Antivaccine nonsense Autism Pseudoscience Quackery Science

A not-so-Thinking Mom loves a crooked antivaccine “theory” by Forrest Maready

Zoe O’Toole, aka “The Professor” at an antivaccine crank blog known as The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, likes to think she’s figured out this whole science thing. Her falling for “crooked theory,” an impressively daft piece of antivaccine pseudoscience by Forrest Maready, shows her self-delusion on that score.

When it comes to blogging, topics are often feast or famine. Sometimes, topics that interest me enough to blog about them come flying at me at a pace so fast that there’s no way I can ever cover them all. Other times, my usual daily perusal of science and medicine websites, antivax blogs, and the crankosphere fails to find anything that really “inspires” me. Sometimes, I’ll write about a topic even though it doesn’t really fire me up more out of a sense of obligation than anything else, but I suspect that my readers can tell when that happens. More and more recently, I’ve simply been skipping days when I fail to come across something that gets my fingers twitching, eager to start flying across a keyboard to deliver some Insolence, be it Respectful or not-so-Respectful. My hope is that, although I might be blogging less than five days a week most weeks, the posts that I do publish are better. Only time will tell if that’s true. Sometimes, a topic that I had meant to write about but didn’t get around to when a “feast” cycle in the crankosphere is serving up targets for Insolence fast and furious makes a reappearance during a “famine” cycle, thus giving me a chance to rectify missing it the first time around. Such is the case with a “crooked theory” by Forrest Maready.

The other day, I came across a blog post on one of the wretched hives of scum and antivaccine quackery that I monitor, The Thinking Moms’ Revolution (or, as I like to call it, the not-so-Thinking MomsRevolution) (TMR). Basically, TMR is a wine loving, vaccine hating, coffee klatch of mommy warriors for whom the terms Dunning-Kruger effect and arrogance of ignorance were coined, and, believe me, the Dunning-Kruger is very strong here. Indeed, TMR is perhaps the densest and most massive example of the Dunning-Kruger effect imaginable, a black hole of antivaccine pseudoscience among smug, wine-sipping moms who think that they are the true “Thinkers” and that everyone else who accepts the science that vaccines are safe and effective (and do not cause autism) are the sheeple. Because it is based in antivaccine pseudoscience coupled with the arrogance of ignorance, what TMR purveys is anything but thinking. Let’s just put it this way. The moms at TMR are big fans of homeopathy to treat autism. Basically, the members of TMR seem to think that motherhood somehow gives them magical insights into pediatrics and developmental disorders. The truth is quite different. Stupid moms will remain stupid after giving birth, and intelligent moms will remain intelligent. Moms prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect and arrogance of ignorance were almost certainly prone to such shortcomings before they gave birth, but I will admit that it does appear that having children can be a trigger that awakens such tendencies or brings them into full flower.

Now, if there’s one thing about TMR, it’s that it’s members love to pick ‘nyms for themselves that are cutesy, “cool,” or just arrogant, such as Dragon Slayer, Goddess, The Booty Kicker, Killah, Savage, Saint, Princess, Mountain Momma, Mamacita, Sugah, Luv Bug, The Professor, and several others, most of which are nauseatingly self-congratulatory. Perhaps the worst of these “thinking” moms when it comes to the arrogance of ignorance and the Dunning-Kruger effect is Zoey O’Toole, a.k.a. The Professor (or sometimes Professor TMR). We’ve met her before making extraordinarily dumb analogies about vaccines and autism and confidently clueless assertions that vaccines cause autism. In any case, it’s entirely consistent with her past cluelessness The Professor would be very impressed enough with Forrest Maready to write a post about him earlier this week, Autoimmunity: The Intersection of Toxic Metals and Microbes?

Regular readers of this and other blogs that regularly deconstruct antivaccine pseudoscience will recognize from the title that this is likely to be yet more handwaving combining “heavy metal toxicity” (how is it that no one’s named a heavy metal band Heavy Metal Toxicity yet?) from the environment and aluminum adjuvants in vaccines (to antivaxers, aluminum is the new mercury, after all), with various microbes, particularly the fake infections that quacks like naturopaths like to “diagnose” (cough, cough, chronic Lyme disease). But who is Forrest Maready, and where does he come into all this. Patience, my acolytes. All will soon be revealed.

The Professor frames her discussion thusly:

Have you noticed the recent dramatic increases in autoimmune diseases and neurological dysfunctions? Has your neighbor or your niece been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or late-onset type 1 diabetes? Maybe you know someone whose kids all have some combination of PANDAS, ADHD, and autism? We’ve explored the explosion in neurological conditions on this website many times before, and while we haven’t covered autoimmunity in the same kind of detail, we have been keenly aware of a concomitant and related increase in all forms of autoimmunity, all of which are considered “incurable.”

It is true that the prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing by 4-7% per year, depending on the specific condition. (Celiac disease is increasing the fastest.) However, as is the case with autism, a lot of that increase appears to be due to greater awareness and more diagnoses. After all, more diagnoses does not necessarily equal a real increase in frequency. For example:

But are autoimmune diseases really rising, or are doctors more educated on the symptoms and signs of them and therefore able to diagnose patients more effectively? It’s a bit of both, according to Dr. Rutledge. “It is true that as we broaden the definitions of autoimmune disease, and as more people learn about these conditions, more people are diagnosed,” he says. “We also have more sensitive lab tests that detect autoimmune conditions that are not yet symptomatic.”

