Some stuff

By Phil Plait | October 27, 2009 12:00 pm

Just a few things from here and there:

1) The 126th Carnival of Space is spacing it up at The Gish Bar Times (where I think they serve nice cold Gish Gallops). You know the deal: astronomy, space, blog posts, etc. Go there and read good stuff!

2) Speaking of good stuff, my Hive Overmind colleague Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance is taking antivaxxers to task, and got a visit by none other than JB Handley, head of the mouthfoaming antivax group Age of Autism. Handley left some spin in the comments, and I’ve taken him to task there, asking him some simple questions about studies which show that everything he claims is wrong. We’ll see what happens there.

3) I forgot to post Script PhD’s interview with the Mythbusters from Comic Con! It’s old, I know, but you might like it. Scroll waaaay down to get to it. Unless you’re a Lost or Fringe fan, then you can read the whole thing.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Astronomy, Space
MORE ABOUT: antivax, Mythbusters

Comments (13)

  1. Ed Myers

    Soooo…this means we’re now out of the Age of Aquarius and in the Age of Autism? When did that happen?

  2. @Ed Myers

    When Jenny McCarthy went from being an indigo mom to a warrior mommy. Or maybe earlier than that…

  3. Old Geezer

    Still waiting for his reply (the cogent one).

  4. Atticus05

    Ummmm… I think Phil scared mr JB Handley off, he hasn’t posted a single thing on the thread since the reply from Phil. Perhaps he only likes to get into arguments with non-science types like himself….

  5. Steve in Dublin

    No, J.B. will reply. He’ll just refer Dr. Phil to his ’’ site. He gets a lot of mileage out of that. One of those ‘studies’ is a *phone survey* for cryin’ out loud!

    J.B., here’s a tip from the scientific side of the vaccines cause autism ‘debate’: correlation != causation.

  6. The H1N1 Vaccine is now available in BC. We have one of the highest rates of infection, AND the highest degree of resistance to getting vaccinated. Something like 60% of those asked said they would not get the shot because they didn’t trust what was in it. This is an indication that either the anti-vax message is getting through, OR, that the government is woefully inadequate about communicating the truth about the vaccine.

    Here in Squamish, just North of Vancouver, the vaccine will be available on Monday. Since I have a chronic condition, I intend to be one of the first in line!

  7. TheBlackCat

    @ Steve: yeah, that is exactly what he did.

  8. Steve in Dublin


    Thanks for the heads-up. Well, Part 1 of Handley’s response went missing, so can’t comment on that. But Part 2 of his response is up. Hmm. The first paragraph is completely incoherent (it sounds like he’s quoting someone who is calling him out on that phone survey), but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that has something to do with Part 1 missing.

    Anyway, in Part 2 of his response he mainly cites excerpts from a study that was published in the Jan 2009 issue of the Epidemiology journal. The study purports to show that autism rates in California have increased from 6.2 per 10000 in 1990 to 42.5 per 10000 in 2001. Unfortunately, you have to pay for this study, but I tracked down the abstract for it, which in part says:

    “Methods: Autism cases were identified from 1990 through 2006 in databases of the California Department of Developmental Services, which coordinates services for individuals with specific developmental disorders. The main outcomes were population incident cases younger than age 10 years for each quarter, cumulative incidence by age and birth year, age-specific incidence rates stratified by birth year, and proportions of diagnoses by age across birth years.”

    To me, that just says that more people may be availing of publicly accessible services to help with the care of their child’s autism because of increased awareness of the services. In other words, their only source of data (that I’m aware of) is people that *come to the Department of Developmental Services* for assistance. Not exactly an unbiased sample, I would say.

    The study’s authors also don’t call out vaccines as a cause per se. They just conclude that the increase in autism rates in California seems to be due to unspecified environmental factors.

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, California, home of the non-sun-bathing blond subculture, as in people who avoid getting their daily dose of vitamin D. Let’s see, when did autism rates supposedly begin increasing? About 1980 something, as I recall. When did people start seriously avoiding sun exposure for skin aging and skin cancer? About 1980 or so, as I recall. Of course, this doesn’t prove diddly but it’s at least as good a link as the autism/vaccine, with one additional caveat: autism rates in the temperate zone are higher for dark complected people than for light skinned folk and that too seems to indicate a low vitamin D causality.

    But it could also be just a co-incidence.

    Gary 7

  10. Atticus05

    Well… I sit corrected. Handley did reply… of course he needed 2 seprate posts. Which reminds me of the overwhelm them with information tatic of debating. If that’s the best he’s got, I can’t help but wonder why he has so many people standing in his corner.

  11. JB Handley

    Perhaps you guys should actually absorb the substance of my reply? Like Phil’s misguided assertion that the “blood mercury study” means anything?

  12. A) I have a good friend who is a behavioral scientist that works with autistic children and she literally goes into apoplectic fits regarding Jenny McCarthy’s “appearances”. The woman has done so much harm in terms of parents who now won’t vaccinate their kids. Every single epidemiological study known to mankind has disproven the correlation between immunization and autism. It’s incredibly sad (and coincidental) that diagnosis often occurs in and around the same time.

    B) Thanks as always for the props, Phil :-D. I just gave the Bad Astronomy blog mad props back during a talk I did at the UCLA Film school.

  13. David N. Brown

    JB Handley,
    Absorbing your argument would mean risking absorbing your narcissism and sociopathy.


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