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A disturbing post on an anti-vaccine blog

I’m on my way to The Amaz!ng Meeting today; so I’m not sure I have time for the usual bit of Orac-ian logorrheic blogging that I somehow manage to churn out almost every day. In fact, I had thought of just running another rerun so that I don’t have to worry about it. But worry I did, at least a little bit, particularly after I saw something that really worried me a bit, and I’m not kidding.

Remember Kent Heckenlively? He’s a regular blogger at the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism whom I’ve taken to task from time to time for subjecting of his autistic daughter to what I consider to be rank quackery, for example, stem cell quackery in Costa Rica in which dubious doctors injected what they claim to be stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid via lumbar puncture. (That particular route of injection is formally called “intrathecal.”) When I first heard about this, I was totally appalled, unable to understand how a parent could keep subjecting a child to invasive medical procedures with no value at all. Not just that, I couldn’t understand how Heckenlively could borrow $15,000 from his daughter’s grandparents in order to travel to Costa Rica to let strange doctors stick large needles into her spine to inject who knows what into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes her brain and spinal cord. While I can almost understand the desperation, even then, knowing what I know, I can’t imagine paying so much for such a useless intervention that might even be harmful.

Yesterday, I got a brief insight into Kent’s desperation, thanks to a post that can only be described as scary, a post entitled When I Can Do Nothing:

What I can say is that on some level, my prayers to God for an understanding of the autism epidemic have been answered. I now know why they fear us so much. I can’t prove it, and as a lawyer I understand that’s the real show. But I know.

And yet, as thankful as I am for an understanding of what has happened to my child and so many others, my heart is heavy. The Dark Forces which in the past have destroyed the careers of those who have found clues to the afflictions of our children and other disease communities are once again on the move. You may very well read about their actions this week. And I can’t do anything to stop them.

Notice how Heckenlively refers to “Dark Forces.” Not “dark forces,” but “Dark Forces,” capitalized, as though it’s name or these Forces are so malevolent that they need to be capitalized, much as the Force in Star Wars was so important and powerful that it needed to be capitalized as a formal name. Worse, the imagery is downright paranoid. These Dark Forces, according to Heckenlively, are out to destroy the activists and “scientists” who have bought into the idea that vaccines cause autism, rather than the real situation, which is that they are trying to guard public health against the return of vaccine-preventable diseases that will occur if vaccination rates fall due to the sort of propaganda that AoA promotes.

Heckenlively then diverts to a discussion of Stephen King’s The Stand. It was at least 25 years ago when I read The Stand; so my memory of its plot isn’t that clear, although one chapter in the book embedded itself into my mind in such a way that I have never forgotten it and likely never will forget it. That’s the chapter where two of the protaganists escape Manhattan, where virtually everyone (except the two) was dead due to epidemic caused by the virus that wiped out most people and led to the collapse of civilization. Their escape route was the Lincoln Tunnel, which was chock full of cars and corpses. King used the concept of having to brave a dark tunnel full of corpses to truly frightful effect. To Heckenlively, what was important to the point he apparently wanted to make in his post was that The Stand was an epic story of good versus evil in a post-apocalyptic world. The villain is a man named Randall Flagg, who in the story is clearly meant to represent more than just a man but rather a powerful and evil force, perhaps even Satan himself. Arrayed against Flagg are five who will make their “stand” against Flagg by following the instructions of a prophet-like figure and delivering themselves right into their enemies’ hands:

Instead of a great battle between the two sides, Mother Abigail has a vision that five members of the Boulder community must make their way to Las Vegas where they will make their “Stand” against Randall Flagg. They will deliver themselves into the hands of the enemy.

Flagg is clearly a demonic force, but he doesn’t have quite the hold over people he thinks he does. His followers keep deserting him, especially in light of the five who have chosen to make their “Stand” against him. They carry no weapons. It’s simply the power of the faith they bring to that unholy place which defeats Flagg. Evil falls apart in the face of such humble courage.

I often find myself pondering such questions of faith. What is it I’m meant to do? I want to rush the barricades, but to what effect?

Those who have read The Stand will recall that the final confrontation involves the heroes sacrificing themselves, as well as the destruction of Las Vegas in a nuclear conflagration (which seems a bit ironic and slightly creepy, given that later today I will be in Las Vegas for TAM). In other words, in imagining himself a hero in The Stand, Heckenlively seems to be visualizing himself as a martyr delivering himself up to his foes and going out in a blaze of glory in order to destroy Satan.

Not satisfied with that, Heckenlively next finds a Bible passage that brings him comfort:

O’Lord, you God of vengeance, you God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; give to the proud what they deserve! O’ Lord, how long shall the wicked exult?

They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O’Lord, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the stranger, they murder the orphan, and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.

Understand, O dullest of the people; fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, he who teaches knowledge to humankind, does he not chastise? The Lord knows our thoughts, that they are but an empty breath.

Happy are those whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, giving them respite from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot is slipping,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who contrive mischief by statute? They band together against the righteous, and condemn the innocent to death.

But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord God will wipe them out.

Basically, Psalm 94 is a passage in which the Lord is being begged to bring his vengeance down upon the wicked. It’s hard not to interpret Heckenlively’s quoting that psalm as anything more than hoping that those whom he sees as wicked similarly suffer God’s vengeance. In fact, he makes it explicit:

But if you’re in good with the Lord, bitching with Him, or haven’t put in a call lately I think this might be the perfect time to send up a flare. You might even think about reciting psalm 94.