Dr. Rutledge also points out that there are a combination of factors that lead someone to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Someone may have a likelihood of getting an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn’s, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis because of their genetics. If that person encounters a viral infection, that strain can set off an immune reaction and onset of an autoimmune disease. Rutledge says that environmental factors may also contribute to the rise of autoimmune disease, but at this point, that idea is simply a hypothesis and more research still needs to be done.

Of course, while scientists are looking for various causes and to figure out how much of this increase is due to biology (that is, more people with the disease rather than just more people being diagnosed with the disease), to antivaxers, it absolutely, positively has to be the vaccines. Here, The Professor dives in. She admits that the timing and patterns of onset of autoimmune diseases, but has to figure out a way to bring vaccines into the mix:

This increase could be explained perhaps by the recent dramatic increase in immune system activation stimulated by vaccination, but on the surface that doesn’t explain the patterns we see in timing of onset of autoimmune disease or why, once someone has developed one autoimmune condition, they are at very high risk of developing another, and another, and often yet another? Why does someone with rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, in which antibodies attack the joints, often go on to develop scleroderma, where antibodies attack skin tissue? The joint-destroying antibodies don’t suddenly gain the ability to bind to skin cells. The immune system has begun producing different antibodies, which attack different tissues.

This phenomenon is usually glossed over with vague terms like “overactive immune system” or “Th1/Th2 imbalance.” While the immune system is certainly “overactive” in such cases, saying so is like saying a hypothyroid condition is caused by an underactive thyroid; it merely restates the obvious without providing insight. And many folks with autoimmunity conditions, like me, display symptoms of both Th1 and Th2 dominance. So, despite the scientific community’s fascination with the concept of Th1 and Th2 balance, I find it essentially useless.

I love how The Professor says, “I find it essentially useless,” as though her dismissal of the concept of Th1 and Th2 dominance matters more than what scientists think. I also love how she decides that autism must be related to autoimmune diseases because, well, I’ll let her say:

Genetics also can’t explain why so many people come down with illnesses never before seen in their extended families. Clearly, something else is in operation here. The best science can offer us is “Environmental triggers in a genetically susceptible individual are believed to cause disorders of immune regulation.” Hmmmmm . . . genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers, where have I heard that combination before? Oh yeah, in reference to pretty much all of today’s chronic illnesses, but especially the neurodevelopmental disorders—including autism.

It’s a common theme that, because there appears to be an immune component to many chronic diseases, that it must be the evil vaccines causing them. At the very least, the evil vaccines must have something to do with these diseases, particularly autoimmune diseases. In this case, though, The Professor has latched onto a truly bizarre idea, one promoted by Forrest Maready:

Crooked: Man-made Disease Explained, a new book by Forrest Maready, attempts to get to the bottom of what that “something else” is and why it seems so strongly linked to neurological disorders. Maready is not a physician or a scientist, nor is he really a writer. But what he lacks in training and finesse, he more than makes up for in curiosity, persistence, and investigatory skills. The book is a fascinating and enlightening read.

Yes, Maready is not a physician or a scientist, but we should listen to his crackpot idea because…why? Well, Maready has a YouTube channel, My Incredible Opinion with Forrest Maready. If you look at the titles of the videos in his vlog, you will find lots of titles and blurbs indicative of not just antivaccine views, but a variety of crank medical views. In particular, there’s this video, Are You Crooked?:

It’s well over two hours long, which is why I haven’t watched the whole thing, and I don’t suggest that you watch the whole thing unless you are incredibly masochistic. (I’ve included the video for those completeness freaks out there.) I have, however, watched enough of it to get the gist of Maready’s ideas, such as they are. Fortunately (or maybe not), Maready boiled his “ideas” down to a seven minute video that I could tolerate watching (barely):

Right off the bat, Maready misuses the word “theory,” calling his idea a “theory” or “hypothesis” or “whatever you want to call it.” His ideas definitely don’t qualify as a “theory.” After all, in science the word “theory” is reserved for ideas and propositions that have the highest level of evidence backing them up such that they are accepted by the scientific community as the best currently existing explanation for a phenomenon (e.g., the theory of evolution, quantum theory, germ theory). Unlike the case in colloquial usage, the word “theory” does not encompass wild-ass guesses, which would be a better description of Maready’s ideas, which don’t, to my thinking, even rise to the level of a scientific hypothesis.

His basic idea is that everyone has asymmetrical (i.e., “crooked”) faces these days, with misaligned eyes, tilted mouths, etc., whereas in the past everyone’s faces were symmetrical. As The Professor eats it up:

Maready’s journey starts with a simple observation: A lot of people have crooked smiles and/or misaligned eyes these days. The average person might make such an observation and immediately forget about it, but not Maready. After several pointed reminders, his curiosity is piqued. Is this a new phenomenon, or merely one that has recently come to his attention? To find out, Maready went through mountains of old photographs going back to the beginning of photography itself. His conclusion? At no time in the past were so many people exhibiting so much facial asymmetry. Not even close.

