Paul Offit Will Be My First Point of Inquiry Guest

By Chris Mooney | February 11, 2010 6:07 pm

autism-false-prophets-258x400For those of you waiting with bated breath…

I’m happy to announce that, following last week’s news about the Lancet’s retraction of the 1998 paper that started the modern vaccine-autism scare, I decided to focus my first Point of Inquiry episode on this topic–and secured a guest who’s probably the best in the business for that purpose. I’m referring to Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, life-saving inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, and most important for our purposes, the author of the single best book on the whole autism-vaccine fiasco, 2008’s Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.

I’ve now read Offit’s fantastic book twice, and greatly enjoyed the conversation we had about it for the show. (Minus the gazillion technical hoops I had to jump through to learn how to record the program, which will hopefully get a lot easier.) I won’t tip my hand about the show any further–it airs tomorrow, please listen then–but I’m confident that listeners will enjoy and learn much from it (even though, given that this is my first show as a radio host, utter perfection is hardly to be expected).

I’ll have a post tomorrow as soon as the show is up and available for download.


Comments (16)

  1. Marion Delgado

    I am not only going to download it, I am going to keep it on my iPod. The next time someone asks about the vax controversies i’ll let them listen.

  2. bob

    Marion Delgado, if you’re wondering why I called you a sycophant in the other thread, you’ve answered your own question. Shouldn’t you listen to the show first before forming your opinion on it? After all, that’s what I was told to do when I complained about the decision to have Chris host.

    Yet more inconsistency from the framers … I really think you people are just making it up as you go! Kidding, kidding … kind of.

    If you want a podcast interview with Paul Offit that’s already available and already known to be great, he was on the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe last year.

  3. Marion Delgado


    Downloading and putting something on an iPod is a small investment of time *indeed*. If I end up not liking it, I won’t keep it.

    BTW I have read Paul’s book at the library and I’m going to buy my own copy. I like Chris’s public speaking so far and his bloggingheads appearances and so on.

  4. Marion Delgado

    bob: I don’t think you read my responses to gillt, so let me reiterate. Some times I simply have to talk about vaccination to people, for work and other reasons, and it’s very trying. Anything I can find that can help other people get what’s what in a short time I will be grateful for, and I will indeed also look for Paul’s Skeptic’s Guide interview.

    Most “skeptics” aren’t as understanding as Chris is about average people, frankly, so I am especially interested in Monney’s interview, yes.

    BTW if you are going to call anyone who has a positive comment on anything Chris does “sycophants” what should we call you in turn? the Borg? The Collective, the name of Ayn Rand’s little cult of skeptics? or just aspie’s victims? or jerks?

  5. bob

    Wow, triggered the moderation filter again, huh? Can we get an explanation of exactly how that works? I’ll grant you that I called Marion an obfuscated slightly-bad name, but in my defense he called me both autistic and a cultist, so I’ve hardly lowered the level of discourse on this fine blog.

  6. Marion Delgado


    I have no idea how the filter on discoverblogs work. Is that relevant?

    Wouldn’t the point be to either (a) not call people sycophants until you find out why they want to download and pass on an interview and (b) to sort things out without worrying about finding the right name-calling to use?

    I didn’t call you a name at all, I asked you what we should call you in return, since apparently only name calling is on the agenda. And yeah. I post that it sounds like a great plan for an interview and I plan to download it, and you call me a sycophant in response. Objectively, you’re lowing the level of discourse. By what pathway do you imagine you aren’t?

    There is no possible behavior – even not addressing you WHATSOEVER – that won’t trigger abuse and ad hominem attacks from you, instead of information or reasonable discussion. Is that clear yet? Why are you here? Seriously. Why are you here? I personally don’t plan to respond to you, ever, again, except in the third person, as an example of the sort of person that comes here with an agenda and some sort of perverse chip on their shoulder. Here not to discuss, not to impart information, but to simply indulge in childish abusive trolling.

    It’s really no better than the denialist behavior, frankly.