God knows there are some wicked people out there trying to keep our children from getting better. If you’re listening God, and it meets with Your approval, this week would be an excellent time to deal with them.

I have a hard time characterizing Kent’s post as anything other than disturbing, if not downright scary. Think about it this way. When someone starts to view his opponents as “wicked people” deserving to be wiped out by God (or, as other translations of this particular psalm put it, to be “destroyed for their wickedness”), it’s just a short hop to thinking that perhaps believers should take matters into their own hands and start smiting the evildoers themselves, thinking it doing the Lord’s work. In any case, it’s very clear that Heckenlively is, at the very least, praying to God to “deal with” those whom he considers to be “wicked people out there trying to keep our children from getting better.” In the context of the psalm, “dealing with” these wicked people clearly means to destroy them.

Heckenlively and I are clearly on different sides of the autism-vaccine issue. Even so, I have never wished ill upon him. Hell, I’ve never wished ill upon even J. B. Handley, even though he has frequently attacked me. Well, maybe just a little bit of ill, such as embarrassment for his ridiculous statements and his promotion of anti-vaccine quackery and that his efforts to harm public health fail. Certainly I have never wished that God Almighty destroy him or Heckenlively for his wickedness or publicly wished ill upon him. Yet here we have Kent Heckenlively praying to God publicly to destroy his enemies. Presumably, that would include me, plus a number of people who are my friends, acquaintances, and fellow travelers in promoting vaccination and refuting anti-vaccine pseudoscience.

I don’t know what is going on in Heckenlively’s life right now that has brought him to this. The pain in his writing is palpable; he really does sound like a man on the edge, a man who is ready to break. I can only hope he finds a way to deal with whatever is going on in his life right now and return to a state of normalcy. We might be opponents when it comes to the issue of vaccines and autism, but, unlike Kent, I don’t want God–or anyone else–to destroy anyone over this.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

122 replies on “A disturbing post on an anti-vaccine blog”

In a book about the Middle Ages, I once read…

“The people believed in God, but even more in the devil.”

Quite obviously, that’s a good description of Kent Heckenlively.

That is certainly troubling. The idea that it might be hyperbole for effect fades as one considers the course of action he has taken up to this point concerning his child. Dappled with paranoid delusions and talk of self annihilation in the name of conquering some grand conspiracy, one can’t help think a mental health assessment may be in order.

Unfortunately, the Argumentum ad marshamcclellandum proffered here by Heckenlively is all too common in the anti-vaccine cult. He is reiterating the desires of many. I hope he gets some real help.

Here is Meryl Dorey from 2008:

“There will come a time – I pray to God that it will happen in my lifetime – when those who have pushed vaccines upon innocent, helpless babies – doctors, pharmaceutical companies, government officials – will be proven to have lied and cheated these instruments of death into our children’s bloodstream. When that occurs, the outcry will be heard around the world and there will not be enough hiding places on the globe for these murderers to hide or enough money to pay for compensation. Of course, it will be too late for the babies, like this poor child, to be saved. But we will be able to take satisfaction from the fact that never again will anyone have to be pushed to poison their child because for once and for all, it will be known as poison and we will all wonder how it was we fell for the vaccine lie for as long as we did.” – Meryl Dorey, President, Australian Vaccination Network, AVN Yahoo group, 17 Dec 2008, message #36449

Heckenlively has put his daughter through so much on the basis of his beliefs, he has to hold on to them, whatever the evidence that contradicts them. I would guess that the more evidence he is presented with that he is wrong, the more he is convinced that Dark Powers are behind it. Mountains of evidence that contradicts what he knows beyond any doubt to be true merely proves there is a massive evil conspiracy.

What is the alternative for Heckenlively? To accept that his delusional beliefs have led him to hurt his daughter? That would be a bitter pill to swallow for any parent.

“God knows there are some wicked people out there trying to keep our children from getting better. If you’re listening God, and it meets with Your approval, this week would be an excellent time to deal with them.”

What would be ironic, is if God heard him and decided what the hell, and struck down all CAM practitioners and anti-vaccine loons.

I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying it would be ironic.

God knows there are some wicked people out there trying to keep our children from getting better. If you’re listening God, and it meets with Your approval, this week would be an excellent time to deal with them.

Why this week? And does it tie in with the reference to Los Angles in any way?
I agree, it sounds like the cry of a terribly troubled mind.

Why this week? And does it tie in with the reference to Los Angles in any way? I agree, it sounds like the cry of a terribly troubled mind.

When I see this:

The Dark Forces which in the past have destroyed the careers of those who have found clues to the afflictions of our children and other disease communities are once again on the move. You may very well read about their actions this week. And I can’t do anything to stop them.

It makes me think that the authorities must be closing in on him for some reason. Which, given the incredible leeway parents are given to subject their children to who-knows-what in the name of alternative medicine, gives me pause. What on earth did he do?

TAM9 is this week in Las Vegas.

There is a pro-vaccine event where vaccines will be given away for free.

There will be a workshop where some of the most vocal and outspoken members of the anti-anti-vaccine community will be present.

Is this a thinly veiled threat?

