Penn's – and the syringe's – point

By Phil Plait | June 20, 2010 7:30 am

Sure, you know Penn Jillette — the larger, louder half of Penn & Teller. Penn’s an interesting character — a vocal skeptic, to say the least, in that what’s on his mind is on his lips. He and I don’t always agree, but when we do, we do.

Such is the case with antivaxxer Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the long-discredited and now disbarred guy who started the whole modern craze of getting preventable diseases to resurge. I’ve been pretty clear about what I think of Dr. Wakefield, and now you can see what Penn thinks, too, on his new online show Penn Point:

[Warning: It’s Penn, so duh, it’s NSFW.]

Penn — the father of two cute, precocious kids, I’ll note — was gracious in mentioning one of my own blog posts eviscerating Wakefield, and there are plenty of others, too. I’m glad Penn’s putting his weight behind this as well. On his show, on stage, and online, he’s been loud and clear on his stance about "alternative" medicines, and his reach is long. I hope any parents even thinking of not vaccinating watch this video. You might save your own kid’s life, and the lives of many others.

I can’t think of a better message for Father’s Day, in fact.


Comments (49)

  1. Happy Father’s Day Phil!

  2. Penn’s an interesting character — a vocal skeptic, to say the least, in that what’s on his mind is on his lips. He and I don’t always agree, but when we do, we do.

    Any chance you could drag him out to meet the scientists at NASA and get them to politely explain to him that there really is this thing called AGW and that we are way, WAY past the point of saying “I don’t know” and that the people at the Cato Institute are lying to the public?
    I think Penn is great but he has a nasty blind spot where he allows his animosity towards Al Gore blind himself to the science of climate change.
    I know that Penn loves NASA so…maybe they could set him straight once and for all?

  3. Iason Ouabache

    I love Penn but… GAAAH!! TOO MANY JUMPCUTS! I got a headache from the camera zooming around too much.

  4. David

    Off topic: About Wakefield: I know he’s been struck from the register in the UK, but as far as I’m aware he’s still legitimately ‘Dr.’ Wakefield. I mean he still has a medical degree right? I could be wrong about that, so feel free to correct me. I certainly wouldn’t want him as my GP.

  5. Sharku

    Hmm, I think he could have gone a little easier on the “conventional wisdom” and focused on the huge volume of evidence that vaccines work and are safe and the lack of any evidence for the vaccine-autism link. When I hear “conventional wisdom” I think about something which is generally believed to be true without any real evidence for or against it, stuff like “you shouldn’t swim for an hour after eating”… Clearly not the case with vaccines.

  6. Sharku

    @David: as far as I know you’re correct, he’s still a doctor in that he still holds the degree, but he’s no longer allowed to practice medicine.

  7. I’m in agreement with Sharku. When people hear dipwads like McCarthy talk, there’s always some anecdote that’s supposed to prove their point – Penn can at least throw in some weight regarding the number of studies that prove such anecdotes wrong. When you have a six minute soundbite, you hit with the heavy stuff. Staying on the “Not a Doctor anymore” bit is great, but I imagine the antivaxxers whining like Ben Stein (or maybe that’s “droning”) about Big Pharma pressuring/controlling the British GMC to revoke Wakefield’s right to practice, you know, to “protect their profits” and all that yaya. Never once thinking, of course, that sick kids run up the drug costs far higher than healthy ones, and that if anyone’s working for Big Pharma, it’s Wakefield and McCarthy.

    Granted, Penn probably covered this a bit better on Bullsh!t, but more than once never hurts either.

    Watching him use the three cameras in all one take was entertaining, but I’ve always thought the handheld one could go – it doesn’t add much, and Penn isn’t someone who gains greater impact in overtight shots. Just sayin’… 😉 He’s still entertaining to listen to.

  8. Utakata

    I completely agree with Cedric Katesby @ #2. However, we’re discussing anti-vax nonsense not climate change here. :)

  9. Grand Lunar

    Phil, I suggest a warning, just to cover yourself, given the language of the video.

    Anyway, it’s good to see Penn get this word out in the style I often like.

    The message here needs to be spread. Pass it on!

    Oh yes, and Happy Fathers Day to you, Phil.

