John McCain panders to antivaccination zealots

Well, now I’m really in a pickle as far as the 2008 Presidential election goes. I really don’t like Hillary Clinton and consider Barack Obama not ready for prime time; i.e., he’s too inexperienced and too liberal for my liking. On the other hand, I used to like John McCain–at least until he started pandering to the religious right and became a cheerleader for the Iraq war. Now I have another reason not to vote for John McCain, which leaves me with not a single Presidential candidate that I can see myself voting for right now.

John McCain has credulously fallen for the blandishments of antivaccinationists:

At a town hall meeting Friday in Texas, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that “there’s strong evidence” that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was once in many childhood vaccines, is responsible for the increased diagnoses of autism in the U.S. — a position in stark contrast with the view of the medical establishment.

McCain was responding to a question from the mother of a boy with autism, who asked about a recent story that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had issued a judgment in favor of an unnamed child whose family claimed regressive encephalopathy and symptoms of autism were caused by thimerosal.

“We’ve been waiting for years for kind of a responsible answer to this question, and are hoping that you can help us out there,” the woman said.

McCain said, per ABC News’ Bret Hovell, that “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

McCain said there’s “divided scientific opinion” on the matter, with “many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it.”

No, no, no, no, no!

In elevating the pseudoscience of the antivaccinationists to the same level of the multiple studies that show no link between thimerosal and autism, McCain has at the very minimum fallen for the fallacy that there are two scientific sides to this issue when there are not and at the maximum has fallen for the now discredited idea that mercury in vaccines is responsible for an “autism epidemic.”

To his credit, Jake Tapper points out that McCain is full of crap on this issue:

The established medical community is not as divided as McCain made it sound, however. Overwhelmingly the “credible scientists,” at least as the government and the medical establishment so ordain them, side against McCain’s view.

Moreover, those scientists and organizations fear that powerful people lending credence to the thimerosal theory could dissuade parents from getting their children immunized — which in their view would lead to a very real health crisis.

Exactly. John McCain has really stepped in it for sure. Worse, he probably doesn’t have the slightest clue just how much he’s stepped in it. Already, the antivaccinationists and mercury militia over at the Age of Autism are gloating about this and urging their readers to leave comments on the ABC Blog.

McCain needs to replace his medical and scientific advisors forthwith and find some who understand science and clinical trials. I suppose I should have seen it coming when he agreed to give the keynote address for the Discovery Institute last year. Credulity towards one form of pseudoscience is, sadly, often accompanied by credulity towards other forms of pseudoscience. This is worse, though, than pandering to creationists. Presidents don’t have much power to determine how evolution is taught at the local school lever, but he does have enormous power over the public health apparatus of the nation in the form of the CDC, FDA, and NIH. Encouraging antivaccinationists can lead to a public health disaster in the form of the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Either that, or McCain is just pandering again.