Is this a call for someone to use second amendment remedies? A call for someone to be a suicide bomber?

I think it would be worth going over the TAM9 attendance list. Casinos have good security, and if forewarned and they knew who to watch, they could do a lot to keep everyone safe. I think this is serious enough that it is worth bringing security professionals into this. Security professionals can only help when they have information that might be important. They would much rather have a hundred serious false alarms than a single missed real alarm.

“… he really does sound like a man on the edge, a man who is ready to break.”

Well, he did manage to drive himself there and after all the thousands of dollars wasted to no real effect and with only his child’s suffering from invasive quackery to show for his efforts, his mind was bound to go to a dark place. Let’s just hope his actions didn’t catch up to his fevered mind.

Lol @JayK

Reminds me of that crazy theory that if there was actually a proper treatment for autism there wouldn’t be quite so many anti-vaxers!

I’m glad I don’t have an autistic child.

That was a rather chilling read. It does fit, though, with how AoA and that group have drifted more and more into religious zealotry. I seriously hope that Heckenlively gets help for whatever is going on in his life that has driven him to this point.

Having had my own flirtations with religious fervor years and years ago, I can understand that he is at a point where it would be very, very easy to tip over the brink and do something that he would regret later. I hope he is able to step back from the edge.

@brian, no Madders didn’t pull out, he was told to go wave his plonker elsewhere by about a zillion Brits.

“What is the alternative for Heckenlively? To accept that his delusional beliefs have led him to hurt his daughter? That would be a bitter pill to swallow for any parent.”

This is exactly the same argument that the anti-vaccine people use against those who vaccinate their children (and those who promote vaccination, like the government and the medical establishment). That vaccinators cling fervently to their belief because accepting any inkling that their actions have hurt tens of thousands of children is beyond bitter. (See the upthread quote from the Australian anti-vax person.)

This is why no communication is possible. Each side believes the other to be psychologically immovable because the alternative — to accept that you did something to hurt your children — is abhorrent.

I have cancer that recently went into remission. In some ways, I have it easy. I’m an adult, not a child, so I have the advantage of maturity during difficult procedures. I don’t have to watch a family member suffer; it’s been very difficult just seeing them go through this process with me. And my views on the medical establishment, my education, and a doctor who has been wonderful about explaining the details of test results have all made this process less mysterious and overwhelming.

My heart breaks for this man, who’s had to watch his child against a mysterious illness and had to feel responsible for chasing everything he could. I’m sorry the world seems so dangerous to him, but who knows how much sleep he’s gotten and how he feels. I hope very much that the altmed practitioners have not done more harm, even if they have not helped and have done what I know is an unpleasant treatment; I hope that he is able to get through this period without feeling forced closer to anything, and that this desperation recedes once he’s recovered a little himself.

I’d pray for the safety of others, but the same skepticism that’s armored me against the call of woo has also armored me against religion, so… sorry, Orac. We’re both on our own with the odds we’ve got. I’m glad you’re at least aware of that post.

He’s gone off the deep end. How very sad, for both him and his daughter. He keeps trying and failing to heal her; he is only fortunate he hasn’t caused her serious harm yet. Honestly, he strikes me as little different than the people who, a century or more ago, believed that the correct remedy for this sort of a child was beatings and exorcisms, repeated until the stubborn demon that has possessed the child finally leaves. In fact, with his religious rantings here, I wonder how far off that could be for him. There *are*, after all, still people who believe that autism is a symptom of demonic possession.

I will hug my daughters when I pick them up from summer school this afternoon.

Exhibit #99,673 demonstrating just how thoroughly the antivax movement has turned itself into a cult.

This rapidly brought to mind the recent changes in Homeland Security. Due to budget reductions, the divisions in charge of monitoring domestic terrorism have been cut to nearly nothing. They are barely able to keep the lights on, and where there used to be hundreds of agents reviewing reports and tracking concerns, there is now one or two guys doing nothing. Too much work, too much chaos and not enough brainpower to attempt to understand it all and break it down in reports and theories for American leaders.

And all because the right wing got upset that domestic terrorism was a focus in the last year of Bush’s Presidency.

Watching groups like Al-Qaeda or any of the other jihadists and trying to understand the psychology of their movement is all the rage. I feel like the unusual black sheep, tracking the movement of a few radical student groups and frustrated semi-racial movements, those studying domestic terrorism are alone, unfunded and unable to cope with the sheer amount going on right now.

The only good part is that people who write such nuclear level stupidity rarely have the capability to put together an actual nuclear bomb. As such I think TAM and Vegas will be safe this weekend.

Here’s the problem I see for us. Thimerosal is one of the most toxic substances known to man. It was added to vaccines at levels that exceed all federal safety standards. Why couldn’t we figure this out? It’s injected into newborns and infants for no real good reason (Hepatitis B at birth, Why?). This scenario alone has to be driving these parents to the edge. How long can we risk our reputations as scientists and medical professionals defending this practice? Why didn’t we admit we made a mistake and help these families out 15 years ago? We cannot put an end to this with statistical manipulaion. That’s all we got!

“Seeing your opposition as less than human” is often depicted as inhibiting empathy and facilitating violence: this adds a supernatural element to the mix.

Because I wade in the polluted waters of web invective so frequently when I commented on KH’s rhetoric yesterday it seemed par for the course. “Demonisation” in this case is literal as well as figurative.

