Fundraising for antivaccine research – Respectful Insolence

. Handley we’re talking about here, a man whose attraction to bad antivaccine science is only rivaled by his utter lack of filters on what he says.But first, Handley has to get in on some of that sweet, sweet Nate Silver action. You remember Nate Silver, don’t you? I mentioned him just two weeks ago in the context of discussing science-based medicine. Just three weeks ago, Nate Silver dazzled the world with the accuracy of his predictions of the 2012 election results, predicting the outcome and margins of the presidential election, as well as Senate and House races. He did it through a very rigorous analysis of existing public polling data, and his predictions went against the conventional wisdom about the election that pundits wanted you to believe. I’m sure you can see where this going. Yes, because Nate Silver was right when so many thought that Mitt Romney would make it a much closer race and possibly even pull off a win, that must mean that vaccines cause autism. Well, not exactly, but Handley can’t resist citing Silver as support for his views:“In a complex system, however, mistakes are not measured in degrees but in whole orders of magnitude.”Nate Silver, The Signal and the NoiseIn the above quote, author Nate Silver is discussing the fact that Moody’s and S&P–the pre-eminent financial ratings agencies in the world– underestimated the default risk of CDO funds by a factor of over 200, facilitating the implosion of the housing bubble and a worldwide recession.Put another way, the financial experts at S&P and Moody’s predicted that certain financial instruments would have a default rate of just 0.12 percent (just over one tenth of one percent), when the actual default rate turned out to be 28%.How could so many smart people be so stupid?This question lies at the heart of a battle and debate that so many of us are currently fighting—is it possible that our health authorities, in an attempt to prevent every infectious disease they could through the use of vaccines, ended up creating a whole different set of problematic health outcomes in our children?The invocation of Nate Silver is inappropriate in the extreme. In actuality, Silver is the data-driven person, the one who correctly analyzes publicly available data. In comparison, Handley is more like the political pundits or the Republican operatives who were trying to “unskew” the polls and convince you that Mitt Romney was actually going to win. He reminds me of the “smart people” to which Nate Silver refers, who turned out to be so stupid. He is driven by an agenda, not data. He sees conspiracies, not truth. He believes pseudoscience, not science. Where skeptics cite real scientists, Handley cites all-purpose antiscience crank Dr. Donald Miller. I can understand why Handley wants to try to appropriate the Nate Silver mojo for himself, though. I view it as nothing more than an updated form of the “Galileo gambit.” In fact, I rather suspect we’ll be seeing more and more of the “Nate Silver gambit” from cranks after his success in predicting the 2012 election results.Be that as it may, what exactly is this study that Handley wants to help fund?I must admit, I’m underwhelmed. The study will apparently cost $500,000 to fund, but only $100,000 has been raised so far. Interestingly, as Handley noted above, mainstream autism charities have passed. I wonder why… It couldn’t be that the hypothesis at the heart of the study is one that’s already been scientifically discredited time and time again, could it? Or the rather useless design of the study:This study concerns a major current health question: namely, whether vaccination is linked in any way to children’s long-term health. Vaccination is one of the greatest discoveries in medicine, yet little is known about its long-term impact. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of vaccination by comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children in terms of a number of major health outcomes, including asthma, autism, diabetes, and learning disability. The study involves a partnership between Jackson State University (JSU), Jackson, MS and the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), Salem, OR, which has long been involved in research on homeschool education.It all sounds rather innocuous, but looking deeper, I find that this “study” is not much of a study at all. In fact, it’s just an Internet survey, and not even a particularly informative survey. Why it will cost $500,000 to complete, I have no idea. It sures seems like a lot of green for a relatively easy study. It’s not as though a bunch of people to interview hundreds or thousands of subjects are needed. You can even look at it yourself, as one can find the survey here and here. Its principal investigator is Anthony R. Mawson, M.A., Dr.P.H.. That name sounded familiar to me, and it didn’t take much Googling before it came to me.It turns out that Dr. Mawson is a vocal supporter of—surprise! surprise!—Andrew Wakefield. For instance he wrote

Source: Fundraising for antivaccine research – Respectful Insolence


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