Some of you may be aware of a recent ruling by Federal judges rejecting the theory that vaccines cause autism.
About time, says I, although I'm not sure how much good it will do. I doubt the ruling is getting as much publicity as the theory did, and even if it does, it's unlikely to convince a lot of people who believe there's a link between vaccines and autism to believe otherwise.
I don't think it helps that the guy who wrote that particular article, or a lot of other people who reject the theory (including doctors), demonstrate so much contempt for all the parents of autistic kids who believe their children were messed up by booster shots. If you are trying to convince someone to change their mind and see things your way, calling them an idiot for disagreeing with you might feel good, but if you do it you've already lost.
And while I'm very angry that so many people are convinced that vaccines cause autism, I am not for the most part angry at them
, and I don't think they're idiots. I'm angry at the people who came up with this theory in the first place. Let me explain.
Parents of autistic children are stuck with the unenviable task of raising a round peg to fit somewhere in a world full of square holes. No matter where the child is on the autism spectrum, that's a difficult thing to do. If the kid has serious problems and has no chance in hell of growing up into a reasonably functional adult,1
then there is no way for parents to do the job they're supposed to do.
We don't know what causes autism - there are some theories, and we know genetics play a part, but that's about all - and for parents of autistic children, the lack of an answer to the question of "what made my child this way?" is yet another difficulty they have to deal with. In the absence of an answer, they either get frustrated, blame themselves, or both. It's not rational to be frustrated or guilty, but these are parents, and this is about their children - of course
they're not going to be rational.
So along comes this guy - Dr. Andrew Wakefield - and he says he has conducted a study demonstrating proof that some of the chemicals in vaccines cause autism. All those parents of autistic kids, because they don't really understand how vaccines work, because they have a culturally inculcated suspicion of the medical establishment and pharmacy companies, and most of all because they are desperate, finally have an answer. They can now direct their frustrations at something other than themselves, their kids, God or the universe in general. Considering how they felt before, it's no wonder that they'll believe any theory that seems halfway plausible, and I really can't blame them.
The thing is, Dr. Wakefield conducted this study at the behest of a law firm representing parents who blamed vaccines for inducing autism in their children. When Wakefield published his results in 1998, he neglected to mention that he'd received something in the neighborhood of one million dollars for conducting this study. There is also reason to suspect that he fudged his numbers. Meaning, in other words, that the whole "link" between vaccines and autism was cooked up by a bunch of lawyers and a dishonest doctor who wanted to line his pockets and should probably have his medical license revoked for violating the ethics of his profession. What these people did was incredibly manipulative and it's part of what makes me angry about their "theory."
The other thing that makes me angry is that they've scared a bunch of parents out of getting their kids vaccinated, which creates a huge health risk. We don't usually see diseases like measles, polio or tetanus in the developed world anymore because we vaccinate our children against them.
But we've been seeing these diseases a bit more often lately - for instance last year's measles outbreak in the UK
- because a lot of people who believe Dr. Wakefield's theory are not taking their kids in for shots. Children have died of easily preventable diseases because of this quack's self-serving lies.
So don't tell me that autism is caused by vaccines. I know where that idea comes from.1 There are of course a lot of self-sufficient autistic adults out there, even if you don't count folks with Asperger's Syndrome.