1. Matt7895 says

    How do you think the whole ‘MMR vaccine causes autism’ thing started? I mean, I know Chinese whispers and how the smallest things get spun out of all proportion, but there must have been a start to this whole thing. Some nutjob must have said something and then for some wacky reason he or she was taken seriously by the general public.

  2. Citizen Z says

    How do you think the whole ‘MMR vaccine causes autism’ thing started?

    A researcher named Andrew Wakefield published a study showing a possible connection between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. The other researchers involved in the study asked to be removed as authors due to shoddy methodology, and Wakefield neglected to reveal conflicts of interest, namely the wad of cash he got from trial lawyers who want to sue people since “the vaccine causes autism”. (Anyone feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.)

  3. black wolf says

    IIrc, the shoddy conclusion of the study was published in a British tabloid and spread from there. Later investigations revealed that the ‘research’ was based on a sample of something like eight (8) patients.

  4. says

    There were 12 subjects in the Wakefield study, all selected based on the fact that they already had autism symptoms. I read that study for a report about a month ago and it practically screamed “confirmation bias”, “sampling bias”, and “insufficient sample size”. No wonder none of the other scientists involved wanted to be associated with it.

  5. Rose Colored Glasses says

    Two points.

    1. If Jenny McCarthy caught polio, I would laugh my ass off. Yeah, I know that’s unkind, but see it in context.

    2. I’d personally rather she’d keep her clothes on.

  6. Mike says

    I think Jenny & her ilk need to start paying for the spread of disease formerly controlled by regular vaccination.

    I watched her say (paraphrasing), with a straight face, that her child was perfect, had to be perfect, so that any illness he got had to be caused by some outside sinister force. Her lunacy is easy to see, clearly easy to spread, but difficult to correct.

  7. Nerd of Redhead says

    PZ, here you go making fun of styrofoam by comparing it to Jenny McCarthy’s brain. Styrofoam has many noble uses, including home insulation. The same cannot be said for that her brain.

  8. Shamar says

    Okay….yeah……….let it be said……………since MCarthy wants to consider scientific research to be completly irrelevant….




    wait for it….

    (yeah, I said it)


  9. Chris H. says

    Matt7895 said “How do you think the whole ‘MMR vaccine causes autism’ thing started?”

    All explained in this book:

    Really good book. The author was on a recent Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast (I posted the link on the above blog last week).

    Short version here:

    Also, to add what Peridragon said, the dozen kids were provided by the lawyer. In getting the samples from the gut, one child had his intestines perforated in several places and is now even more severely disabled.

  10. Jadehawk says

    Styrofoam has many noble uses, including home insulation. The same cannot be said for that her brain.

    how do you know? have you ever tried insulating with the brains of idiots…? Because as far as I can tell, Teh Stupid insulates pretty well :-p

    This whole situation is certainly not helped by the Hannah Poling story. Anyone knows a good source for the facts of the story? because google only throws up anti-vaxxer sites…

  11. Last Hussar says

    Dreamstretch- to be fair, those comments are not the fault of the Times- that would like blaming PZ for the Creationist comments here.

  12. Doug the Primate says

    Uh, just got in from Titan … who the heck is this Jenny McCarthy that anyone is paying attention to a nutter? There’s a difference between genuinely ignorant (me) and genuinely stoopid (she).


  13. _Arthur says

    Doug, Jenny McCarthy was informed that her baby, who she tought was an “indigo child”, was autistic, and there was no pills to un-autisuc him. So she rushed on The Google, and found very pleasnat doctors willing to CURE her son with natural herbal supplements and chelation agents.

    She sometimes say that her son is cured, and sometimes that he’s about to start a new quack treatment.

    Oh, and her mommy sense told her it was the nasty vaccines that got her child that way.

  14. says

    Jadehawk said “This whole situation is certainly not helped by the Hannah Poling story. Anyone knows a good source for the facts of the story?”

    You forgot:

    But, damn it, why are people sending links like this to PZ before they send them to me? After all, trashing Jenny McCarthy over her antivaccine loony tune views is what I do best on ScienceBlogs…


  15. says

    Styrofoam has many noble uses, including home insulation. The same cannot be said for that her brain.

    how do you know? have you ever tried insulating with the brains of idiots…? Because as far as I can tell, Teh Stupid insulates pretty well :-p

    That’s only if you’re trying to keep reason and intelligent thinking out. Teh Stupid lets heat and stupidity leak out into the environment. It’s like asbestos, but stupider.

  16. Samantha Vimes says

    Stupid brains also feed bacteria and cause a major stink in the attic.* Not good insulation material.

    *Not that I’ve tried, but I do know someone who had dead squirrels in his walls, and that’s about McCarthy’s brain level.