  10. Stargazer

    Environmentalism and recycling is bad.
    Global warming is not real (CATO says so).

    Quite a guy to have on our side.

  11. DaveH

    It’s good when the well-known get behind the factual side of important issues.

    “He and I don’t always agree” is an applicable phrase to favourite movies and donut fillings.

  12. XPT

    What’s with all the page tearing on the video? Is it just me? Good stuff anyway.

    I’m jealous of American’s right to publicly say that someone is an f-ing a-hole, while where I live you can get sued and pay big money just for the “insult”.

  13. lookylou

    @Utakata I think the larger point is that Penn is an amateur and wrong on AGW and he’s an amateur and right on the anti-vaxxers, so why should we believe in his logic if he can be so obviously wrong on AGW? He’s wrong on lots of other stuff to (economics comes to mind); he just lowers the brand name of “skeptic”.

  14. Trebuchet

    IIRC, Penn also claims smoking doesn’t cause cancer. And he likely thinks Ron and Rand Paul are politically idea. I agree with a couple of others here: With friends like that, we don’t need enemies. He’s not a good spokesman.

  15. pj

    Great job Phil and Penn. The world needs more men like you. @PJZen

  16. Jim

    Reading the comments on this excellent post has got me frustrated enough to leave one of my own. And it’s not just the people leaving comments here that are the problem, every time an atheist or skeptical blogger posts something that Penn says the comments immediately devolve into ad hominems because of Penn’s libertarianism. I’m not exaggerating at all, #13 and #14 above me literally did just that. (It’s absolutely unbelievable that someone claiming to want to protect the brand of “skeptic” would resort to a logical fallacy, by the way. I mean that’s like Skepticism 101.) Michael Shermer gets the exact same reaction. In my opinion, it’s a complete bullsh*t way to treat fellow skeptics.

    Apparently, some people are under the illusion that skepticism and atheism are somehow synonymous with modern liberalism and leftist ideology, to the point where people are actually surprised when some of us take a different view. N0t only is this antithetical to the spirit of skepticism, but I fear this kind of attitude could lead to hostility, and even schism, within the skeptical movement. Skepticism doesn’t care about personal morality, ethics, values systems or politics, it does care about examining claims critically and with an emphasis on evidence, however. So here’s my ad hominem: everyone here who attacks Penn is an unskeptical ideologue who puts personal political preference ahead of the evidence. And yes, that’s completely unfair.

    If Penn is wrong on global warming then he’s wrong, plain and simple. That’s just how it works. But if some people are going to try to use AGW deniers as an excuse to wedge all libertarians out of the skeptical movement because our politics offend you then I think I’ll go ahead and cry foul.

  17. Utakata

    I guess you’re right lookylou @ #13…I was just afraid this would derail into another AGW flame war. However, you and others did bring up other points about Penn that grossly compromise his claim to be a skeptic. So I guess I was wriong about that. Sorry. :(

  18. Utakata

    Accept, Jim at #17…it’s all obvious to us, that he his ideology has completely blinded him certain areas to the point it trumps science, evidence and skepticism. This is our issue regardless of his ideology, our ideology or anyone elses.

    And you are wrong to claim it’s an ad hominem…since we’re taking his views to task, not him. (I’m sure he’s a swell guy as BA says.) Only you appear to be using this as a strawman arguement here to debunk our valid concerns. And instead taking an apologist postion rather than one based on any sound reason and evidence. Just saying…

  19. Jim

    @ #18 I completely disagree. There’s no debating whether or not Penn is a skeptic any more than there is debating whether the Pope is Catholic. You’re using the “No true Scotsman” fallacy.

  20. Trebuchet

    Jim @ 17: I’m not even sure I like the term “skepticism”. I’d rather think of “evidence based”. When a supposed “skeptic” such as Penn is so blindingly wrong on other topics, at odds with the evidence, it greatly reduces his credibility on vaccination. I don’t think that’s ad hominem.

  21. DaveH

    @Jim, #17,

    The political motivation behind cognitive dissonance is not the most relevant noun phrase in this sentence.