I call bullshit right there. First of all, what criteria did Maready use to determine facial asymmetry in old photographs? Where did he get the photographs? How many did he examine. What was his methodology. How did he control for bias? How did he assure as close to a random sampling as possible? Did anyone other than Maready look at the photos and classify them the faces from the Victorian era as assymetrical versus symmetrical? How, specifically, was the comparison made? If Maready’s idea were The Sixth Sense, the little boy would be saying over and over, “I see…confirmation bias.” I also note that in some of the old photos Maready flashed so quickly in the background I could see facial asymmetry too, particularly in some of the photographs Maready showed in his two-hour video.

Let’s continue, though. Leaping bravely from confirmation bias to wild speculation, Maready decides that, because facial asymmetry can be a manifestation of many conditions, ranging from Bell’s palsy to cerebral palsy to autism to Alzheimer’s disease to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to Hashimoto’s disease, the facial asymmetry must be symptoms of the same disease. He says this disease began to arise 200 years ago when we first started adding metals to our body. I had to call bullshit again right there, because we’ve been “adding metals to our body” at least since Roman times, where lead pipes, plates, and glasses were commonly used. In any case, according to TMR and Maready, Bell’s palsy is the key:

Of course such injuries, known as lesions, could be caused by physical traumas such as being kicked by a horse, but Bell saw a number of clients where the cause was not so apparent. In virtually all the accounts of unexplained facial paralysis from that era, Maready found discussion of medical treatments, especially “purges,” which had been administered before the palsy began. Such doctor-administered treatments in that era were based on mercury which is highly neurotoxic and could wholly explain the nerve damage Bell was seeing.

I see…confirmation bias. After all, Bell’s palsy is known today to be primarily due either to trauma, viral infections, or other conditions that cause inflammation of the facial nerve where it exits the skull through narrow gap in the bones of the face

I could go on, but let’s continue deeper into the pseudoscience. Maready next notes that many of the conditions he’s discussing, autoimmune or neurological, occur after an immune activation of some sort. This is one of those statements’ that’s true in a general, almost trivial sense, but Maready, like many cranks, paints with far too broad a brush. He then paddles further up the creek of pseudoscience by “hypothesizing” (actually, making a wild-ass speculation) that, thanks to the heavy metals (yes, aluminum from vaccines among them) we now have in our bodies, the white cells that respond to an immune insult now carry a “deadly payload” of aluminum and other heavy metals. Basically, the aluminum from vaccines lying dormant in various tissues of the body, until some sort of immune triggering event happens, which can be trauma, infection, pregnancy, lack of sleep, heavy exercise…well, almost anything. He posits a positive feedback loop in which, when aluminum is brought to a part of the body that needs help “bad things happen,” resulting in a call for more help, which brings more white cells and more aluminum, and “on and on it goes.” He then goes on about doctors still don’t know for sure what causes Bell’s palsy or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or even chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to repetitive brain trauma.

Maready then goes on to say how “crooked theory” offers a simple explanation why all of these things happen, namely that aluminum from vaccines gets into white cells and any injury or immune trigger brings white cells bearing “poison” (i.e. aluminum) to the injured or infected area. He then suggests that children who have been fully vaccinated should not play contact sports because they will be especially susceptible to CTE, with repetitive minor head trauma “sucking” aluminum-bearing white cells into the brain. Of course, you know what they say about simple solutions. The words of H.L. Mencken come to mind here, For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Of course, Maready is so wrong that he’s not even wrong.

That doesn’t stop him, however. He then goes on to do what cranks do best and attribute a single cause to virtually all disease, or at least all autoimmune diseases and neurological diseases with any immune component whatsoever. Oh, and it can also explain cancer. (Of course.) It also, according to Maready, explains why everyone has crooked faces. Vaccines with aluminum result in aluminum-bearing white cells that flock to the facial nerve as a result of minor trauma or inflammation, damaging it, resulting in facial asymmetry. He concludes:

Do you get it now? Can you see it?

If crooked theory is proven correct, all the foundations, all the charities, all the websites, all the research and genetic testing for this and that for these one thousand different diseases and disorders, they can all join together and focus on understanding this one thing. And changing this one thing may prevent them all. And if one thing can prevent them all, then we can find the one thing that will heal us all. This is why I had to share this with you, because everything we know about sickness and disease may be about to change—for the better…All this disease and suffering may be about to come to an end.

Ah, yes. Here we see yet another example of a favorite of cranks, The One True Cause Of All Disease, in this case, aluminum. Oh, and Lyme disease, which, while not The One True Cause, collaborates with The One True Cause, as The Professor notes, citing stuff Maready left out of his shorter video:

What I didn’t know—and it’s truly mind-boggling to me that I didn’t—until I read it in Crooked is that other bacteria can also develop cell-wall-deficient forms that are then able to invade and hijack the body’s own cells, especially white blood cells. These bacteria then continue living and replicating inside our own cells. The immune system knows they are there and goes about trying to get rid of them using every weapon in the arsenal, including antibodies. “Antibody” in this case turns out to be quite literal—as these antibodies actually attack host cells that have been hijacked by intracellular bacteria and viruses.


Guess what else can cause bacteria to make that same conversion? Aluminum. Yep, you read that right. Aluminum gets called to the site of an infection, then changes the nature of the bacteria it’s fighting, making it much more difficult to get rid of and enabling it to hijack immune cells, thus keeping the inflammation going and helping it to travel anywhere in the body that may signal for help. Antibiotics and injected aluminum, the perfect storm.

