False Claims and Convenient Artefacts

Monday, February 16, 2015

Thomas Sowell took on the "anti-vaxxers" in a recent column, spending more than a few words on the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism:

Fortunately, others took the claim seriously in a very different sense. They did massive studies involving half a million children in Denmark and two million children in Sweden. These studies showed that there was no higher incidence of autism among children who had been vaccinated than among children who had not been vaccinated.

Incidentally, the "evidence" on which the original claim that vaccines caused autism was based was just 12 children. But the campaign to convince the public was a masterpiece of propaganda.
On top of that:
This was not the only false claim involved. What made that claim seem plausible was a highly publicized increase in the number of children diagnosed as being autistic or being "on the autism spectrum."

What was not so widely publicized was that the definition of "autism" had expanded over the years to include children who would never have been called autistic by the standards set up when autism was defined by its discoverer, Professor Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins medical school, back in 1943.


Despite headlines and hysteria about skyrocketing numbers of children diagnosed as autistic, the number of children who meet the original definition of autism has been relatively stable in recent years, at about one quarter of one percent of all children...
If there is anything remotely credible about the anti-vaccination movement, it is the claim that the measles vaccine (or an additive) is linked to autism. This is likely to look credible to someone who isn't aware that the original claim was found to be fraudulent (and retracted) and that the recent rise in autism diagnoses was an artefact.

While there are many people out there shopping for a conspiracy theory to live by, there are many more who are open to reason. The latter will likely make the right decision regarding vaccination if they have all the relevant facts at their disposal. If you know someone struggling with this decision, you should do them and their children a favor by informing them of this article.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

As with the issue of climate change, the scientific validity of vaccination has nothing directly to do with the issue of government requiring people to get them. Just because people are causing climate change(?), it doesn't follow that government interference in the economy is necessary. Similarly, just because vaccinations are an overwhelming net gain for an individual's health(?), it doesn't follow that government has the right to force people to get them.

Gus Van Horn said...

By coincidence, I was discussing this very issue with my mother last night and I made the same argument, but added that in an ideal world, it would be a hell of a lot easier to fire/not hire/refuse to do business with (e.g., not take unvaccinated kids into daycare) these dangerous Luddites.

Steve D said...

'it doesn't follow that government interference in the economy is necessary'

I agree. It doesn't make it moral either.