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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Humanity sucks: part three of infinity
delirium pissed off
First the good news: The House of Lords votes overwhelmingly not to pander to the wishes of homophobic bigots. Yay for them.

And now the bad. And I have to say that this one actually shocked me. Give how cynical and world wear I tend to be, and how low my expectations of humanity as a whole, I have to say that's quite an achievement.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past decade, there has been somewhat of a scare that the MMR vaccine could cause autism. The original study that suggested this was very weak, and was essentially the scientific equivalent of "well I heard it from a guy down the pub who said that his friend's wife once read in the Daily Mail..." Proper, detailed studies have been carried out since on the matter, and have demonstrated beyond any reasonable level of doubt that there isn't a link between MMR and autism.

The rumour has persisted though. This is bad for a number of reasons. To summarise:

It's made parents decide not to immunise their children. This lack of immunisation means some of the have caught the diseases. As well as being unpleasant in and of themselves, they can also have serious complications such as sterility, deafness or even death (approximately 1 measles case out of 1000 leads to death in western countries).

What's more, it isn't only the children who aren't vaccinated themselves who are put at risk. No vaccine is 100% effective. There will always be a few people who are vaccinated but do not become immune. They are safe, though, because they never come into contact with the disease because everyone around them is immune. There aren't enough vulnerable people around for the disease to spread. With the large number of people unvaccinated due to this scare, that's not the case.

Then there's the problems that it causes in cases of autism. For instance, it leads to "alternative" "therapy" "cures" such as chelation being promoted to the credulous and the desperate. Not only does this alleged cure not work, it's also dangerous and can and has killed people. Not only that, it allows for parents to have false hope that their child might one day become "normal", therefore preventing them from coming to terms with their child's autism, learning to deal with it, and learning to accept their child for who they are.

And so on and so forth. Suffice is to say that rumour of a link between MMR and autism is a distinctly Bad Thing which has caused misery and suffering for too many people.

I was therefore absolutely outraged when I saw an article in the Times, linked by livredor, stating that the whole thing was fabricated by unscrupulous lawyers. Andrew Wakefield, the guy who wrote the original paper was, apparently, paid a total of £435,643. Lots of other people were also paid lots of money related to this, including a referee for one Wakefield's papers, who was paid to let deliberately shoddy science through.

This makes me furious. Not only have their selfish actions indirectly killed people, but they also endanger the whole of science. The whole point behind science is that if you have a idea, you the have to put it through all sorts of checks and balances to make sure it's legitimate and that you aren't fooling yourself. I the process, this also means that you can't deliberately fool other people.

This pulls the rug out from under that. If peer review can be bought the it becomes an entirely meaningless process, and science loses its credibility. If we say intelligent design is rubbish or that global warming is real, and we point to lots of peer-reviewed research to back up our point, then those arguing against us could now reasonably deride the whole process.

I hope that all sorts of heads roll over this.

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Also among those named as being paid from the legal aid fund was a referee for one of Wakefield’s papers, who was allowed £40,000.

they don't actually mention which one of wakefields papers this guy reffed. science is a relatively narrow community and it wouldn't surprise me if a ref of one of wakefields earlier papers was included in the project in question.

i'm not about to pass any judgement on the ferocity of funding that bouyed this failed work, but consider this: if there was any scientific implication that a freely avaliable vaccine was unsafe to the level of causing autism, would you consider suggesting that said implication was not scrutinised to the fullest degree? of course, those funds, once supplied, would have to be disseminated wisely, and receiving an hourly rate of £1000 does seem slightly wasteful.

what is dodgy about this case is the sum of money that was used and the conflict of intrest implications, mentioned here....

Later The Lancet retracted Wakefield’s claim and apologised after a Sunday Times investigation showed that his research had been backed with £55,000 from lawyers, and that the children in the study used as evidence against the vaccine were also claimants in the lawsuit.

the study children were, essenitally, biased samples. this may not have been made clear in the origional paper (and i'd be surprised if it was).

there is, i'm afraid, no mention that the peer review process can be bought.

i'd also, in this case, target those who brought the lawsuit forward in the first place and also tabloid hysteria and inelegant reporting as a likely cause of dropping immunisation rates. remember the HRT scares? a small increase in the chances of breast cancer for women on HRT was blown up into big headlines and out of all proportion.

(by the way, ever hear about that paper that was entirely fictional that made it through the peer review process? or the reviewer who used to reject articles, only to then go on to steal them, virtually whole, and get them published under his own name elsewhere? science is just as open to folly as anything else)

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