Our web woo-meisters have set the bar rather high in depicting vaccination advocates as evil pharma shills, governmental enforcers, or scientists corrupted by corporate lucre but Kent manages to vault right over. It’s particularly chilling to me, as an atheist: when people start re-imagining the world in black-and-white, good-vs-evil terms, I will certainly not be counted amongst the blest.

And why is that? I am interested in research because it expands our understanding of “how stuff works” ( “the causation of things” as Virgil wrote) with the ultimate goal of “improving people’s lives” across the board: in medicine, education, and technology. “Dark Forces” at work I’m sure.

I often encounter “us vs them”, self-aggrandising rhetoric at the various “hives of scum and quackery” ( or if you will, “dens of thieves”) I frequent where it is a used manipulatively as advertising copy: all in the name of sales. Remember these “hives” cross-pollinate with emotional themes as well as mis-information.

Kent sees himself as a lone voice in the wilderness crying out for justice and vengence. I wonder where he got the interesting idea that his child was damaged by external forces? When you see yourself as “blameless” it’s easy to go to the next level and see your words or actions as justified. Interestingly enough, while Kent himself was inveigled into this mode of thinking and feeling by anti-vax and alt med proselytisers, he also continues the mis-education campaign and ups the ante with his religious imaginings and flourishes. It probably feels good to be counted as being amongst the righteous, great perks I hear.

Because pseudo-science is not guided by research grounded in mathematics but by opinion, tradition, and emotional issues, we can’t expect cold, unfeeling reason to rear its intelligent head.

Thimerosal is one of the most toxic substances known to man.

Citation needed.

It was added to vaccines at levels that exceed all federal safety standards.

Citation needed.

It’s injected into newborns and infants for no real good reason

Reducing the cost of an intervention which saves lives, prevents permanent disability, AND avoids substantial suffering? What exactly would constitute a “real good reason” if that doesn’t?

(Hepatitis B at birth, Why?)

Because we don’t like chronic diseases causing liver damage?

Why didn’t we admit we made a mistake and help these families out 15 years ago?

Please provide the evidence that it was a mistake.

We cannot put an end to this with statistical manipulaion. That’s all we got!

The fact that autism incidence hasn’t plummeted despite the removal of all but trace amounts from almost all vaccines is not “statistical manipulation.” It’s as close to conclusive proof as it’s possible to get that there was never any connection.

@Beamup

It was added to vaccines at levels that exceed all federal safety standards.

Citation needed.

I recently looked at the EPA’s exposure guidelines for methylmercury (they don’t have anything for thimerosal’s ethylmercury) and found that a person can be exposed to about .1mcg/kg/day with no ill effects. For a child with an average birth weight of 3.2kg, that amounts to about .32mcg/day, or 116.8mcg/year (more if the child, like most, actually grows and gains weight). The versions of the flu vaccine (which is given only once per year) that contain thimerosal have about 25mcg ethylmercury, at most, which is well below the EPA threshold. And remember, methylmercury takes months to eliminate from the body, while ethylmercury is eliminated in days to a week or two.

Authoritarian personality + sunk cost fallacy + magical thinking + ongoing failure to achieve sociopolitical goals = posts like Heckenlively’s.

Depressing and disturbing.

@Todd W
I think 0.1 mcg/kg/day is the EPA guideline for methylmercury which includes a considerable safety margin. The WHO guideline is 0.47 mcg/kg/day. As you mentioned, ethylmercury is considerably less toxic than methylmercury.

Fun thimerosal fact: the LD50 for thimerosal in rats is 50 mg/kg, the same as it is for cholecalciferol or vitamin D3. So thimerosal is about as toxic as vitamin D3. Scary.

The “one-on-one aide” for Heckenlively’s daughter was recently jailed for her involvement in a protest for animal rights. Heckenlively used her arrest as inspiration for a post at AoA in which he asserted: “We need to get militant, and I mean in a way that scares those in power. You know what I’m talking about.”

Heckenlively apparently thinks that vaccine-phobic parents should emulate the members of a violent movement that attempts to intimidate or even injure researchers who do not accept the views of movement members.

@ Todd W. ( # 10): While I’d love to see Kent get help, because of his unwise medical choices for his daughter ( described by Orac) and his religious fervor, I doubt he’d get reality-based standard care ( unless it was involuntary): he might seek a like-minded alt med or radical Christian counselor.

@ brian : That doesn’t sound encouraging. Let’s hope it’s “all talk” while axe-grinding.

@Krebiozen

I think 0.1 mcg/kg/day is the EPA guideline for methylmercury which includes a considerable safety margin. The WHO guideline is 0.47 mcg/kg/day. As you mentioned, ethylmercury is considerably less toxic than methylmercury.

Yep, I know. The whole exceeding guidelines thing came up again the other day, so I decided to take a fresh look and do a bit o’ math. I’m oversimplifying a bit, but the illustration is apt, I think. And, you are right, the EPA generally puts the threshold lower than the actual NOAEL. I can’t recall off hand how much they typically lower the exposure limits to create a safety buffer.

Interesting info on the LD50 in rats.

How long can we risk our reputations as scientists and medical professionals defending this practice?

