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Friday, February 12, 2010

An Infinite Number of Monkeys at the Keyboard

So the preemptive defense of Wakefield's cheerleading squad is that Big Pharma was out to get him. You know, by making a British medical journal withdraw a paper by someone who committed ethical violations during the creation of said paper. It's a spooky spooky conspiracy.

So anyway,  the absurd defense is that all this happened because Wakefield is "on the brink" of publishing this really fantastic paper, yo. And it will totally show all these doo-doo heads that mercury causes autism, even though most anti vaxxers have backed away from that one.

Anyhoo, lookie lookie. As the awesome Kim Wombles points out, that paper has been withdrawn. Not that it ever was a good paper or ever proved anything, other than proving that Wakefield is still not above conflicts of interest and bad research methodology.

Others have done awesome jobs pointing out the many many flaws in the methods they used. They added monkeys after the fact. They had training issues with the person collecting data. They didn't blind or randomize properly. They tested at different times of the day. They had to mix their own mercury into the vaccine, because the current vaccine doesn't have Hep B in it. They took one study and split it into three parts. And the whole thing had several massive conflicts of interest built in.

My biggest problem with the study is pretty damned simple. Monkeys don't get autism. Neither do mice, rabbits, polar bears, or chipmunks. Before you go arguing that it's only because monkeys don't get vaccines, I'll point out that yes, they do in research. And none of the monkeys in this study got autism, even if you take their results at face value. Just because you can make a monkey have slower reflex development does not mean you've given that monkey autism!


  1. It's never made sense to do animal studies on autism unless one believed autism was mercury poisoning. And then what they're looking for is the damage of mercury exposure.

    How would an autistic mouse or monkey behave? Even for the sake of argument that you could make an animal autistic, the trait wouldn't survive in the species because if it were an animal that lived in a social group, it would die before reproducing.

    So, again, you've got circularity here that boggles the mind.

  2. My understanding is that monkeys view eye contact as a form of aggression, so they avoid it. Does that mean they're always autistic?

  3. Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you will not have a leg to stand on.............................................