Citation(s) required.

Not surprisingly, The Professor laps up this ridiculousness. Sure, she doesn’t buy it completely, and, yes, she hedges a bit, but in the end she gives way more credence to a bunch of wild-assed speculation than is due based on any evidence:

From an investigational perspective (even if all this didn’t affect me personally, I love a good mystery), I appreciated that Maready seemed most interested in getting to the truth and for every new observation or theory he sought out all the available evidence—both contrary and supportive. Does that guarantee that no bias creeps in? Of course not. We’re all human; we all have biases colored by our experiences. And Maready makes his own bias clear in the book’s introduction. He believes his theories to be largely correct and throughout the book states them more affirmatively than I would be comfortable with, but he makes it clear from the outset that he knows that at this point this is all theory, and part or all of it may not turn out to be true. Verification will ultimately be up to scientists. That said, it is clear that Maready’s investigation was done conscientiously, with integrity and intelligence, and is backed by science at every point. And I find his conclusions startlingly plausible and coherent with both the known science and anecdotal experience. I really hope that Maready’s book marks a major turning point for the better for those of us on healing journeys.

Maready’s investigations were “backed by science at every point”? His conclusions are “startlingly plausible and coherent”? Does The Professor not understand why I and other scientists laugh at her?

Maready’s “theory” is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen coming out of the antivaccine movement. It rivals other utterly implausible and scientifically ridiculous ideas of autism that include Andrew Moulden’s microvascular strokes as a cause of autism; Mark and David Geier’s rationale for chemical castration as a treatment for autism that invokes the ludicrous idea that testosterone prevents chelation therapy from removing mercury from the brain; and the idea that DNA from the cell lines derived from a human fetus used to grow up viral stocks to make vaccines gets into neurons in the brain and triggers an immune response leading to autism.

Congratulations, Mr. Maready. Truly, you’ve joined some amazing company.

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]

90 replies on “A not-so-Thinking Mom loves a crooked antivaccine “theory” by Forrest Maready”

Here’s a pretty good debunking of Maready’s idiocy:

“Maready’s journey”

Groan. Just another credulous person latching onto nonsense and calling it a “journey” (usually it’s a “healing journey”).

And there I was, naively thinking that “healing journey” was New-Age-speak for a ride in an ambulance.


“Just say ‘journey’ if you really have to travel.”
To paraphrase an advertisement of a German home centre.
If people use the word ‘journey’ for anything else, it give me the creeps.

“We also have more sensitive lab tests that detect autoimmune conditions that are not yet symptomatic.”

Hell, my anti-Ro and anti-La titers had plumb vanished the last time I saw the rheumatologist, although the ANA was the same.

^ Come to think of it, my Raynaud’s has been much less troublesome since I’ve started getting annual flu vaccinations.

^^ Oh, right:

His basic idea is that everyone has asymmetrical (i.e., “crooked”) faces these days, with misaligned eyes, tilted mouths, etc.

My nostrils are asymmetrical. This may have something to do with one’s having being cauterized when I was two years old because of a severe nosebleed. Or perhaps it portends doom. Moreover, one of my nipples is hairier than the other. TMI?

Silly Narad! Obviously the nosebleed was cauterized with silver nitrate, so IT IS heavy metal induced asymmetry. You really should have posted that detail to the TMR website (or to Mr Maready directly)…

What now for your nose? Chelation therapy to straighten it out because it was clearly the metal that did it? You could be the first of Orac’s minions to seek help from the Geiers…

One of my breasts is bigger…
And I have a dimple on one side of my face, the other half of my face doesn’t have a dimple.

I have no proof, but I think most right-handed women have the same–that was the explanation of my OB-GYN many years ago, anyway. Well, what he actuallysaid was that everyone (women) has one bigger than the other.

“Genetics also can’t explain why so many people come down with illnesses never before seen in their extended families.”

I don’t see why this would be true. Most diseases with genetic components are very complex. Introduce some new alleles from a new spouse, and I don’t think that we are yet at a stage at which we could produce with certainty what risks are being introduced into a family. Certainly there are recessive traits that may be hidden for many generations.

I call bullshit on this statement. It seems to me to be a fabrication for the purpose of justifying an unjustifiable opinion.

It’s easy to construct a scenario whereby that statement would be false. Suppose a certain condition is caused by someone having two copies of a rare recessive gene. Now suppose Alice and Bob, both of whom happen to carry one copy of that gene, get married. Each of their offspring has a 1 in 4 chance of getting two copies of the recessive gene. Depending how rare the recessive gene is, such a child could well be the first in many generations on either side of the family to have the condition.

There are other, more complex scenarios as well. It could be a condition that only happens if somebody has both gene 1 and gene 2, both of which are rare. If Alice happens to have gene 1 and Bob happens to have gene 2, they could have a kid with the condition. And so on.

At the beginning of Orac’s posting, there are five smile-less historical pictures.

Rotten Teeth / Lack-of-Teeth Theory explained in three sentences:

It is speculated that these smile-less images could be an indication of gum disease and tooth decay. It is further speculated that certain metals (e.g., aluminum hydroxide in toothpaste) were not used daily to keep the mouth clean (i.e., poor oral hygiene).


