their children hours after receiving a mercury laden vaccine which kills their child.

I dont think this is a matter to take lightly and I am greatly offended by your stance.

quicksilver said...

Hi Again

Moving goal posts?

I beleive I am right in thinking it was the US Government and not David Kirby that brought up the mitochondria business?

Mercury is the world's most toxic non radioactive element and as such has no place in our vaccines as agreed by regulators, industry et al.

So why in April 2008 is it still there?

Further the action of mercury may be on one hundred or one thousand different biochemical pathways in our body.

Possibly in biochemical pathways yet to be discovered by scientists?

David is not capable of telling us about all the ways mercury causes harm.

Sufficient to say, the destruction of brain cells is one biochemical pathway that will cause autism and further evidence of other parts of our bodies being collaterally damaged does not excuse the destruction of brain cells filmed in action more than a decade ago at the level present in one vaccine evenly distributed in our bodies.

Mercury is NOT evenly distributed, we know it heads like crazy for the brain which it then turns crazy.

Tye said...

you should get your facts right before you decide to spout some bad info. There is no mercury or mercury derivatives in vaccines anymore, there haven't been since 2001. So why do autism rates continue to climb? If it was the mercury shouldn't we see a drop in autism outset rates? Yes we should, but we haven't so we need to look elsewhere. There's no doubt that climbing autism rates are a cause for concern but trying to prove a hypothesis that no longer exists in vaccines is doing you no good in figuring out what is causing it.

Shivas said...

quicksilver you might want to do a pubmed search for this article "Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years" I believe it is free to the public but im not 100% sure but its essentially a large study conducted on children to study the effects of mercury compounds such as thimerosal. Basically the outcome was that there was no significant change in childrens speach or motor skills when subjected to mercury. Some groups had slight decline in motor or speach skills but interestingly enough there was an equal number of children who improved after thimerosal/mercury exposure. In my book and most scientist that equates to there being no link between thimerosal and autism. Regarding your question as to why thimerosal is still in vaccines: There are some other articles on pubmed that are not free that detail the history with thimerosal. In short in 1999 a study was released detailing the toxicity of large doses of mercury. In response the CDC asked that all mercury compounds be removed from vaccines, which they were. Studies were then conducted to go back and see if thimerosal did indeed cause autism which no strong link can be made (see above). The current conterversy is not over whether to remove thimersal or not but rather did it cause autism.

Do I think mercury compounds should be in vaccines?...NO I tend to agree with you, even though there is no strong evidence it never hurts to improve apon vaccines to remove mercury based preservatives (which they have), but I dont think vaccines are the reason for the rise in autism. Mind you Im no autism expert but I believe the rise in autism is actually due to better detection methods. I believe there is a large portion of americans living with mild autism that were never properly diagnosed before. The reason it appears that the vaccines are responsible is that those are the ages when the signs for autism usually appear. About 20 years ago we didnt understand these signs, we just called our kids "slow" but now we are actually classifying abberent behavior and diagnosing this disease. While mercury is dangerous I think the link between mercury and the rise in autism is clearly unestablished.

Tye said...

And for the sake of full disclosure I do believe there may be a small subset of individuals that develop brain disorders due to many environmental factors, one of those may be vaccines. I support all research into effects of vaccines as our ability to truly infer causation has improved remarkably in the past 15 years. If we are going to require these injections to complete herd immunity then we should continue to monitor the reactions of each individual vaccine as well as the effects and interactions of combinations of vaccines. But we should also look elsewhere. There are many more compounds that we are being exposed to that have proven toxic (read: smog, ozone) that studies continue to show are health issues and our government and media rarely touch on these.

It is important that our policies reflect the data and that data should answer to no authority. Do often policies drive data collection and presentation. I hope to get an article about this and the EPA today.