If you’re at all concerned about “your” reputation, “Doctor,” you might start in your own backyard by getting your own facts straight. Seriously, all you’re doing is repeating lies you got from anti-vax propaganda sites; do you really think that calling yourself “Doctor” and claiming to represent “we” the medical establishment will fool anyone?

Speaking of not fooling anyone, Jakaranda = pot-head morphing troll Jacob.

Is this guy an “official” blogger for the site or is he just relegated to a section for ameutur bloggers like the huff po?

Because this sounds downright psychotic- and normally the communication conscience cranks that run the ageofautism try to keep truly schizophrenic episodes to a minimum. Even they know this looks bad.

ALSO: I’m lawyer. People that use the title “esq” are either 80 years old+ or have serious confidence problems. It is not an acceptable title or term these days.

ALSO: Is this him?
http://www.lawguru.com/answers/legal_directory/attorney_view/CA/contra_costa_county/san_ramon/kent_francis_heckenlively/163156

Despite his huffing and buffing about “law review”, he graduated from what essentially is now an unaccredited, unlicensed law school…..

That’s scary. It reminds me a little of my own brief flirtation with psychosis (depression and stress triggered), with added religious mania and violent acting out. At least I’m only a threat to myself. The really sad thing is that his condition would almost certainly improve with the care of a competent psychiatrist and a supportive home environment, if he were willing to admit he needs help.

Is this guy an “official” blogger for the site or is he just relegated to a section for ameutur bloggers like the huff po?

Because this sounds downright psychotic- and normally the communication conscience cranks that run the ageofautism try to keep truly schizophrenic episodes to a minimum. Even they know this looks bad.

ALSO: I’m lawyer. People that use the title “esq” are either 80 years old+ or have serious confidence problems. It is not an acceptable title these days.

ALSO: Is this him?
http://www.lawguru.com/answers/legal_directory/attorney_view/CA/contra_costa_county/san_ramon/kent_francis_heckenlively/163156

Despite his huffing and buffing about “law review”, he graduated from what essentially is now an unaccredited, unlicensed law school…..

I don’t know about Kent, but, Orac, why aren’t you discussing the new twin study that points to larger environmental influences?? OR Rupert/James Murdoch and the revolving doors between Big pharma and agencies advancing propaganda and vaccine policies?? As you well know, Murdochs’ have private equity investments in the drug companies and vaccine makers. The current hacking scandal is troubling to say the least and science credibility may be on the line.

Oh look, a Jen-troll here to push a new conspiracy theory. Too lazy to post a link, eh Jen? Do you know who else had investments in Big Pharma? Yeah, that’s right, Hitler’s wet nurse.

Did you read the latest study on the effects of LSD on a gamer trying to match some homerun record on the game platform, because anti-vax credibility might be on the line.

Next time try making sense and writing a concrete argument with citations so you actually get your useless point across.

I looked at the comments on the original article, and the first one is this:

Dear Readers:

I belive the power of prayer has worked. The man who was going to do some harm has pulled back. We are safe for now.

Kent.

So I guess Kent isn’t heading for Las Vegas in a van full of fuel oil and fertilizer.

@DaveD

Given what Mr. Heckenlively views as “doing harm,” I wonder if there wasn’t some threat against a pro-vaccine physician involved here.

Jen – so you’re trying to say that because there is a scandal involving the activities of some journalists that somehow that taints scientists in completely different areas that have nothing to do with newspapers or media?

That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

@ Jen : For the record, I truly can’t stand Murdoch or his media empire *however* he – and other investors- invest in pharamaceutical companies because they earn money and are often resistant to a bad economy like *other products* people need to use such as General Mills, Kraft, or Proctor & Gamble. Alt med purists might have a peek at their mutual funds to see what pharma companies they may actually own.

@ 40

Heckenlively wrote: “I believe the power of prayer has worked. The man who was going to do some harm has pulled back. We are safe for now.”

I think jen understood that to mean that Rupert Murdoch (The Dark Lord who has “private equity investments in the drug companies and vaccine makers”) has withdrawn his offer to purchase British Sky Broadcasting. Thanks to the power of prayer we can all rest easier.

Allie

This is why no communication is possible. Each side believes the other to be psychologically immovable because the alternative — to accept that you did something to hurt your children — is abhorrent.

Hate to be nit picky, but AOA’s habit of deleting our comments over there has something to do with it, too.

The Dark Forces which in the past have destroyed the careers of those who have found clues to the afflictions of our children

Can anyone help me out and tell me who, exactly, he is referring to in this sentence (the ones whose careers have been ruined, not those in the Dark Forces).

I assume that he would include Wakefield in this mix, although one might question whether his career has really been destroyed. But true, he was struck off the register, so let’s grant that.

And it leads me to my oft asked but never answered question, and perhaps Heckenlively can answer it: Suppose Wakefield was correct (he wasn’t, of course, but for the sake of argument) and that autism is caused by the MMR vaccine. Moreover, let us grant for the sake of argument that his daughter’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccine. How does that knowledge help in treating his daughter?

Kent’s been wasting money stem cells. How, does anyone propose, does stem cell therapy cure/help autism caused by MMR? I don’t want to know how it is to treat autism in general, but specifically what it is about MMR-caused autism that would make the cause of the autism relevant to the treatment?

I have asked before, and it has never been answered: what does Wakefield actually do for kids with autism aside from give their parents a bogeyman to blame for it?