Fun and interesting post!

Given the apparent period of the photographs, they likely are daguerreotypes or tintypes. Photographs then were seen as a serious undertaking and no one wanted to be portrayed in a foolish looking pose. As well, exposures could run for more than a minute or longer. Why not try changing your avatar here to show us your shining smile but with such an extended exposure time? No latex prosthetics or duck glue allowed.

The same time-frame also included people having photographs taken of their loved ones corpses. Hard to get a corpse to smile ya know.

Maready has a YouTube channel, My Incredible Opinion with Forrest Maready.

Maready calls his opinion incredible as if that were a good thing. But “incredible” means “not believable”, which is definitely true in this case: you can’t trust anything Maready says.

A. That’s some incredibly alert and life-like aluminum.

B. Has anyone discussed with Mr. Maready the existence of metals in our bodies, and the ways we need them?

C. I have to ask again. Why do they think people have more immune activation with vaccines than when they got the diseases vaccines prevent? Do they think smallpox and measles don’t activate the immune system?

Anyway, thank you for the public service of taking us through this.

What I didn’t know—and it’s truly mind-boggling to me that I didn’t

But it doesn’t make you consider why you didn’t know it does it? Indeed the Dunning-Kruger is strong in this one.

Maready found discussion of medical treatments, especially “purges,” which had been administered before the palsy began.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that centuries ago “purges” were a very commonly administered “treatment”. In fact, it was not atypical to give children castor oil to keep them “regular”. This jumped out at me.

About the….. er… argh…. I hate to even say it…. PROFESSOR:

( from TMR: Getting Personal/ paraphrase):
She’s an actor geek who has a degree in physics and loves to solve puzzles and MYSTERIES. Her two kids have apraxia and ADHD because she listened to other mothers so NO AUTISM!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen her in action because I watched several of the TMR panel discussion videos at AutismOne- IIRC, she DIDN’T vaccinate her kids- that’s why they don’t have autism. I think she runs their social media and in videos, she works very hard to be seen and heard over the rest of the crew. The arrogance of ignorance shines in this one. Some of her responses are especially revealing of this tendency.

-btw- Of late, TMR has been rather quiet. New posts are rare. Several of the originals seemed to have disappeared- not posting at all, MacNeil is out and Booty Kicker died a while back. When they started out, they had several posts a week
I haven’t looked but they may still be a feature at Autism One..

She’s an actor geek who has a degree in physics

Undergraduate. I have one, too, and if Foolish Physicist is around, over at his joint I have totally copped to its making me nothing more than able to try to work from first principles. It beats advertising oneself with a weird, attempted secksy, bad-blackboard image, I think.

Let us all think kindly about Roy Hinkley – the Professor – and Russell Johnson. Johnson had the integrity to have the things he said and did in that role vetted by an actual scientist so the Professor wouldn’t be spouting nonsense. I don’t think it worked completely, but at least he tried.
Later in life, after losing his son to AIDS, he threw himself into fundraising for HIV-related causes.
Also, he was my first male crush, something I apparently share with other men of my generation.

While I’m here:

People in old photos may appear glum or expressionless because they had to remain motionless for a long time in order to get an image. Thus, no one caught random instantaneous movement which could possibly explain some differences in appearance.

[tongue-in-cheek]Nah they were glum and expressionless because they lived in an era before the world was in colour. The sheer monotony caused by a grey scale world led to the doldrums. It wasn’t until the world was colourised that people started to enjoy life and you could find them smiling in the photos. [/tongue-in-cheek]

It’s obvious why autism and autoimmunity are related. They both start with “aut”. I believe that both conditions are also related to automobiles, autarchy, & Austria, which in French is Autriche. I would also avoid automatons. Thank god that the Automat is no longer poisoning New Yorkers with deadly aut food.
Maybe the ‘t’ isn’t even necessary, thereby connecting them to Australia and the aurora borealis. If it’s “au” alone, then belonging to the African Union, doing stellar astronomy, or handling gold are all dangerous too.
As soon as I think of a few more I’ll publish. The world will thank me, except those Reptoploidians who are the real rulers of Earth.

And any authentic author autocorrecting their autobiography would be especially dangerous…
What about autopsies, particularly those happening in autumn?

It’s all about the AU, that being the chemical symbol for gold. Propagate quackery, rake in the gold.

Even better for alties who are also goldbugs: “No fishy government fiat-money for me!”

While arguing the pro aut contra of your claim I sadly fell victim to my own thoughts.

I didn’t think to mention it, but I have a facial droop attributed to poliomyelitis and I have an autism spectrum condition. And my second cousin has an autoimmune disease.
No one has a perfectly symmetrical face. If you’ve ever done that trick of setting a mirror vertically in the middle of a photo or sketch of a face, it looks creepy, not quite human.

Thank you for blogging about this dangerous anti-vax profiteer who I have been exposing for months. I believe my efforts have led to his book sales not being as he expected. He’s resorted to frustratingly blocking and censoring me from all of his social media and refusing my offer for scientific debate over his theories.

This is a man who once said vaccines are “a sinister event that I believe will outrank the Holocaust in terms of evil & suffering.”

