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The Final Stake

I’ve bitched and moaned about various conspiracy theories throughout history. Each of them more and more preposterous than the rest. I wonder what exactly is causing the the dissolution of the coherency of the conspiracy theory that was lacking in the past ones. For example the theory of the assassination of JFK is pretty well written and researched. It uses science (sort of), eye witness accounts, and an appeal to common sense to prove that something more happened than the official story. Not that I buy the theory, it does have some holes in it, but it’s convincing enough that some serious effort must go into arguing against it. The more modern theories laugh in the face of reason, disregard the thing called reality, and force you postulate a conspiracy of such vast proportions that the smaller group of people are the people NOT involved in it.

The mark of a zealot, as I have said in the past, is someone that refuses to believe even in the face of overwhelming evidence. There is almost always some nugget of truth that these people hold on to, building their labyrinthine theories around that is hard to argue against. For the anti-Vaccination nut jobs their chief nugget has been the publication of a paper in The Lancet (A professional medical journal in the UK) of a paper that linked vaccines with autism by Andrew Wakefield. The paper itself states that, “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome (Autism) described.”

But that didn’t stop Dr. Andrew Wakefield from claiming that the vaccine probably caused Autism. The problem with Wakefield’s study is that there were no controls. In order to do this properly you would need a control group of children who had never received the MMR vaccine and a group that did. The children that received the vaccine would then have to be examined for various effects and observed to see whether or not they developed autism. This is standard scientific method stuff, something that most of us should know by 9th grade, Wakefield did none of this. He procured blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party, was paid by a lawyer representing the parents of autistic children with the specific goal of finding the link between MMR Vaccinations and Autism. He was curiously mute about getting paid and the huge conflict of interest therein.

Despite this evidence, and numerous others, he is still widely cited as “proof” that there are those in the medical establishment that believe that the link exists. Well very recently, the same UK Medical Journal that published Wakefield’s paper has since retracted it. Here is the retraction in their own words:

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.”

The nugget of truth that the theory is built around has proven hollow. Shouldn’t this then end the theory altogether. Not to mention the common sense that since almost all of us reading this have received the MMR vaccine and don’t have autism it’s already tenuous. Most of the responses to the retraction that I have read have come to the defense of Wakefield and claiming that the UK Medical Board is a “kangaroo court.” I pointed out in my last post regarding the 9/11 “truthers” that conspiracy begets conspiracy. Wakefield is now just another victim of conspiracy and The Lancet just another weapon. It is curious that the Lancet was the paragon of scientific objectivity a month ago but now is the villain. It would be funny if people weren’t dying.

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