Tag Archives: vacines

The Grand Conspiracy

Last night, among a generally jovial conversation around new finds in astronomy, I also was subjected to various out bursts of “electrical theory of mars” (i.e. Mars was carved by machines) and similar Grand Conspiracy ideas about how NASA had hid all this from us. It all came from one new club member, who’s previous outbursts had been minor enough I hadn’t yet realized he was a full time crank. The reaction from the table was mostly ignore and move on.

But it still amazes me that someone thinks it’s far more plausible that tens of thousands of individuals are manipulating scientific information about Mars in a coordinated and consistent way. That they can manage to induct all new science students working on the data into their masonic clan. I guess it makes a good Dan Brown novel, but it maps really badly to reality.

And if the grand conspiracy was just at the kooky fringe, it would be something I could mostly chuckle at and move on. But grand conspiracies have become mainstream fodder. For instance, cable news generating a meme in conservative America that Climate Change is a hoax created by 10s of thousands of scientists to keep their jobs. Really? The next Dan Brown novel is going to be about grad students living 4 to an apartment, eating raman noodles, feeling so clever in their grand conspiracy?

I guess if you’re primarily motivated by dollars, have a poor understanding of science in general, and never worked with science researchers before, it might make sense. First, project your basest motivations on others. Then sprinkle gracious ignorance about how science or economics work. Make sure to pass over the fact that if you had the mathematical chops to work out something as complicated as a climate model, and money was your motivator, you’d easily make 10 times as much being a Quant for the financial sector. They heavily recruit out of the physical sciences, many of my classmates from college went that route. But no, the grand conspiracy would rather believe the route to riches is applying for competitive NSF grants instead of credit default swaps and derivative trading.

So why do people believe in the Grand Conspiracy? Because it’s comforting. It takes a complex world and makes it simple. Complex problems and motivations are now turned into mythical dragons that some mythical protagonist can go slay, making all right in the world.

The only problem with that: it isn’t real. The moon landing wasn’t faked, it took a generation of our best minds to get us there, and huge technological advances came out of it. Vacines don’t cause autism, they’ve eliminated a vast number of debilitating diseases that you no longer have to worry about if you live in the west, and are now starting to eliminate certain kinds of cancer. Climate change is not a hoax, it’s a real, hard problem, that we’re going to need to figure out how to address as a society. Evolution is demonstrated science, we don’t need a designer to create complex emergent behavior.

The world of facts and knowledge is one of spectacular beauty, complexity, and wonder, and doesn’t need Grand Conspiracies to make it majestic and exciting.

LA Times: Once more, no link found between vaccine preservative and autism

Quoted in the entirety from the LA Times because it is short, and important:

Maybe Study Number Ten will suffice to reassure the one in four parents who have come to fear vaccinating their babies that doing so will not raise the likelihood of the kids’ developing autism. Then again, maybe no number of costly and carefully designed and executed studies will dislodge the fear of vaccines among parents that has taken root in the United States.

We’ll see.

But on Tuesday, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics–called Pediatrics–released Study Number Ten anyway. In it, 14 authors tasked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate any link between vaccines containing thimerosal–a mercury-containing preservative–and autism-spectrum disorders found no link whatever.

They found none, whether a baby was exposed to a thimerosal-containing vaccine while in utero or whether he or she was vaccinated with such an agent in the first 20 months of life. In fact–and this is a bit perplexing–they found that babies vaccinated with more thimerosal-containing vaccines between birth and seven months, as well as those who got more such vaccinations between birth and 20 months, were less likely to develop an autism-spectrum disorder than those who did not.

To see the march of evidence discrediting the widely believed link between thimerosol and autism, you can check here. To see the charges by British medical authorities that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who first alleged a thimerosal-autism link, conducted his research dishonestly and irresponsibly, see here. If it doesn’t help to know that reputable scientists, physicians and researchers have tried and failed to find a causal–or any–link between thimerosal and autism, it might help to know that even Jenny McCarthy, the actress who has been unswervingly vocal in her belief that vaccines caused her son’s autism diagnosis, is no longer so certain.

–Melissa Healy/The Los Angeles Times