A homeopath and Dr. Jay will teach you about vaccines—and, no doubt, autism

Remember Dr. Jay?

Regular readers know about whom I speak. I’m talking about Dr. Jay Gordon, pediatrician to the stars’ children. Dr. Jay has been a fixture on this blog on and off for seven years, first having popped in as a commenter way back on Respectful Insolence, Mark 1, when I first noted him promoting antivaccine nonsense claiming against all science that vaccines cause austism on—where else?—that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post. Since then, Dr. Jay has assiduously denied that he is antivaccine, all the while spewing antivaccine canards hither, thither, and yon. If the search box were working properly on the new blog setup, I’d tell you just to type Dr. Jay’s name into it and see the evidence for what I’ve just said flow. However, since the search box isn’t working, I’m reduced to providing you a link to a custom Google search that should provide the same thing in a clumsy, but reasonably effective, manner.

Basically, over the last seven years, Dr. Jay has become known for his ceaseless need to convince you, my readers, that he is not anti-vaccine, combined with his utter failure to do so. The reason that he fails to do so is because he can’t resist repeating easily refuted anti-vaccine tropes, such as the “formaldehyde” gambit or the toxin gambit, likening vaccine manufacturers to tobacco companies (a comparison that, I daresay, greatly inspired the young antivaccinationist Jake Crosby), and using an old Brady Bunch episode as “evidence” that measles is not that big a deal. Meanwhile, he is pediatrician for Evan, Jenny McCarthy’s son (he wrote the foreword to one of her books), and is apparently also pediatrician to Mayim Bialik‘s children as well, supporting and reinforcing both her attachment parenting and her antivaccinationism. Basically, while piteously proclaiming that he is not “antivaccine,” Dr. Jay is an apologist for the antivaccine movement and spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines. Over the years, both here and by e-mail, I’ve had exchanges with Dr. Jay in which he repeatedly asserts that his 30+ years of “clinical experience” have led him to conclude that vaccines cause regressive autism and that this clinical experience trumps the numerous epidemiological studies that have not only failed to find the link but failed spectacularly, to the point where we can conclude that vaccines almost certainly have nothing to do with autism. Over time, I (and several of my readers) have tried and tried again to educate Dr. Jay, to no avail. No matter how many times we try to explain the concepts of confirmation bias and that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

The bottom line is that Dr. Jay has a profound misunderstanding of science and far too much faith in his own ability to avoid the cognitive pitfalls to which every human being is prone. Not that any of this stops him from advising parents not to vaccinate their children or showing up on TV to assert with utter conviction and confidence (and, of course, no scientific evidence) that vaccines cause autism. Deny it as much as he will, he is clearly antivaccine. Even Steve Novella, who is usually much more polite and less—shall we say?—insolent agrees.

Despite Dr. Jay’s serious problem with science and antivaccine proclivities, I generally think that he’s basically a good guy. He’s just wrong, so very, very wrong. Sometimes, I even have hope that you and I might be starting to get through to him. Not anymore. At least, not any more since I saw this:

The Vaccine Talk with Drs. Jay Gordon and Lauren Feder on Saturday, June 23 in Los Angeles

Dr. Feder is described as:

Lauren Feder, M.D. is a nationally recognized physician who specializes in primary care medicine, pediatrics and homeopathy. Known for her holistically minded approach and combining the ‘best of both worlds,’ Dr. Feder is a frequent lecturer for parents and professionals and has been seen nationally on various health-oriented television and radio programs including most recently on The Doctors, Oprah and Friends interviewed by Dr. Mehmet Oz. She is the president of the Holistic Pediatric Alliance, author of Natural Baby and Childcare and The Parents’ Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations, and is in private practice in Los Angeles. www.drfeder.com


But does anyone here remember Lauren Feder? I do. I’ve written about her before. In fact, her medical group is made up of herself, a P.A., and a chiropractor. Feder was a frequent contributor to Mothering Magazine, back when it still existed (sadly, Mothering.com persists as a website that’s even more of a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery than HuffPo ever was). Indeed, last fall I noted that she wrote about the pertussis vaccine and whether children should receive it. In it, she recommended homeopathic remedies for whooping cough and “natural” methods to prevent “vaccine injury.” In fact, in the case of pertussis, she recommends giving three pellets of homeopathic DTaP 30C once a week for three weeks, beginning the day of the vaccination. She recommends the same thing for the Hib vaccine, homeopathic Hib given the same way. On her website, there is a whole slew of articles on homeopathy, including one that advises taking homeopathic remedies as though they were real medicine. In one of them, Feder even writes:

The homeopathic remedies described in these articles for the website are for basic self-limiting conditions that do not require a medical diagnosis. These are minor illnesses with few symptoms. The homeopathic treatment of severe illnesses and chronic diseases requires the expertise of a professional homeopath.