While I think that Mr. Heckenlively has definitely spent too much time watching and re-watching the Star Wars hexology (is that a word?), I’m reserving judgment on whether or not he’s gone “round the twist”. Like many people (me included), Mr. Heckenlively has let his anger and frustration lead him to putting his private fantasies into the public forum.

Strange to say, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Mr. Heckenlively, having gone down a part of the garden path on which he now finds himself trapped. He has put his trust in “practitioners” who are (at best) disconnected from reality and have promised him miraculous “cures” if he will only “have faith” and do whatever they tell him to do, no matter how strange or expensive.

How would anyone who has just spent thousands of dollars he doesn’t have to get his daughter a treatment that lacks any scientific support deal with the realisation that it was all moonbeams and pixie dust? It would take an extraordinarily strong personality to face reality at this point and put the blame where it is due – on those who led him to believe they had “the answers”.

Instead, Mr. Heckenlively has done what most people do in this sort of situation – he has found a scapegoat.

It is far easier, psychologically, for Mr. Heckenlively to blame his daughter’s condition on “Dark Forces” than to admit that he was fooled and that his time, money, effort and emotional energy have been wasted. Even worse, he would have to confront the fact that he put his daughter’s health and even her life at risk in his pursuit of ephemeral “cures”.

At this point, it would be incredibly humiliating for Mr. Heckenlively to admit that he was wrong, that he promoted (and bought) worthless “cures” and that he excoriated and vilified people who were trying to help him and who were, as it turns out, correct in their assessments. It would take and extraordinary person to admit this – even to themselves. And I doubt that Mr. Heckenlively is that kind of person – so few are.

I would hope that AoA will use a bit more editorial oversight of Mr. Heckenlively’s future posts, as this last one doesn’t show their organisation at its best. Perhaps they should give him some time off to regain perspective.

As we move through the third decade of the “autism is caused by something the government or Big Pharma did” movement, I expect that we will see more of its followers “crack” as Mr. Heckenlively has. The promises of “cure” have been shown to be hollow and the only thing they have left is their anger.

The leaders of the movement need to keep that anger directed outward – at “the government” or “Big Pharma” – because the moment the followers lose that external focus, their anger will turn on the people who told them they had all the answers.

Prometheus

@Scott, where is the best blog for leaving comments that are censored from this one?

What comments would those be? Orac doesn’t censor.

Mindy, AW had the gut-brain connection thing going on as well as the MMR bogeyman thing going on.

The only thing Wakefield had “going on” was deliberate fraud. He MADE UP THE DATA, and lied nonstop through the entire paper.

Modern studies are showing that he was on the right track with the gut-brain connection

These studies being? PMID references will suffice.

wrong as a wrongrel about MMR and autism I’m afraid.

Making stuff up because a lawyer paid you to get a particular result does tend to have that result.

Lawrence, I can’t really put it much more simply than to present the facts:
Sunday Times. Rupert Murdoch/James Murdoch. Pharma investments. GSK appointment (James). Wakefield is crucified in Kangaroo court. It’s conflict of interest at it’s insidious worst, and yes, it does start to look bad on the scientists who are involved in say, MMR or other vaccine research.

Also, even another of your readers posted a mention of Orac not dealing with NIMH’s largest, most rigorous twin study of it’s kind that has found shared environment influences susceptibility to autism more than previously thought. “High fraternal twin concordance relative to identical twin concordance…” I have mentioned it a week ago when it first came out. Hallmayer,J. et al. Archive of General Psychiatry, July, 2011. It’s just kind of odd but maybe he will write about it soon…

Oh Beamup, you’re funny. Every single complaint/charge against Wakefield was made by Brian Deer whos’ work was published/funded by the Sunday Times of London which is owned by Rupert/James Murdoch (hear anything about these wonderful human beings lately) who sits on the board of GSK (right next to Sir Crispin Davis the CEO of The Lancet) whos’ vaccine Wakefield implicated. Wait until the mainstream press gets wind of this.

AAM – Orac doesn’t censor, but he also isn’t very happy when trolls blatantly break the few rules that he has (most recently a cannabis-freak who continually created sock-puppets – a big no-no around here).

So yes, there are times (very, very seldom) that a post here and there is deleted, but Orac is always very upfront as to why – and usually only after numerous warnings as well.

Can’t say the same for AoA.

Anne Autism Mother:

If you mean you don’t know the Pubmed IDs, there are other ways to cite references, like Author; Title; Where and When Published. (e.g. Smith, Jane. Why we publish. Journal of Irreproducible Results, May 2017.)

If you mean you don’t have access to Pubmed, you’ll be pleased to know that, in fact, it’s open to the public and requires only Internet access: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3827/ is a Pubmed help document.

Well Jen – those are facts, but do you have anything other than your own supposition to support any actual connection between them?

Like Kevin Bacon, I’m sure I can find Six-Degrees between a number of indivuduals & situation, but that doesn’t mean that any of them are actually related, other then proximity.

And as far as Wakefield goes – given the amount of evidence against him & the fact he didn’t even bother to appeal (and why, since he’s still making boatloads of money here in the States & he doesn’t even have to practice medicine) – why even continue to support him?

Wakefield was a proctologist and his curiosity about having more than the expected number of autistic children through his practice led him to speculate about the gut-brain connection.

