In an interview with Palm Beach Politics, Donald Trump offered a controversial opinion on a new topic: autism. The New York-Palm Beach real estate mogul is no doctor, but he said he thinks the rising prevalence of autism is related to vaccinations given to children at a young age.
Autism now affects 1 in 150 children, a sharp increase from a few decades ago.
But whether vaccinations have anything to do with it is passionately debated, and many dismiss the notion as a conspiracy theory.
“When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor,” Trump said. “And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic. Everybody has their theory. My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”
He made the comments following a press conference at his Mar-A-Lago estate announcing a fundraising and lobbying push by Autism Speaks to get the brain disorder covered under private insurance policies.
“Trump is no doctor”? That’s certainly an understatement. He’s clearly clueless about science as well. As for a “strong” or “controversial” opinion, so what? The lie that 9/11 was an “inside job” or that it was done by the Bush Administration in cahoots with the Mossad is a “strong” and “controversial” opinion held by many conspiracy theorists. That doesn’t make it any less ridiculous, nor would it be any less ridiculous if Donald Trump decided he were a 9/11 Truther. It’s the same thing with vaccines and autism. Just because a rich, celebrity know-nothing like Donald Trump decides he thinks that vaccines cause autism doesn’t lend any credibility to the concept.
But here’s my favorite part:
Here’s more of what Trump had to say about autism and vaccinations:
“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”
It’s the dreaded false equivalency ploy. Sure, Don, there are people who don’t agree with you. Those people represent virtually the entire medical and scientific community that studies vaccines. And, yes, there are people who agree with you. They’re virtually all pseudoscientists and cranks. Either that, or they’re lawyers looking to make a buck.
Worst, the “journalist” who wrote this puff piece is just as clueless. As Do’C at Autism Street says about the “sharp increase” in autism claim:
The implication here is clear. It’s implied that there has been a sharp increase in the actual proportion of people affected by autism. Sorry Josh Hafenbrack, until you understand and explain to your readers the effect that changes in diagnostic criteria, diagnositic practices, awareness, recognition, and the provision of services have had, you have no business of claiming a sharp increase in how many people are affected. If you can’t explain those things in sufficient detail, you should, at the very least, be able to provide some solid epidemiological evidence of an actual increase in the prevalence of autism.
There was a very convincing study about a year and a half ago that supported the generally accepted concept that the apparent “increase” in autism diagnoses is due to increased awareness and broadened diagnostic criteria since 1994. There almost certainly is no “epidemic.”
In other words, Donald Trump is a scientific ignoramus, who’s too clueless to realize that the “debate” over whether vaccines cause autism or not is not a scientific debate. It’s more an ideological or religious pseudodebate, akin to the “debate” between creationists and evolutionary biologists. The science is about as settled as it can be in medical science and epidemiology. Sure, there’s always a small chance that some new study will overturn this consensus, but, given the weight of previous studies, this chance is vanishingly small. It’s becoming smaller and smaller with each new study that fails to find a link between vaccines and autism.
Trump should stick with real estate, casinos (well, given his luck of late in the casino business, maybe not), and The Apprentice. He’s clearly totally unequipped to evaluate a medical or scientific question.