No, homeopaths shouldn’t be allowed in the same room as a patient with a severe illness unless she is a family member there to give support. Certainly, no homeopath should ever be allowed to attempt to treat a severe illness or chronic disease. Unfortunately, Dr. Feder disagrees. She advises the use of homeopathy for pertussis (as I mentioned before), for colic, thrush, teething, ADHD, the flu, colds, skin rashes, infertility, menopause, conditions during pregnancy, depression, psoriasis, and many others. Moreover, Feder is not just a homeopath. She’s into all sorts of woo, including—of course!—”detoxification” woo (gemmotherapy).

Believe it or not, I had thought that even Dr. Jay recognized that homeopathy is about the purest form of quackery that there is. I really had. Apparently, I held too high an opinion of him. From my perspective, teaming up with a homeopath for a business proposition like this to give a talk on vaccines tells me one of two things. Either Dr. Jay doesn’t understand some seriously basic science, thus completely belying his claims of being a scientists, or he doesn’t care. Either way, one has to wonder whether Dr. Jay has forgotten Avogadro’s number from his days in college chemistry and pre-clinical medical school classes. It’s that number that demonstrates the utter scientific bankruptcy behind homeopathy. Basically, many homeopathic remedies are serially diluted in 100-fold dilutions that are abbreviated as “C.” Thus, a 1C dilution is a 100-fold dilution, but you’ll rarely, if ever see only a 1C homeopathic dilution given that one tenet of homeopathy is that diluting a remedy makes it stronger. More frequently, we see 30C dilutions, which are 30 serial 100-fold dilutions, or a 10-60 dilution. Given that Avogadro’s number is approximately 6.023 x 1023. That means that we’re talking about dilutions more than 1036-fold higher than Avogadro’s number. That’s why skeptics and scientists frequently point out that homeopathy is nothing more than water. In fact, any dilution greater than about 12C (certainly greater than 15C) is unlikely to have even a single molecule of active compound in it.

In fact, because I feel merciful today, I will provide Dr. Jay with a lesson. Here’s perhaps my absolute favorite deconstruction of homeopathy. It’s only a bit more than two and a half minutes long, and it comes from Richard Dawkins’ The Enemies of Reason TV documentary:

As I’ve pointed out before, homeopathy is basically sympathetic magic following the law of similarity and the law of contagion. Yet, Dr. Jay has decided to start doing talks with a homeopath about vaccines:

Come join these nationally recognized doctors for a candid talk about vaccinations in the 21st century. Together they bring a wealth of experience in the field of holistic pediatrics and vaccine safety. This educational workshop is for parents and practitioners who are seeking optimal health for our children. In this workshop they will present information on vaccinations, and answer your questions on:

  • Pros and cons of vaccines
  • How vaccines work
  • Vaccine ingredients
  • Vaccination in the news (including California’s bill and exemptions)
  • Overview of each vaccine/illness
  • Safe Shot Strategy


Holy crap! A homeopath and Dr. Jay explaining how vaccines work and proposing a “safe shot” strategy? One might as well have a creationist explaining evolution, a birther discussing Barack Obama’s early childhood, a moon hoaxer describing the Apollo 11 mission, or an antivaccinationist explaining the immune system.

Oh, wait. We already have that right here in this advertised event.

I realize that Dr. Jay is an easy target. However, sometimes easy targets are the most necessary targets. After all, Jay has made quite the name for himself in alternative health circles. He’s been associated with two celebrity moms (Jenny McCarthy and Mayim Bialik), both of whom are antivaccine and both of whom have achieved a fair amount of notoriety. He’s become the go-to pediatrician for the anti-vaccine movement (although I note that Dr. Bob Sears appears to be nipping at his heels these days). It’s because he shows up in the media so often and because he so frequently serves as an apologist for the antivaccine movement that it’s important to point out the erroneous statements he makes. It’s also important to take note of a talk like this, because Dr. Jay’s willingness to team up with a homeopath to promote dubious information about vaccines demolishes any pretension he might have to being science-based.

I really didn’t think Dr. Jay could sink this low. I really didn’t. Apparently I was wrong, and he can. What’s next? Becoming a homeopath himself? As hard as it is to believe, I’m really disappointed in Dr. Jay. As often as we’ve butted heads in the past and as annoyed as I’ve been by his embrace of the antivaccine movement, I did expect better. Admittedly, expecting him to realize that homeopathy is pure quackery is a really low expectation, particularly given that he’s a physician, but sadly he now can’t clear even that low bar anymore.