Some links of mine on Forrest and his “crooked” theory:

On his book and how he censors opposing views (while retweeting holocaust deniers who support him):

Him debunking his own book:

Him debunking his own book…again:

Were we crooked parody video:

Lies of Crooked video series:

Full debunking of his book:

Hard to believe he’s not a fan of me!

The dude is so obviously on the grift, looking to grab some of the Moron Money washing around in antivax circles, that his fabrications don’t deserve the time taken to refute them.

You didn’t call him an unabashed fraudster often enough, so I am trying to redress this now.

“I find his conclusions startlingly plausible and coherent”

Since magical thinking seems to be the theme of the day, what magical remedial educational prescription would be required for The Professor to enable her to understand difference between what she considers plausible and coherent health science and what actually is?

Compare and contrast The Professor’s review of Maready’s book to the publicly available example of RO1 good grantsmanship:

You don’t have to understand the immunology that is referenced; note that the real professors who review have to consider the previous results (actual data) obtained by the author’s body of work, put that and the new proposal in context of potential public health benefits, assess the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses, and cast a vote for funding (or not). True, the process takes longer than magical thinking (and is much, much tougher on the authors) though there is a reasonable chance that patients may someday benefit…

I know this is a minor point, but I kept getting hung up on it anyway…

Since when is aluminum of all things a ‘heavy’ metal? It’s one of the lightest metals out there, and based on the Wikipedia page for heavy metals, while there’s no real standard definition of what qualifies as a ‘heavy metal’, about the only way to call aluminum one is that some people apparently consider any element higher in atomic weight than Sodium to qualify.

some people apparently consider any element higher in atomic weight than Sodium to qualify

Anything heavier than lithium is a “metal” is astronomy,

That’s the thing about aluminum: it’s NOT a heavy metal. Those have specific characteristics that are not anything like aluminum’s. And, I have to say, the anti-vaxxers have latched onto a very bad candidate to replace mercury in their evil-vaccine-toxic-metals delusions.

I’m an inorganic chemist, I’ve done research on metals for decades, during which I and my research group handle metal compounds in the lab every day, and we’ve been all over the periodic table, using practically every metal. And, I have to say: aluminum is just not that hazardous. We, of course, have to know all about the chemicals we handle, and which metals are worse to be exposed to, and all that. No one worries about aluminum. It’s not considered toxic, there are no special precautions associated with using it, as there are with almost all metals. Exposure to too much iron has worse effects.

There are a few very exotic aluminum compounds that, if you try hard enough, could give you a dose of aluminum that has some bad effects, but you really have to try. Perhaps life-long exposure to airborne industrial pollution that contains aluminum might do something to you, but I can’t think of any other way to get a big, serious dose of aluminum that might affect you somehow. Aluminum just isn’t toxic: it’s not even on anybody’s list. It’s difficult for me to think of a metal that’s less toxic: almost all of them are more bioactive.

So, hard luck on the antivaxxers now that mercury is gone and they’re stuck with aluminum! Because that’s going exactly nowhere.

If you mean, going nowhere in terms of the chances they’ll get no scientific evidence showing it’s dangerous, I defer to your expertise (and appreciate your insights).

But they don’t need to prove it scientifically. They just need to cast fear and doubt and confuse parents, scare them enough so that they don’t protect their children. I’m not so sure they can’t go there.

On the other hand, Orac and others have done a lot of work to prevent them from doing that. Maybe one day you can blog about what you have learn and the effect on this context.

@doritmi, yes, I did mean that scientifically it’s going nowhere: no one is even going to study aluminum in vaccines, or take it out, or anything, because it isn’t a problem. But, as you say, the idea is out there, and the anti-vaxxers are indeed doing a lot of damage with it, and will continue to. So, the work of people like Orac is so important.

Thanks for your suggestion about blogging! I hope I could use my expertise for something sometime, but blogging or otherwise conveying things about chemistry is hard. Chemistry’s both boring and difficult to understand, for nearly everyone, and it’s tough to explain why some chemicals work the way they do. Like, why one of the metals that we fear most in the lab is gold: why gold compounds are ferociously toxic, but gold metal is very safe, you can even swallow a wedding ring (if you like:)) without any danger.

I think, as you said, that no chemical facts or information will make a dent in these people: they hear that some metals are toxic, and Dunning-Kruger kicks in, so all metals must be.

Perhaps life-long exposure to airborne industrial pollution that contains aluminum might do something to you

That’s what the chemtrails are for.

Aluminum is also lighter than calcium and iron, as well as several other metals humans have in trace amounts. The Professor should try avoiding calcium and iron, unless she likes having bones and blood.

On a slightly brighter note..

I perused the AutismOne 2018 and don’t see any evidence of TMR. Over the past few years, they hosted book signings, panel discussions and — wait for it!– a LOUNGE! Drinking Moms indeed!

HOWEVER AO has Andy Wakefield, Del Bigtree, chiropractors and sponsors including the Segal family

Did you know that people fart more now than 200 years ago? I base this astute observation on: (1) an internet search showing that 200 years ago nobody ever posted about farts on social media and (2) a search for books containing the word “fart” from Project Gutenberg showing far fewer books discussing passing gas then than now. And it must be the vaccines because the first vaccine came from cowpox and you just know how flatulent cows are and we prolly got some of that cow DNA into us from that. Thanks, Edward Jenner. #areyouflatulent.

