Sunday, February 26, 2012


Wow, what a great read. This one was published by Simon and Schuster in 2011; it's copyrighted to author Seth Mnookin. The author traces the history of the "vaccines cause autism" scare, places it into historical context and names some of the big players in the drama, including a number of medical "researchers" who ought to know better. Also prominently mentioned is -- who else? -- Oprah Winfrey. The book is full of well-meaning people whose children are autistic or worse, who just want answers and help, but not everyone in here is well-intentioned, not by a long shot.

I mean, I realize full well that 50% of all doctors were in the bottom half of their class at medical school, but puuuu-lease, are they really this clueless about how to tell a valid research study from a crappy one? I had to learn that before I was allowed out of high school. But apparently even people who really, really ought to know better -- who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a medical school to learn how it works, and who charge us hundred of thousands a year because they supposedly have more expertise than we do -- some of those guys know about as much about how to read a research study as a pig knows how to rate a mutual fund.

And the results of this scare? LEMMINGS OVER THE CLIFF. Like the heedless Arctic rodents, most of us don't see the cliff's edge coming -- you just follow the ass of the lemming in front of you until it is far, far too late and the sea is rushing up to greet you. The author explains that we need 90% to 95% of the population to be vaccinated -- against everything -- to provide what is called "herd immunity" from deadly diseases like measles, rubella, "Hib," and polio. If the immunity rate drops much below that, illness starts to creep in, and people start keeling over. And that's starting to happen as I type this sentence.

Mnookin points out a few things I never knew before:

>> That some people are too young to vaccinate, so that, say, a 7-month-old infant, no longer protected by living in a disease-free community, can pick up the damnedest things without the parents ever knowing where or how.

>> That many diseases have been off our collective radar for so long that doctors no longer recognize them. In the chapter called "Baby Brie," Mnookin describes the horrible, lingering death of a baby too young to vaccinate against whooping cough, who was exposed to it because she was unluckily born into one of those over-educated, over-credulous populations of people who believe scare talk over hard science. She was treated by doctor after doctor before someone even realized what was wrong with her, and by that time, friends and neighbors, she was on life support. Her parents finally had to pull the plug. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

Mnookin also points out things I have known for years, but which not everybody knows yet:

>> The smarter you are, the stupider you may become. Perople who think of themselves as educated and up to date on things don't begin to realize how much there really is to know, and how little of it they have under their belts. I forget where I read this, but by the middle of the year 2001, the amount of information available for humans to learn was doubling every minute and a half. Are you really caught up on all that? I know I'm not.

>> The Internet helps you become profoundly ignorant. It makes it easier than at any time in human history to read page after page after page of totally wrong stuff without ever noticing that the information is completely gonzo. The Internet was, needless to say, the wellspring of many of the pressure groups and lobbying organizations that are convincing devastated parents that the MMR vaccine caused their children's autism. Where are those groups getting their lousy information? From each other, via the Net. Think of it as lemmings committing incest.

>> Just because you have your own web site doesn't mean you have any idea what you're talking about. Look at me! For an even better example, check out TimeCube!

To order your own copy of Mnookin's bo0ok, click on the title of this entry to take you to Amazon. Or support your local library and check it out for free. You won't be sorry.


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