Except for the minor little fact that the children in question HAD NO GUT ISSUES. Completely normal findings.

I don’t know what Orac has censored but someone was hawking a load of screenshots on my friends’ Facebook the other day.

Gut and Autism: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-230X-11-22.pdf

I don’t have Pubmed sorry.

IOW, not the slightest shred of anything vaguely resembling evidence. “But some random dude said so!” is not support for such claims.

Every single complaint/charge against Wakefield was made by Brian Deer…

I note that you are apparently completely unable to actually refute any of the facts so uncovered.

@Jen: I don’t see any smoking gun in the NIH study. Yes, they admit that it appears non-identical twins also have a high level of ASDs. But, as the study states (bolding mine):

“These new findings are in line with other recent observations supporting both environmental and genetic contributions to ASD, with the environmental factors likely prenatal and the genetic factors highly complex and sometimes not inherited,” said NIMH director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

Studies are under way to determine if autism may be traceable, in part, to environmental exposures early during pregnancy.

So, still nothing that implicates childhood vaccines.

@Anne Autism Mother: type “pubmed.gov” into your web browser and you will have access to all the pubmed articles your heart desires. It’s free. You may not have access to the full articles, but you can at least see the abstracts.

@Dr. Witznitzerstein: Um…considering it’s been WELL over a year since Wakers was exposed and AOA and others have long tried to condemn Brian Deer, I am not holding my breath for your “Wait until the mainstream press gets wind of this.”

@Anne Autism Mother: After reading through a significant portion of the article you cited (PMID: 21410934) I would have to say “interesting” and ask the authors if they expect that their measurement of gut flora can be used to predict autism. Based on their response, the study could be somewhat useful, but I expect that their response would be more along the lines of “I don’t know” or “probably not”, which would indicate that their research is somewhat flawed. In fact they hint at this in their discussion section.

Then there is this paragraph in their conclusion section:

1) The diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder was made by a qualified medical professional prior to enrollment in the study, but there was no additional verification. Similarly , for the neurotypical children, no additional verification was made beyond the parental
report.

Same exact failure in diagnosis as what plagued Wakefield and many other research projects.

So then I looked closer at Table 3-6, holy statistical bullshit, batman. See the low density on the right side that they allow to bias their trend line? I’d give that student an F for that kind of crap. The hid the result analysis of this graph with other statistical values, but the they obviously were attempting to find something that the data didn’t exactly support.

Now I’m not saying this research should be tossed out, but before anyone cites it as credible, it had better be replicated.

In case anyone is wondering what got jen on this Rupert Murdoch kick, the Murdoch-Deer-Wakefield-Vaccine-Pharma-Conspiracy has been making the rounds among the antivax crowd for years now.

Apparently with the emergence of the British tabloid scandal (which of course has nothing to do with vaccines), the conspiracy theorists think their Murdoch-vaccine brain farts have gotten a new lease on life.

Anything that looks like it possibly could damage public immunization efforts gets tossed out for mass consumption in the hope that something will stick. It doesn’t matter how idiotic it is, or how desperate and foolish it makes the antivaxers look.

Every single complaint/charge against Wakefield was made by Brian Deer

Since every single complaint against Wakefield has been independently substantiated, it doesn’t matter who was the first to bring it to public attention. It wouldn’t matter if it had been Charlie “Helter Skelter” Manson who blew the whistle on Wakefield’s falsification of data; from the moment Wakefield decided “Hey, it doesn’t fit what I’m being paid to tell the truth that this kid was seen for these symptoms before he ever got the MMR jab; let me just lie and say the problems all started after the jab” it’s only been about when his lying would be exposed, not in the least about who did the exposing.

@Anne Autism Mother

I remember now, it was that recent genetic study where it said there was a trade off between the genes for socialising, the genes for the immune system and the genes for the gastrointestinal system.

So a type of 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for genetics? Sounds like tripe, but if you can find a citation like a title/author/year I’ll read it and analyze it, at least for the lulz. Maybe there is something to it, but your description makes it sound like holistic BS.

Trisklethecat, oh I get it, so because Dr. Insel says, “the environmental factors/exposures are LIKELY pre-natal that could never include vaccines for pregnant women (like flu shots, or dpt). And I guess also, because Dr. Insel says it’s likely prenatal (the environmental influences) that could never include early childhood medical interventions like hep b shots, series at 2,4,6 months.
It seems to me that scienceblogs has historically liked the genetic cause of autism theories (be they studies from Baron Cohen, Fombonne, etc.). Personally, I don’t believe vaccines are the only environmental “smoking gun” but common sense tells me they could definitely be a large part of the problem and this has not been studied properly. And somebody please tell me what ” genetic factors, highly complex and sometimes not inherited” means. Epigenetics?

@Anne Autism Mother: I read that article and facepalmed twice, the reporting was horrible and they never actually put a citation to the research. In particular, the “surprise” from Dr. Spencer was the best part, which makes me suspect that Dr. Spencer is an idiot or an idiot interviewed him.

The siblings of autism sufferers showed significantly less response to the emotive faces than people who were not related to those with the disorder.

OK, without actually looking up the journal article, I’ll accept that this is a reasonable conclusion. Knowing that autism is a wide spectral disorder, it stands to reason that a high-functioning autistic diagnosis is probably still conservative. Therefore there would still be autism-like traits that would and do show up in the general public while they don’t quite qualify for a diagnosis of ASD. For genetically similar individuals to have one within the spectrum and one to only have certain traits of ASD isn’t surprising, it should have been somewhat expected.