@ Christopher Hickie

I suggest you read a rather amusing book: Jim Dawson. “Who Cut The Cheese: A Cultural History of the Fart.” Among others, Ben Franklin wrote about farting several times. LOL

I like going to library book sales, usually $1 a book, and bought the above.

I remember reading how Franklin had proposed trying to make them smell fragrant and how popular he felt the first person to do that would be. Nowadays you could call it “organic vaping”. Probably soon some high school science fair project will do this using CRISPR.

Have you tried searching under antiquated British euphemisms for fart, and in particular, “trump”? Perhaps that might yield more representative results. Of course, there would be the difficulty of removing unrelated results, such as those relating to trick-taking card games.

Drinking Moms’ Revolution has all the characteristics of an echo chamber. Very interesting article here:

“An ‘echo chamber’ is a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited. Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders.”

The author has some decent ideas about the causes & cures. One of the latter is to get people to trust even one person who is not part of their tight-knit little group. That should be relatively easy. The goal of the trusted outsider shouldn’t be to break the True Believer’s beliefs in nonsense. Instead the goal should be simply to lead the True Believer to trust a few more people outside their echo chamber. Those people in turn shouldn’t go into attack mode about the echo chamber either: just socialize normally, as humans do.

Thereby, the denizen of the echo chamber gradually gets to know others with more diverse views: not necessarily views that directly oppose their own, but views that are not identical to their own. The “not identical” part is what starts to erode the echo chamber walls.

We, here, have a tendency to want to go to sites like Drinking Moms’ Revolution and argue their main points. Perhaps the better strategy would be to go there and just talk about something else that gets the people there to go check out other sources of information that have nothing at all to do with their main topics, and meet up with others outside their tight little orbits. One good thing leads to another, and another, and eventually, out of the labyrinth of BS.


Of course your strategy might work.
HOWEVER sites like AoA, TMR or Jake’s Labyrinth are careful of what they let through for readers. TMR does sometimes allow people to disagree but usually the illustrious Prof shouts them down.
You have to find issues on which they CAN agree: the diehards regard standard research/ universities as sinkholes of depravity and SBM as voodoo. Still, you might reach a few of the less adamant.

Hi Denice-

Yes, I’ve read much from folks here about the censorship on those sites. The key to it working is to not disagree about anything, but just to hang out “casually” and bring in other topics of interest. Other hobbies, cute kitties & puppies, gardening, tasty recipes, whatever. Anything that leads people to other places where people hang out, so they’ll start finding other social circles.

Then the “magic” (heh) of normal social interaction with normal folks will produce other sources of emotional engagement and reward, that have nothing to do with the quacky dreck. To the extent that this works, it competes for time, so, more time in normal social circles, less time in quackville.

When this works particularly well, folks who escape the bubble eventually look back and think, “hmm, my old pals over there were kinda’ weird…” and hang out there less and less, until they stop altogether. Their attitudes soften up little by little, and at minimum they stop spreading dangerous nonsense because they aren’t getting any further reinforcement for it.

Reducing the numbers of active spreaders of quack memes has an effect roughly similar to increasing the number of spreaders of pro-science memes. Eventually that might even cause some of the quack sites to lose enough members that they lose the critical mass needed to maintain their own social cohesion, and they just peter out and go away. Or they become so distilled down to a small number of hard-cores, that any Joe Average or Jane Mundane who drops in will be quickly turned off.

You could call that “vector control”;-)

This response was triggered by a special word (i.e., Bless).

@ Ellie,

You’ve said “Bless” several times.

You may be interested in my next book titled, Distinguished Missionary Women: The Essence of Necessity,

It will be MJD’s first book that is Orac-proof (i.e., resistant to respectful insolence).

Here’s a summary:

Missionary work may be on the verge of extinction as technologies such as smart phones, computers, and artificial intelligence become more prevalent in the future. Sending a person to a foreign country is rapidly being displaced with online ministry. This book documents the recollections of June M. Dunn who was a 20th century Christian missionary nurse in Haiti, Honduras, Guam, Russia, Saigon, Saipan, and Thailand. Many stories describe inspiring, comical, and sometimes frightening aspects of missionary work. June’s family upbringing, healthcare training, and an unwavering trust in God’s plan allowed her to persevere and flourish. Throughout the book, select quotations and hymns supplement the spiritual and emotional impact of missionary work. At the beginning of several chapters there are photographs, pictures, and paintings that beautifully illustrate her journey. Several remarkable women, and articles describing their historic missionary accomplishments, are chronicled in the final chapters.

Publication date is expected to be August 1st, 2018.

Bless your heart, Ellie.


That has to be the most tenuous segue into shilling one’s book I’ve ever seen. Although the book sounds rather tedious it is interesting to see you branching out into non-fiction.

IIRC, MJD is from Minnesota. He therefore may not be familiar with the typical usage of “bless his heart” in other parts of the country (primarily but not exclusively the South). Which is a polite way for the speaker to voice the opinion that the person spoken of is what Gene Wilder’s character in Blazing Saddles called “the common clay of the New West.”

I disagree with my sceptical brother, Clyde:
Orac spends his time wisely and carefully disentangles the sodden imbroglio of altmed for sceptics – including newbies and people on the fence: not everyone is as knowledgeable as this Smut fellow. Such an obvious nest of woo as this is an easy entrance point for someone who is starting to question alt med and new agey nonsense. I never heard of this until he wrote it and I’m usually everywhere. Plus he does it in an entertaining fashion.