  22. Jim

    I think the problem here is that none of the members of the anti-Penn Jillette squad can see the words “hardcore libertarian” without also reading “blinded by ideology,” if you get my drift. Being libertarian does not prevent one from examining evidence and evaluating claims critically, even as it relates to global warming. Have we even really established that Penn is a full-blown AGW denier? The worst I ever heard him say was “I don’t know” on his radio show, and that was about half a decade ago. He certainly knows people who understand the science behind the issue, so I think there’s every good reason to think he could have changed his mind by now. I’d love to have Phil weigh in on this, he probably knows better than any of us in any case.

    As to the other attempt to poison the well, the whole “Penn claims smoking doesn’t cause cancer” thing, that’s just flat wrong. I think the Bullsh!t show on second hand smoke might have cited some bad science about smoking and cancer, but in any case P&T have since recanted. And anyhow if their point was that government shouldn’t be preventing private businesses from allowing smoking on their premises, which I think it was, then that is a completely legitimate ethical and political viewpoint, one which I happen to agree with.

  23. RobinS.

    While I love the comedy of Penn and Teller and like that Penn is on the side of reason when it comes to the vaccination debate, I don’t think his video helps the cause at all. It certainly won’t help anyone to see reason. Like others have mentioned, it would have been nice if he’d given some supporting facts for the pro-vax position, as well as facts that undermine the anti-vax spray. As is, the video is just an ineffective rant.

  24. Ad Hominid

    Penn’s mention of the pertussis vaccine reminded me that Dr. Leila Denmark, credited as co-developer of that vaccine in the 1930s, is STILL ALIVE at age 112 years, 139 days. She was born on February 1, 1898 and practiced medicine until she was 103.

  25. Hedgie

    People can be skeptics and disagree with AGW. Skeptic doesn’t mean ‘agree with everything other people who call themselves skeptics do’. He’s skeptical of AGW. Many people are. He’s skeptical of Anti-Vaxxers.

    Wrong or right on any topic, if he calls himself a skeptic then he is one and the people here bitching about him ‘lowering the tone’ of skepticism are, in my view, lowering the tone of sapience.

  26. Stargazer

    Being a sceptic is not like being a Christian. As we know, all you need to do in order to be a Christian is to say you are one. Nothing more. If you claim that a non-Christian is actually not a Christian, you will therefore be accused of the no true Scotsman fallacy. Well, this may surprise some of you, but there are people out there who aren’t Scottish, never were and never will be, they weren’t born there, have never been there and have no ancestors there. Do they magically become Scottish just because they say so?

    AGW is at this point beyond most doubt. Do we have an effect on the climate, and is spewing massive amounts of greenhouse gases having the result of the climate getting warmer? It seems so. To deny AGW at this point is not far from being anti-vaccination or not believing in evolution.

    Can you be a rational sceptic and still believe all sorts of crazy things? Of course if all it requires to be a sceptic is to say you are one, then there will be no scepticism to stop you from believing anything.

    And what is this weird accusation that we don’t like him simply because he’s a libertarian? Of course I would never want to live in such a society, but that’s not the only reason I can’t stand him. I sometimes suspect that libertarians, who want less or no government “intrusion” or regulation, are less than comfortable with the idea that some activities may actually be harmful and therefore required to be regulated by a government. But I could be wrong.

    Maybe he’s got some sort of evidence that our civilisation is not causing a climate change. Other than quoting some random magazine from the 70’s or get the expert opinions from a libertarian think tank. I haven’t seen it and I have never heard that he has presented such evidence, but I am sure we are all waiting for it.

  27. MartinM

    …if he calls himself a skeptic then he is one…


  28. DaveH

    Jim is off in his own world.

    People can be skeptics and disagree with AGW.

    To do so honestly requires the embracing of a form of radical skepticism, a philosophical position that is neither honourable nor practical.

    Of course, Penn is not even a limited form of radical skeptic, because his support of vaccination is based on acceptance of the science and the expert voices.

  29. Richard Wolford


    People can be skeptics and disagree with AGW.

    The evidence for AGW is overwhelming; Penn is simply a cynic in this regard, not a skeptic. A skeptic demands evidence, which has been provided, he simply doesn’t like. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  30. Blaidd Drwg

    Maybe it’s just me, but every time I heard Penn say “Wakefield” – in my head I heard “Renfield”… and I had a mental image of Arte Johnson.