  17. shonny says

    Posted by: Heather Kuhn | November 29, 2008 1:57 AM
    Samantha @ 23:
    Naaah, squirrels are much smarter than she is.
    Notice she says DEAD squirrels, Heather :^)

  18. John Phillips, FCD says

    Posted by: Richard Wolford | November 29, 2008 3:39 AM

    Notice she says DEAD squirrels, Heather :^)

    Her point still stands :)

    FTW, LOL

  19. says

    I say, let the unvaccinated die.

    As a taxpayer, I know that I will ultimately end up footing the bill for drugs being used to treat these cases of measles — and the inevitable, rare-but-expensive long-term effects of the disease, which they would never even have caught in the first place if they had only been vaccinated. That will end up costing many times more than what a jab would have cost — and meanwhile, the authorities will have even less money to spend on more important things.

    Don’t these people have parents and grandparents, who actually remember the days before vaccines — when childhood diseases such as measles were occasionally fatal? Have they never seen the devastation that can be caused by measles in the third world?

  20. says

    Jenny McCarthy started her “career” as a Playboy centerfold in 1993 and then moved on to hosting a show on MTV. My most vivid memory of her was a perfume ad she “modeled” for where she is sitting on a toilet with her draws dropped. Curiously enough, Wikipedia tells me that “In 1996, McCarthy landed a small part in the comedy The Stupids.”

  21. PRK says

    As the parent of a regularly vaccinated autistic son, it’s nice to see that there are some rational people not swayed by any of her anti-vac crap and not taken in by any of her cure crap, either. She’s not helping her own kid or mine with this drivel. I also can’t even begin to tell you how nauseating it is when the Godbots pipe in with: “God gives special kids to special parents, blah, blah, blah…” Jenny McLunatic certainly is special, isn’t she…

  22. bluescat48 says

    Maybe if the “brainless” idiots had styrofoam in place of the garbage there now, they might not be so idiotic.

  23. kev_s says

    I strongly recommend’ Bad Science’ by Ben Goldacre for background to the MMR scare started by Andrew Wakefield. See the chapter ‘The Media’s MMR Hoax’. If you like Pat Condell you will appreciate Ben Goldacre too. He tells it straight.

  24. Bubba Sixpack says

    Someone send Jenny McCarthy’s resume to Faux News. With that great-looking but inanely vacuous personality, she would fit in perfectly.

  25. HadasS says

    kev_s, I was just reading Ben Goldacre the other day – he does an excellent job of describing the entire mess.

  26. HCN says

    Orac said “You forgot”…

    Oops, and yes I did. Thanks.

    AJS said “I say, let the unvaccinated die.”

    Having a child who depended on herd immunity for pertussis due to his history of neonatal seizures, I find your sentiment appalling. There are those who depend on herd immunity, and I am disgusted at those whose idiocy is at the heart of eroding herd immunity.

    Explain to me very carefully why these two boys deserved their fate:

  27. cheeb says

    Hey, would you prefer your child be paralyzed from polio, or autistic?

    It absolutely sickens me to know that some parents would not have an immediate answer to this.

    Fuck their objections, vaccination should be mandatory. Jenny McCarthy is a child abuser.

  28. Dave Wisker says

    This quote from Jenny McCarthy pretty much says it all:

    I believe that parents’ anecdotal information is science-based information. And when the entire world is screaming the same thing — doctor, I came home. He had a fever. He stopped speaking and then he became autistic. I can’t — I can see if it was just one parent saying this. But when so many — and I speak to thousands of moms every weekend and they’re all standing up and saying the same thing. It’s time to start listening to that. That is science-based information. Parents’ anecdotal is science-based information.

  29. Bureaucratus Minimis says

    Myers, this posting was contemptible for its immaturity. Name-calling doesn’t help anything, and only paints you, and the others who piled-on, as jerks.

    Nobody on the planet is under any delusions about McCarthy’s intelligence. However, slamming a grieving mother, however far-fetched her beliefs, is shameful.

    You people are not helping the cause of rationalism. Next time you wonder why more people don’t jump on your bandwagon, re-read this post.

  30. William Miller says

    Cheeb, if the nastier kinds of autism (not Asperger’s or high-functioning, which can actually be advantages in some situations) were really caused by vaccines, they’d have a point. But they’re not.

    I’d much rather end up in a wheelchair but still be able to use my mind than to lose my mental abilities but be able to walk and run.

    The point isn’t that autism is any less serious than infectious diseases – it’s simply that vaccines DON’T have ANY relationship to autism.

  31. HCN says

    Bureaucratus Minimis said “Nobody on the planet is under any delusions about McCarthy’s intelligence. However, slamming a grieving mother, however far-fetched her beliefs, is shameful.”

    Where did Myers call her any names?

    One: Jenny McCarthy is not a grieving mother, her son is very much alive. If anything, she has used her son’s seizure disorder to help her career by keeping herself in the celebrity spotlight.