Although I enjoy Orac’s long, intricate posts I would like to make an additional suggestion: when the woo-load is light, why not do short posts that focus upon new developments or particularly egregious loads of crap that appear everywhere on the net? Perhaps even showing some of the videos that are all the rage. Believe me, they are sad.

I myself try to highlight BS I come across so that others can take note. Two trends I notice right now: a greater focus on politics in general ( which might be good because they spend less time talking about woo BUT it may gain them more like-minded followers who will get the woo later) and their fears of the rising tide of ( what they call ) “censorship” on the net: they don’t like that platforms like You Tube (which provide free access for their garbage) or FaceBook might limit them or cause readers to question them. They spend a great deal of time insulting these companies as they do the mainstream media.

So the universal flu vaccine should give people something alike the Spanish flu?
Some new plot against humanity?
I suppose the antivaxers will consider this a possibility.

I had my flu vaccination last week.

Autism obviously first manifests itself as a sore arm.

@ Gray Squirrel:

I can’t believe it, two commenters at AoA actually think that perhaps autism is over-diagnosed!

Today, Jameson reacts to the latest CDC figures- 1 in 59- ** her 13 year old probably knows more about this than adults or even “experts”. It’s probably even higher than tha,t she says. She presents the famous chart- 1 in 150 to the present rate.

Meanwhile, reports that the rate is highest there- 1 in 36. The article discusses how this may be because of greater awareness and identification but that other causes might be higher there as well: premature birth, being a twin/ triplet, having older parents.

** if it keeps up at this rate, eventually 3 of every 2 children will be diagnosed.

Hi Denice- I’m inclined to think that auism is the subject of an unacknowledged culture war. Sociopaths and narcissists in high places benefit from using autism as a distraction-squirrel (a not-nice squirrel;-) to keep public attention “over there” rather than on narcissism & sociopathy.

Especially because people on the spectrum are known to be a) not good at lying, and b) often very good at spotting liars. Whereas narcissists and sociopaths lie and lie and lie until the cows come home. Stigmatizing people who are better than average at spotting liars is another benefit to the narcissists & sociopaths.

What I’d like to know is whether the prevalence of truly disabling autism has or has not increased over the past 50+ years. To my mind that would be the test of whether ASDs are being overdiagnosed.

That is, the mild ASDs are not necessarily easy to detect: “Bob’s a little odd but he’s hella’ smart,” in decades past was no big deal. Absent-minded professors, scientists & engs who aren’t particularly interested in socializing, etc. etc. So it’s credible that some of these folks are now receiving diagnoses.

But disabling autism, such as nonverbal teenagers: those types of cases would have been spotted decades ago, and any additional sensitivity of diagnostics wouldn’t change the numbers much. By analogy, diagnosing a broken leg as compared to a sprained ankle: the broken leg is very obvious, the sprained ankle much less so.

If there’s an increase in diagnoses for disabling ASDs, then I’d say there’s cause for concern about some kind of underlying public health issue. If the only increase in diagnoses is for the mild end of the spectrum, then that would point toward increased diagnostic sensitivity bringing out numbers that were not evident before.

Do you know which is the case?

@ Gray Squirrel:

A while back, we discussed the numbers in detail at RI; here are a few thoughts:

whilst the ASD figures increased, there was an accompanying decrease in numbers of Intellectually Disabled people ( who used to be called MR). There were other categories used in the past like “Childhood Schizophrenia” for people with more severe ( probably) ASDs
a great part of the increase involves those recently labelled Asperger’s Syndrome; many people note that people they used to call “nerds” or “odd” now receive a label of AS/ high functioning autism: a study in the UK showed this trend – they found adults of all ages who were not labelled as children
the newest category system pulls a few former diagnostic labels together
a history of changes in the DSMs can be instructive: great changes occurred in the 1990s.

There’s a societal factor as well:
As de-institutionalisation progressed, many people who would have lived in state run settings began to live at home.
The severely affected teenagers/ young adults described by parents at AoA/ TMR probably would not have been living at home in say, 1960 or 1970.

There could be increased instances of ASDs: if more parents have children at older ages, live in cities ( although that could just mean better diagnosis), more pre-term infants survive, there are more cases of multiple births ( perhaps due to IVF) .

if it keeps up at this rate, eventually 3 of every 2 children will be diagnosed.

Stephanie Seneff shows a graph that predicts just that. About 2050 if I remember correctly.

Seneff never bothered to fit a curve. One graph just ends with a red line pointing up and question mark. This doesn’t stop her from asserting random 100% prevalence dates, though.

I had someone say to me, in all seriousness: “This article says that by 2050, 100% of children will be autistic!” This is why it’s hard to be friends with other moms.

So, is it possible that vaccines could be a cause of the rise in autoimmune and autism spectrum disorders . . . because those are the children who were dying from those diseases when they got them?

BTW, about the echo chamber thing, I am a creationist, constitutional libertarian Christian mother of seven. I still read blogs like this. Skeptical Inquirer and free-thinkers, too. I think that smart people were already aware of the effect, and took steps to avoid it before and since.

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