Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some Bad Science...


Sinks Originally uploaded by Dave Gorman
There are a few things going on and a few thoughts bouncing around my head and I'll try to compose some thoughts for a proper blog some time soon.

But even if I had the time right now - which I don't - I'd prefer to point you in the direction of another blog entirely. This one, from Ben Goldacre.

These things are important. Once upon a time, the uptake for the MMR vaccine in the UK was around 93%. Thanks in no small part to the media hyping up a scare connecting MMR with autism - for which there is no credible evidence whatsoever - that's dropped to around 75% (and is much lower in London.) Of course this has seen an increase in measles... and in some cases that has meant children have died. Unnecessarily.

Anyway... there's no point me rehashing the whole story here in a half arsed way when it's told eloquently over on Ben Goldacre's blog... the point is that someone broadcasting on LBC Radio stoked the anti-MMR fire once more - the kind of thing that spreads fear and keeps the uptake of the vaccine down - and BG uploaded the audio so that he could critique it. Then LBC's lawyers stepped in.

I suppose there's the potential for good here. If enough people spread the word that this is happening it won't matter that the audio is suppressed... because with sensible reporting, the greater truth will be carried on the coat-tails of this spat and more and more people will come to terms with the fact that no matter how many headlines there were over the years linking MMR with autism... there is no actual link. It isn't there. It isn't true.

This is one of the big problems with science reporting. Strawberries Cause Cancer makes a great headline. Strawberries Cure Cancer also makes a great headline. Strawberries Neither Cause Nor Cure Cancer But They Do Taste Nice With Cream isn't a good headline because it seems like non-news. So when a "scientist" makes a bold claim it gets reported as fact... and when it later turns out to be untrue, nothing gets written because there's no story there, right?

13 comments:

Andrew Cooper said...

Remember this dickhead.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1726051.stm

This is the same guy, of course, who consulted god about invading Iraq and got the thumbs up. Is it possible to make it illegal for people who suffer from delusions like that to be put in positions of power?

James said...

In some cases, like in products, the science can act as a form of supply and demand. However, in the MMR case it's more like a political farce!

EmlynB said...

Thank you for posting about this, there was a time when too many people seemed proud of the fact that they had not given their children the MMR vaccine and I would hate for that to happen again. I hate it when people are encouraged to put their children in danger under the pretense of doing what's best.

Sean McManus said...

One problem is that scientists often have to make bold claims to secure research funding. Ultimately, though, if people keep buying newspapers with front page stories like 'do strawberries cure cancer?', then they'll keep being lied to. People get the media they deserve.

Sam, sam, the hyde park man said...

It reminds me of the long running 'red wine causes/cures cancer' headline in the daily mail. Changes just about every week, and depending on which week it was my dear grandma would either have red wine at night or just stick to the nice safe healthy whiskey.
Ultimately though, this is just the tip of the new sensationalist media we seem to have acquired, and it is indeed something which is feeding people scandal and lies... and the horrible thing is they can't get enough of it. I would call it shit stirring, but thats just too polite...

ultramagnetic_commuter said...

I carried out some basic research on this when my son was due to have MMR. Quickly concluded it was sensationalism in the media.

He had the jab. He didn't seem to appreciate it at the time, given his tearful reaction, but Dad Knows Best.

Anonymous said...

Good on you Dave, I read this after Stephen Fry posted it in Twitter.

The more people that are aware of the 'BIG' bullies the better.

Limey said...

Absolutely, Dave. The needless hype and fear-mongering about these vaccinations causes so much more trouble in the long run than if you just get the immunization and move on with life! There is no credible evidence of a link between MMR and autism, and, inf act, recently the doctor who made those claims initially has admitted he falsified his results.

Mellor said...

Scientists, pfft.
Any outlandish claim by a lone scienctist can generally be ignored. They are generally insecure freaks looking for attention. Teams of scientists make the real discoveries these days.
If a group of insecure freaks ever banded together to former a science team, we'd be in for it then.

mattygroves said...

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/11/autism.vaccines/index.html - even CNN and a 'special court' agree that there is NO link between MMR and autism.

The same people who believe in the link also believe that we didn't land on the moon and lizards rule the world.

Nechtan said...

Agree with so many of the comments here.

First Andrew Cooper hit the nail on the head. Blair's refusal to disclose whether he's vaccinated his own kids was the single biggest act to the drop in people immunising their children. There is blood on his hands.

Also I concur with Sean McGuire. Every day you open the BBC News Website there is a new "Scientific study" with new findings contradicting others. These people get a fortune to investigate rubbish and find nothing of substance. Its contradictions galore and they hype things to put money in their back pockets.

We live in a fear culture and it has become of the weapon of choice for any aspiring power monger.

I have 3 childred and they have all had MMR. I could not live with myself if something happened to them as a result of me not getting them immunised.

All the best

Nechtan

Mike Reed said...

The whole, hideous Jeni Barnett show that Ben Goldacre was responding to can, of course, be heard on YouTube (if you can bear it):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dRnkmw-_L4

Sam said...

I know I'm slightly late with this, it's all over and done (I am a little slow)...but I just wanted to add that,,

I agree wholeheartedly! I worked for the NHS at the time of this big "scandal" and my boss at the time - who is a totally wonderful man had a thoroughly horrible time professionally all because he was trying to convince parents that there was nothing wrong with the MMR vaccine.

There is no link to Autism, in fact, (and strike me down if I am wrong) autism is rarely seen in children until they are of the age that the vaccine is routinely given.

(sorry again for being so "behind the times")