    Two: No one is slamming her for having a disabled child, we are slamming her for her statements that contradict science and could cause harm to other children (like seeking unnecessary and possible harmful treatments, and withholding vaccines from children). She even had the temerity to shout down doctors claiming her Google education and being a mommy was sufficient.

    Oh, by the way… if you are concerned: I have a son with a seizure disorder and related speech/language and learning disabilities. He also has some other health issues that make him vulnerable to the erosion of herd immunity that Ms. McCarthy is helping to create.

  32. Bureaucratus Minimis says


    Myers wrote: “…one of her [McCarthy’s] equals: a puppet with rags and styrofoam for a brain.” Sure, you can weasel and pretend that because Myers didn’t directly call her styrofoam-brained that he didn’t name call, but you’re straining over gnats. My original contention about name-calling stands.

    Grieving is not necessarily limited to bereavement. I’m well aware that her son is very much alive, though impaired. Granted, distraught would have been a more precise descriptor, but again you’re straining at gnats.

    I never claimed that she was being slammed for being the mother of a disabled child. Don’t see how a reasonable person could have concluded that from my post. Again, you’re trying to muddle the issue.

    You and your son have my sympathy, of course, as do McCarthy and her child.

    I agree that McCarthy’s actions are unhelpful, but a more mature response would have been along the order of: “McCarthy is just plain wrong about this. She fails to understand the difference between actual science and conclusions drawn by non-impartial observers…”

  33. Steve_C says

    I don’t read the Huffington just for the fact it’s a little too California new age woo-ee for me. Plus Deepak posts there… and probably Andrew Weil too.

  34. Nerd of Redhead says

    Whoa, I messed up that post.
    I was just thanking you for your concern, and rejecting it.

  35. SC says

    Huffington post is apparently anti-vax :

    Orac points to this frequently.

    Whoa, I messed up that post.

    I thought you were calling his/her comments shitty. :)

  36. Bureacratus Minimis says


    I thought that’s what you meant, but I was giving you the benefit of doubt. Your response only reinforces the point I made in the second sentence of my post #40.

    Calling concern trolling here is simply a dodge to avoid serious discussion of the issue.

    There is something very sick about a political movement that cannot tolerate the mildest of criticisms from within. Andrew Sullivan, 10/1/2008

  37. darkseraphina says

    Bureacratus minimis:

    blah, blah, blah.

    I put a lot more stock in #32 PRK: she knows of which she speaks AND (unlike McCarthy) can say it coherently, succinctly, and without misusing the words ‘anecdotal’ or ‘science’. And yes, i brought an insult into rational criticism…sometimes, when people act fundamentally stupid, and drag others down with them, there is not better way to illustrate the point than with a clear, firm:
    “Stop being an asshat and let the adults talk now.”

  38. says


    Such corner cases only go to show why it’s important for as many people as possible to be vaccinated against diseases — because anyone who could and should have been vaccinated but hasn’t, is presenting a risk to those who, for legitimate reasons, could not.

    I am not, absit omen, a parent of an unvaccinable child. But I’m damned sure that if I was, and a vaccinable child in the same class as mine caught the disease because someone refused the jab, I’d have a few choice words for that kid’s parents.

  39. Eric says

    I think people here should take this problem a lot more seriously. It’s easy to pooh-pooh Jenny McCarthy as just another blond bimbo. But she’s more than that. She’s a very outraged mother – a political force that can’t be under estimated in America. The problem is her accusations are a little more complex than “vaccinations cause autism”. She questions why children require 36 nowdays rather than 10 in years past and why the vaccinations contain mercury. The last accusation is especially alarming (if true) because everyone knows mercury is not a healthy metal to have in one’s system. The undertone to these arguments is the phamaceutical industry is striving to maximize profits at consumer expense. This may sound alarmist as well, except that any skeptic who says big pharma really looks out for Joe Citizen may as well admit to believing in ghosts the same breath.

    I’m NOT saying she’s correct or intelligent. I am saying she shouldn’t be ignored. She’s backed by a very earnest organization and their full arguments can be found here:

    These accusations need to be addressed seriously and in detail to reassure the public. If they’re true this is a serious health care issue that must be addressed immediately. If they’re not it’s STILL a serious health care issue. If parents stop vaccinating their children many diseases nearly forgotten will return to everyone’s detriment. For those who just hate blonds, take comfort in the fact that McCarthy could be sued by anyone who takes her advice and has a child die or get crippled.

  40. says

    She’s backed by a very earnest deceitful organization and their full arguments can be found here:


    These accusations need to be addressed seriously and in detail to reassure the public.

    They have been ad nauseum. There is no shown link what so ever between vaccinations, vaccination schedules, Thiomersal or aluminum (and a host of other things) and Autism.

    To claim they haven’t been seriously addressed exposes your ignorance on the subject.