I can think of multiple places on this very blog where the topic of the genetic relationships of ASD have been described as “complex” and likely to not have a single gene/root/base but rather a set of genetic origins that may be coupled with environmental and/or developmental conditions.

ASD isn’t a hard-rock diagnosis, it is somewhat subjective. It isn’t even provable that one ASD person has the same root cause as another. When I asked, above, if the authors of the ‘gut flora’ study could use their techniques to “predict” autism, I should have said diagnose.

The Daily Mail article is just another example of poor science reporting, I’d say. The study itself isn’t game changing research, it is just another facet in understanding the genetic, environmental and developmental components involved in what we call ASD.

The psychology shown by Heckenlively is fairly typical of the anti vaxxer. There really is no scientific “debate” about the efficacy and usefulness of vaccines in general. The science is clear and without a doubt vaccines in general are a marvelous health intervention. So where does that leave the anti vaxxer. It leaves them with pseudo science, paranoia and conspiracy theory.

Yes all those studies make vaccines look good, but that is because the corporations want you to think that. The government is using vaccines for eugenics. The brave would who campaign against vaccination are vilified because big pharma is evil and out to hurt us all. Quotes from biblical passages are not uncommon in the anti vaxxer rant, because it is an ideology not an evidenced based conclusion.

And somebody please tell me what ” genetic factors, highly complex and sometimes not inherited” means. Epigenetics?

Well, it means just that. We tend to think of genetic traits as those we inherited from our parents, but it’s important to remember that they are the traits encoded in our genes, no matter how they got into our genes. A de novo mutation can have just as much as effect as it would as if it had been inherited.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that de novo mutations may have more effect than we previously thought they did. Many of the children whose problems were blamed on DPT in the infamous “Vaccine Roulette” program, for instance, were later proved to have the same de novo mutation that was the actual cause.

Also, I’m sure you’re aware of the knowledge that an increased age at fatherhood is associated with an increased risk of autism. This doesn’t make sense either in a “vaccines cause autism” or “genetic traits that are only inherited” paradigm, but it fits with a “de novo mutations can cause autism” hypothesis, because it suggests that the older a man is, the better the chances that his genes will not be passed on to his children without some degree of alteration.

JayK @70 – I think Anne Autism Mother posted the Daily Fail link for lulz.

“Siblings are 100 times more likely to have ASD if one sibling has it?

~1% of people has an ASD so if one sibling has it and the other has it then that is a probability of 1 which is 100% or 100 times 1%”

No, that’s not how the math works – the 1% of people who have an ASD include those who have a sibling with it.

If you looked at only families with exactly two children, 1% of the children would have ASD – but there would be a lot of families with two children with an ASD, a lot of families with no children with an ASD, and relatively few families with one and only one child with an ASD.

He keeps trying and failing to heal her; he is only fortunate he hasn’t caused her serious harm yet.

That we know of. Something is running him off his rails.

“A disturbing post on an anti-vaccine blog” – this headline provided by the Department of Redundancy Department

Anne Autism Mother:

“Siblings are 100 times more likely to have ASD if one sibling has it?

~1% of people has an ASD so if one sibling has it and the other has it then that is a probability of 1 which is 100% or 100 times 1%”

If you believe that, you need serious help, now!

To expand on what Andrew has said, here goes…

Firstly: look at the source… the Daily Mail! That is not even shitty enough to be a newspaper, let alone a science journal! They sell sensationalised crap, and don’t care about the alarm they cause.

Secondly, they’re talking about a biomarker that they are hypothesising is involved in the development of an autistic trajectory. This is not the same as having the chance of being autistic.

You really need to learn some scientific thinking. Because the Daily Mail aren’t gonna help you with that.

Alt med purists might have a peek at their mutual funds to see what pharma companies they may actually own.

A-Ha! Finally I understand what Jen is doing. She actually owns a chunk of Big Pharma, and comes here specifically to put up ludicrous posts so the anti-vax folks will lose all credibility, paving the way for the vaccine companies to gain greater compliance, revenues, and stock prices.

Damned clever.

@ David N. Andrews M.Ed., C.P.S.E.

Perhaps I’ll do an extensive analysis** concerning the make-up of anti-vax “thought”: black-white thinking, religiosity, emotionality, lack of abstraction, lack of complexity, external locus of control, inability to consider more than one variable, inability to incorporate new information, lack of qualifiers, etc.

Which might eventually boil down to one salient factor: can’t do math- which would explain why they might accept the “studies” paraded around as evidence for the autism-vaccine link.( Probably why they like the Daily Mail too).

** only joking.

I’ve seen it all now. Someone has cited the Daily Mail. How can anyone think that the Daily Fail is a reliable source of science reporting, possibly? I’d be laughing out loud if I hadn’t hurt myself so badly with that vicious facepalm.

Then again, a surprising number of people think vapor trails are hosing us down with mind control agents, and that NASA is using a ray to cause earthquakes all over the world for some nefarious reason, so I don’t know why such things still surprise me, but they do.

The AoA peeps are starting to sound like those Operation Rescue nutbars. Very scary, indeed.

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