  31. Gus Snarp

    This, unlike the Cox video earlier, is a perfect example of when the video is not worth the time and written factual information would be better. But hey, if it reaches college libertarians who might otherwise fall for anti-vaccination claims, great. Not worth my time, but worthwhile for Penn to do to reach others.

    That said, Penn annoys the crap out of me. So entirely convinced of his own righteousness. Like Bill Maher, he’s a perfect example of why the appeal to authority is a fallacy. Both are generally smart people who make some really good points about some subjects, but are utterly ignorant and wrong about others. The problem in both cases is the arrogance of assuming that because they are right about some things, they are right about everything. But one can use the excellent points they make when they without endorsing everything they say.

  32. JJ

    Penn knows his take on AGW doesn’t jive well with the skeptical community and he’s been called out for it, in person – at least at TAM7, probably at other times too.

    His response was political but it was honest and it shows an honest problem with the AGW topic itself – that it cannot be separated from politics. There is an implicit position that comes along with simply admitting the existence of AGW and it lies in the ‘A’.

    At least that’s what I see in others – it seems many people out there are politically minded enough to see that there will be implications from the ‘A’ in AGW being fact.

    I don’t have to agree with Penn on all things but I think he is a Good Thing for skepticism.

  33. Daffy

    Carl Sagan observed (paraphrasing) that one of the most important aspects of being a skeptic is the willingness to be skeptical of one’s own opinions when the evidence goes against them. Penn does not seem to do that very much, if at all; on the other hand, hardly anyone else does, either.

  34. Denver Astronomer

    Leaving aside the debate on the topic itself:

    Penn – Please less of the camera 1/2/shaky cam stuff. It makes me feel like I’m in orbit around you, and that’s disturbing at many, many levels.

  35. StevoR

    @26. Hedgie Says:

    People can be skeptics and disagree with AGW. Skeptic doesn’t mean ‘agree with everything other people who call themselves skeptics do’. He’s skeptical of AGW. Many people are.

    The majority in fact whether we like it or not. It seems that among the general public the level of certainty and the level of concern reagrding the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global WArming (variously known as CAGW, AGW, the Greenhouse effect and climate change) has diminished and the “skeptics” are in the majority and certainly control the political debate at present.

    Insulting most people who are no longer or never were convinced of CAGW is NOT the best way to convince them of your cause. I think we do have to remember this & that a series of recent media-science scares Y2K, Swine flu, etc .. have proven exaggerated and “squibs” in the public perception – rightly or wrongly.

    Plus there’s the fact that the Global Financial Crisis and many economic issues are taking priority for people and far-off CAGW is likely a concern for when other more immediate “hip-pocket”” issues are in play – worrying about “Global Warming” is essentially a luxury reserved for prosperous times.

    Most people just don’t want new taxes and laws. They never do but *especially* not now and in reality governments are NOT going to impose such measur esto fight CAGW without first having evidence that is blindingly, overwhelmingly, in-your-face compelling and public support.

    Reality is that we just won’t take action on CAGW until there is really NO doubt at all – not just in the scientific community but among the broader public. Scientists, sadly, are increasingly seen as too political on this and as just another lobby group – like it or not.

    Most likely this means NOT until something incredibly dramatic has happened and, probably, almost certainly in fact, not until it is too late for it to make enough difference *if* the most extreme (& even some higher end “moderate”) CAGW models are right. That’s the harsh truth.

    @33. JJ Says:

    Penn knows his take on AGW doesn’t jive well with the skeptical community and he’s been called out for it, in person – at least at TAM7, probably at other times too. His response was political but it was honest and it shows an honest problem with the AGW topic itself – that it cannot be separated from politics. There is an implicit position that comes along with simply admitting the existence of AGW and it lies in the ‘A’.

    Yes -and also in the C in the “Catastrophic” component of the better CAGW acronymn.

    Having once been a believer in CAGW back when it was the “Greenhouse Effect” I was later utterly disconvinced of it and made skeptical of “climate change” after readingProf. Ian Plimer’s skeptical book on CAGW and by personally attending Plimer’s lectures and meeting with the man himself. (For the record I think Plimer is quite convincing and sincere in what he says.) Since then I have been – very reluctantly – convinced that, yes, the GW part is probably real despite the oddity of 1998-2005 being hotter than recent years.