  7. Oh nooooo an accommodationist has taken over Point of Inquiry! I can’t accommodate thiiiiissss…

    Hehe. Good luck with P.O.I. Chris. Grothe will be a tough act to follow, he was a great interviewer. I look forward to listening.

  8. bob

    Why does the filtering matter? I don’t know, maybe because my comment wasn’t allowed?

    You ask why I’m here. I was here originally because I didn’t think Mooney’s attacks on scare-quoted New Atheists were warranted. He never explained his positions or outlined a detailed plan going forward. He just appealed to “framing,” as if those seven letters said it all.

    Now, he turns around and makes himself the PZ Myers of environmentalism. Look at his posts regarding AGW deniers: obvious anger and frustration, name-calling, accusations of ideological bias, violent imagery. You know, exactly the sort of tactics used by certain non-religious authors and bloggers when confronting creationists (i.e. evolution deniers).

    This is seer hypocrisy. The only way it isn’t would be if Mooney has conducted some kind of framing research that demonstrated being mean works for AGW deniers but doesn’t work for creationists or anti-vaxxers. Since we never got any arguments or data back in the day regarding creationists, I think it’s safe to presume that none of it exists for antivaxxers or AGW deniers.

    The approach (“framing”) is completely arbitrary! Mooney cares about the environment, thus AGW deniers annoy him, thus we get vitriol. He’s not passionate about medicine or evolution, thus medicine and evolution deniers don’t bother him that much, thus we get peace and love and accommodation and puppies.

    That’s my problem, in a nutshell. But, feel free to ignore me, call me unreasonable, accuse me of only being here for an “agenda,” say I’m in a cult, call me autistic, and misuse the term ad hominem. At this point, I’m totally used to it from the commenters here.

  9. science-based humanist

    Woo-hoo! After reading the Wired article, I sent Offit an e-mail with thanks from PRO-vax parents for the work he’s doing at significant emotional cost. He wrote back – I don’t think he hears from PRO-vax parents enough. Folks, write him! Chris, if Offit is allowed to comment, ask him to comment about the lawsuit againt him and Wired.

  10. Another typical, bitter New Atheist

    Damn you, Chris Mooney! Once upon a time you criticized one of my favorite bloggers and got into an argument with him in the blogosphere! If I thought you had done a terrible job and/or had no argument, I probably would have treated you as not worth the time and would ignore you.

    But I must have perceived you as a threat, because now every time you post something, I feel the need to come here and troll you, call you and your readers names, and even go as far as to equate you calling something a “war on science” to some of my favorite NA bloggers’ tactics of justifying physical torture! Damn you, Chris Mooney, indeed!

    But I’ll be damned if you don’t put together some very good interviews….back to Pharyngula!

  11. Chris

    Marian, there are a couple of other good interviews with Paul Offit that I have listened to that he did close to when his last book came out (I have a copy, and refer to it during online debates with anti-vaxers… I also enjoyed his biography of Maurice Hilleman):

    I will be downloading the Point of Inquiry (which has been a bit sparse lately).

  12. bob

    Gosh, more measured and reasonable responses to criticism from commenters at The Intersection. You guys know more about me than I do. I’m now apparently a trekkie, autistic cult member who regularly comments at Pharyngula. I had no idea!

    Indeed, what a bastion of rational thought this place is. Speaking of the sort of discourse going on here, bilbo has now posted someone’s personal information and is swearing regularly in the other thread. I’ll ask again: how does the moderation work here? Do you get a free pass if you defend the authors?

  13. Marion Delgado

    Thanks, Chris. I downloaded both.

    I should point out that I’m a guy Marion not a maid Marian.

    Other commenters – if I think someone’s just picking fights, I don’t respond to them. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. If it becomes a big deal, that wastes ENORMOUS amounts of time.

  14. Chris

    Oops, I did not look close enough. I am terribly sorry.

    (and you have the same name as John Wayne’s birth name!)


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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