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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
rho
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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I still can't see from the Times articles or PDFs how this turns into "Wakefield received money to write the falsified MMR causes autism " line in the original paper.

What I see is Wakefield's buddies getting money out of some legal action for being 'expert witnesses' or whatever. Yes, dodgy, but more dodgy after the fact rather than prior to the whole kick off.

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