    I am – grudgingly – even willing to concede that yes the ‘A” part is on the balance of plausibility more than likely accurate too.

    However, I’m still NOT concvinced by the ‘C’ part. Will AGW really be *that* Catastrophic? Will AGW have benefits too that off set its problems? Will it be anywhere near as civilisation destroying as the CAGWists say &n might their jeremiads be looked back upon with teh same “well that was a big deal – NOT!” disdain we, whether rightly or wrongly, mostly have for the Y2K bug and swine flu fears today?

    I think it is always legitimate to question the science and the scientists behind it.

    I think skeptics like Penn (& Burt Rutan & Harrison Schmitt) play an important role and that having opposing voices aginst the mainstream is often a good & useful thing that make sure we do get things completely right.

    I think it is legitimate to ask if the potential future benefits in slowing the supposed C(?)-AGW are really and *truly* worth a hell of a lot of severe economic pain right now. There are real people’s livilihoods and national interests at stake here and that should NOT be forgotten.

    Nor should it be forgotten that any Western Carbon cuts – however painfully obtained and however many people’s lives get ruined in the process – will need to be added to by even more major cuts made by nations like China and India if they aren’t going to be a totally waste of time because those far larger more populous, developing polluters will quickly make up any C02 emission shortfall. :-(

    Sad reality is that the West is serious about stopping CAGW then it cannot ALLOW China or India or other rising nations in Asia and the third world ( Eg. Brazil, Korea, etc .. ) to become like us. To develop.

    Which raises the very grim and serious questions of can we stop them & do we have the right to?

    How far are you Warmers willing to go to end the hypothetical CAGW threat?

    Far enough to nuke Beijing or set bioweapons loose on the slums of Mumbai?

    Such blunt and brutal actions may be the only option if CAGW is to be averted.

    Cure worse than disease?

  36. Utakata

    Jim @ #20, you seem to be using the word “fallacy” to anyone who disagrees with you. I am beginning to wonder if that’s a fallacy in of itself, as it seems to be a convenient way to skirt and smoke screen criticisms directed at any of your claims. Hey, here’s one for you…perhaps a simpler explanation suggests you’re wrong. Consider that and then we maybe we can debate. (And try not to bring politics into when we do. Thanks.)

  37. StevoR

    I’ll also note that the Chinese and Indian realists & leaders will know the above facts mentioned in my comment # 37 too.

    If CAGW is really as certain and as bad as predicted – if we can’t all live a Western or near-Westernised standard of life then it may, horribly, come down to a case of who takes out who first. :-(

    *If* we don’t get *them*, and *if* the CAGW predictions are as sure as some think then we have reason to fear them getting us *first*.

    The Greens argue the planet is over-populated, we effectively need what could be called with gallows humour, a “Human cull” and that a population crash via the usual four horseman will happen regardless whether we start and control this or have it happen in uncontrolled “natural” circumstances.

    So, if it comes down to it who do you guys want as the leading world powers – the United States or China? Your nation(s) or theirs? Given just these options would you wish to be the side doing the genocide or doing the compelling to misery and hopelessness for the foreseeable future for generations to come or the side getting exterminated or forced into perpetual poverty, misery and hopelessness? :-(

    I really don’t like this idea myself.

    I wish there was a better alternative.

    But the bleak logic above is inexorable and hard to see any way around. :-(

    If CO2 emissions are necessary for a good quality of life & prosperous happy nations – and they are – if we have to cut back Co2 on a planetary scale as the CAGWists argue – then billions of extra people developing as they wish into high Co2 emitters = Catastrophic Global Warming.

    Ergo, we cannot all emit Co2 at civilised levels and have prosperous happy nations.

    Therefore do we want our nations to be forced to poverty and misery – or will we be forced to make other nations live in poverty in misery?

    Can we co-operate & compromise? Not really as the climate summit fiasco at Copenhagen proved and if there’s only so much to go around then we’ll fight for our own interests as is human nature 101.

    So I really hope the CAGWists are wrong about the “Catastrophic” nature of AGW and that it isn’t that bad or we find a realistic technological cure. (BTW. no, renewables aren’t really – they’ve been tried and tested since the 1970’s oil crunch and found wanting – its nuclear with its attendant issues or something else new and radical and probably likley to have its own drawbacks.)

    Otherwise, if I were a cold-hearted general on either side (which I’m not!) I’d be contemplating my first strike(s) about now.

    Please don’t blame me for pointing out this grim reality please. I don’t like it either.

    I’m NOT actually advocating war or genocide rather than carbon laws and taxes.

    I, personally, do NOT *want* any of this to occur & I find the thought of this logically realistic scenario scary and depressing. Very. :-(

    I’m just saying I think that this is what will quite likely happen regardless whether I or you or anyone wants it to occur or not.

    Because of basic logic, because of human nature, because of harsh realpolitik realities.

    I’ve just followed where logic combined with a realistic understanding of human nature and economics leads. :-(

  38. StevoR

    Me #37 & 39 above

    PS. I’m kind of hoping some one will reassuringly convince me that I’m wrong about this view expressed here so please do try! 😉

  39. Tony

    Returning this back to the subject of Phil’s original post, and ignoring the ancillary discussions on skepticism, my wife and I met with two doctors last Friday to discuss the possibility that our oldest son may have ADHD. During the process they separated us from our son, and while he was interracted with one doctor, we answered a series of questions with the other. The doctor asked us if our son had symptoms of other disorders to rule out the possibility of other causes, and eventually we came to autism. Thankfully, we went down the list and answered no for everything. The doctor then shared his personal view that he feels that autism is over diagnosed. He explained that he has colleagues which will diagnose the child as autistic even if they meet less than half of the symptoms. I am quite sure misdiagnosis can explain part of the rise in autism, and I am even more sure that if Jenny McCarthy “cured” her son, maybe it was because he never really had it.

  40. Ann

    I’m just wondering, how is it actually going with respect to winning the public over with this particular approach? Have you made a real dent in public belief or perception yet?

  41. George Martin

    Both slightly on topic and slightly off topic.

    It is very likely that those reading this blog post who have not already planned to attend this year’s TAM (TAM8 July 8th – July 11th), will not be able to attend. But TAM8 will have a strong Science Based Medicine “track” plus a potentially interesting panel discussion titled Global Climate Change and the Responsibility of the Skeptics Movement. Penn, nor Teller, won’t be there for this panel as they will be traveling for European performances.

    You can see the full TAM8 schedule (and weep if you can’t go) here:

    It is said that there will be a DVD of the proceedings available sometime after the meeting.


  42. fred edison

    #34 Daffy
    Outstanding and 100% true.

    Wakefield is a bigger ahole than most aholes because he continues to play the victim of big pharma. He’s still in the limelight as the poster boy for the vaccines=autism myth. I believe he’s currently living here in the U.S. and performing some kind of consultation service. He was on Coast to Coast a couple weeks ago whining about how he was unfairly ousted, blah blah. They practically made him out to be some kind of underdog hero. *sigh* The radio show host was sure to keep the vaccines=autism debunked myth alive and well. The more they’re proven wrong the more they deny they’re wrong.

    Wakefield was kicked out of medicine for valid and good reasons, whether he has any decency left to admit it or not. Reasons including to protect innocent people from being suckered and deliberately mislead by medical charlatans like himself. But misinformation and lies have a life of their own, unlike the kids and people he persuaded not to vaccinate and ended up dying because of what he told them.

  43. Gus Snarp

    @Ann #42 – I don’t often say this with regard to these things (for example, I see no reason to lighten our tone when dealing with creationists) but you have a legitimate point. When trying to convince concerned mothers, Penn’s approach is likely to be a total failure. I think that there are multiple audiences for this kind of thing though, and some are more likely to be convinced by this than others. I can see fathers (and mothers, but it seems that guys are more likely to be into Penn’s brand of humor) who mostly favored vaccination who end up being strongly pro vaccine because of this. Then in an argument between two parents over vaccination, he will be more likely to put his foot down. I hate for that kind of fight to happen, but if that’s what it takes to get kids vaccinated, I’ll take vaccinated kids with parents who resent it over non-vaccinated kids.

  44. Jendra

    It should be noted that SOME people do have LEGIT reasons to not want all the vaccines for their children. There IS a (small) percentage of people who do react, and those with family histories of such SHOULD be wary. There are also a ton of conditions that doctors should be aware of where people shouldn’t have vaccinations for certain things due to bad reactions and interferences with their conditions.

    There are a whole list of things that a doctor should be wary of when vaccinating, but most don’t bother to warn people of such things or be aware of them themselves. Even if one out of a thousand react for whatever reason, that is still a lot of people and we should be aware of any/all effects that MAY occur – just like any other drug/medicine on the planet – but most doctors don’t even pause to inform people of this.

    I’m not in any way behind the autism thing in ANY way – but there are other LEGIT reasons to be careful about these things we’re giving ourselves and our children. Caution should always be exercised and patients/parents informed as to any POSSIBLE effects. It just seems that when we’re handed vaccine brochures, nowhere does it list the people that SHOULDN’T have them, as is done with any other type of medicine.

    People should be given information on these things and allowed to make a choice, based on both the good and the possible bad of such actions. It seems that it’s either YES or NO – but it shouldn’t be that way. I delayed my sons vaccinations (and refused some completely) due to reactions in my family and that doesn’t make me a bad mother, it makes me a good one for being aware of my family history and making a choice on behalf of my son. I’ll make sure that HE is aware of this history so when he has kids, he can make an informed decision with his doctor as well.

    Painting ALL people that don’t fully vaccinate their kids as evil isn’t fair – there are MANY legit reasons to say no or delay them – but this is rarely brought up. It’s not ALL or NOTHING for everyone, and not everyone said no because of some made-up autism link.
    Remember there ARE legit reasons for some to say no!

  45. I delayed my sons vaccinations (and refused some completely) due to reactions in my family and that doesn’t make me a bad mother…

    Have you ever seen a tiny child coughing itself to death from an easily preventable disease?

  46. Orange Lantern


    What brochure did you receive? I’m looking at the VIS for DTaP from the CDC that is given to every family at our clinic every time they are given DTaP, to review prior to giving a the shot. I believe it is the most commonly distributed vaccine information in clinics. You should be able to find it at

    Section 3 describes, in plain language, reasons why a child should not get DTaP, including previous adverse reactions. Other reasons to not immunize that are not specifically listed in this statement are well recognized by doctors, such as certain immunodeficiencies (for live viruses anyway) or certain other medical conditions. I’m not sure why you believe that doctors are not aware of these.

    I don’t think anyone here thinks that parents are bad when they have a medically legitimate reason not to vaccinate. That’s one reason why widespread vaccination is so important – to protect those who legitimately cannot be vaccinated. But sometimes parents do not get vaccinated based on beliefs that are not based in science, and put their children at risk of dangerous disease. I’m glad you recognize that autism is one of those beliefs. However, it is important to know that a family history of a reaction is not usually a medically legitimate reason not to vaccinate, as many “reactions” are not true vaccine reactions, and it is unlikely that the predisposition to such reactions would be inherited.

    Thanks for raising these valuable points.

  47. Sherrie

    This is in regards to Stargazer’s comment (#27). I realize I’m posting on a forum where skepticism is embraced, and believe me, I’m not trying to make waves (especially almost five months after the fact). And, judging by the fact that no one responded contrarily to the statement I am replying to, it seems that religion may be in general disregarded as having no merit.

    Stargazer said, “Being a sceptic is not like being a Christian. As we know, all you need to do in order to be a Christian is to say you are one. Nothing more.”

    If you believe (as you all may) that Christianity is a farce, based on myth, lacking the ability to change a person on a fundamental level, then his/her statement is true.

    However, if you look at what Christianity requires of believers, it is easily recognized that simply saying one is a Christian does not make it so. There are issues of moral choices, salvation, repentance, and how well one truthfully represents the Christian way of life. To assume that there are no rules or requirements attached to religion – any religion – at all, seems a bit odd.

    So, in a worldview in which Christianity is considered legitimate, saying “all one has to do is say they are a Christian and they are one” is false. Saying “merely calling oneself a Christian does not make them one” is true.

    But, of course, in alternate worldviews, worrying about such technicalities must be akin to wondering if a tree cares that a dog has just raised its leg.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar