Canard Thursday: Special Jim Carrey Edition
[kuh-nard; Fr. kuh-nar]
- a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor.
- Cookery. a duck intended or used for food.
The term probably came from the French phrase: “vendre un canard à moitié”, meaning “to sell half a duck.”
Yesterday at HuffPo, immunologist noted scientist high-school graduate movie star Jim Carrey posted an article so full of anti-vaccination canards that it practically grew feathers and paddled off into the cesspool pond. That’s why today’s Canard Thursday is a Special Edition.
Fortunately, other far more literate (scientifically and otherwise) souls have already donned their hazmat suits to wade into Mr. Carrey’s well of scienciness, so I will include choice tidbits where appropriate.
Let’s let Mr. Carrey speak for himself:
“If we are to believe that the ruling of the ‘vaccine court’ in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe. Clearly both are irresponsible assumptions, and neither option is prudent.”
This is a clever gambit, because Carrey is quite right: a legal ruling (or three) in the Autism Omnibus hearings proves nothing either way, except that the burden of proof (which, in these proceedings, is far less onerous than in normal civil cases) in those particular cases (cherry-picked as the best among thousands, BTW) was not met. Anyone who claims the decisions prove anything about the safety of vaccines in general is misguided. (So why does Generation Rescue—now re-branded “Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Autism Organization”— claim it does on their website?)
So I looked at the CNN commentary by Campbell Brown to which Mr. Carrey took such exception that he felt compelled to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard. Or credit-card to ghostwriter.) I found no reference to the Omnibus decisions; only a declaration that the science had found no link between vaccines and autism. Clever way to mischaracterize Ms. Brown’s position and to work in a dig against the recent findings by the “vaccine court,” Mr. Carrey.
Next up, specious comparisons: vaccines and smoking.
“Not everyone gets cancer from smoking, but cigarettes do cause cancer. After 100 years and many rulings in favor of the tobacco companies, we finally figured that out.”
But what really makes this analogy so brain dead is that it was the very epidemiological methods that have so consistently failed to find any correlation between vaccines and autism that led scientists to realize that smoking is strongly correlated with cancer. Jim, while accepting the epidemiology linking tobacco smoke to cancer, rejects the very same sorts of methodology when it doesn’t produce the results he wants to see.”
“Yes, we did – and do you know how? With good science – just like the science that established in the three MMR test cases that the MMR didn’t cause autism. And its fascinating that you bring up this parallel to the smoking issue and then later in your blog post invoke the name of Bernadine Healy. Healy – who’s [sic] ‘more sensible voice’ you say you’d rather listen to. Did you know Healy used to be a member of TASSC“
Back to Carrey:
“In this growing crisis, we cannot afford to blindly trumpet the agenda of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or vaccine makers.”
What agenda would that be, Mr. Carrey? And do all three groups have the selfsame agenda? It’s probably safe to assume that the key agenda for vaccine makers is identical to that of most corporations: profit. It’s also wise to be wary of their claims that vaccines are safe. But what about the CDC? What’s their agenda? Could it be… preventing and controlling disease? What would be the purpose of the CDC hiding or falsifying data about vaccine safety? Do the CDC (not to mention the World Health Organization) or individual members of the Immunization Safety Review Committee benefit from a cover-up?
What about the AAP? Presumably, their agenda is to promote the interests of their member physicians. How do those physicians benefit from vaccination? Do they make money? It varries, but some reports (see this , this, and this, for example) indicate that some doctors—particularly those with large groups of managed-care patients—may actually lose money on vaccination. Moreover, pediatricians could expect an increase in business in the form of patient visits (with the higher reimbursements associated with so-called “complex problem” codes,) and procedures (like spinal-taps) should immunization rates fall far enough to engender a return of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). An increase in the number of children with autism isn’t a great financial boon to most pediatricians, as only a relative handful of sub-specialists (like developmental pediatricians) offer specific services to patients with autism. (The real money seems to be in questionable or bogus treatments for autism, like those offered by Omnibus plaintiff’s witnesses Mark and David Geier.)
“The anecdotal evidence of millions of parents who’ve seen their totally normal kids regress into sickness and mental isolation after a trip to the pediatrician’s office must be seriously considered.”
Millions, Mr. Carrey? Got data—even anecdata—to support your “millions?”
I’d say that 19 studies constitutes “serious consideration.” Or are you talking about “serious consideration” as your organization seems to define it? If so, I’d have to say that your definition of “serious” differs considerably from mine.
(Unfortunately, GR missed me in their little survey, so as long as we’re talking about anecdata, I’ll throw some out there: One hundred percent of my children are vaccinated. Fifty percent have an ASD and 50% are neurotypical. What does that mean? About as much as the GR survey means.)
Says Mr. Carrey:
“I’ve also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found. That statement is only true for the CDC, the AAP and the vaccine makers who’ve been ignoring mountains of scientific information and testimony.”
That’s right, Mr. Carrey. Nothing that holds up under scientific scrutiny has been able to link vaccines to autism. No evidence, your link to Generation Rescue notwithstanding. (See here for David Gorski’s excellent analysis of their “14 Studies” site.)
Next, we come to my personal favorite among Mr. Carrey’s canards: “Vaccinosis”:
“Veterinarians found out years ago that in many cases they were over-immunizing our pets, a syndrome they call Vaccinosis. It overwhelmed the immune system of the animals, causing myriad physical and neurological disorders. Sound familiar? If you can over-immunize a dog, is it so far out to assume that you can over-immunize a child?”
Really? That’s news to most veterinarians. If you look for credible scientific information on vaccinosis, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. (Go ahead: Google it. It’s fun!) As Orac notes, the scientific literature is hardly compelling. It is a “syndrome” largely invented by “homeopathic veterinarians” and animal “wellness” practitioners to explain a wide variety of ailments, that (co-incidentally, I’m sure) can be “cured” or alleviated by homeopathic remedies.
As for Mr. Carrey’s assertion that veterinarians concluded they were over-immunizing pets, leading to development of this dreaded scourge, the kindest thing I can think of to say is that he is making use of his fanciful imagination. In 2007, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revised its policy statement on vaccination to read, in part:
“COBTA [Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents] concludes there are insufficient data available to scientifically determine a single best vaccination protocol regimen for application to all animals globally. Despite significant advances in our knowledge of antigens and antigen presentation, gaps still remain in our understanding of the immune system’s acute and chronic reaction to multiple vaccinations. The body of knowledge surrounding the genetic variability within individual breeds or species and the resulting idiopathic responses to vaccination (including vaccine-associated adverse reactions), is increasing but remains too inconclusive to make specific recommendations appropriate for all patients. Consequently, COBTA believes that a customized approach to recommended vaccination protocols is the safest and most effective method to medically address the increasing diversity in patients presented for immunization.”
David Ramey, at Science-Based Medicine did a good post on this, but for the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that the recommendations were a result of a number of issues, including the desire to avoid excess cases of well-known vaccine-related problems that occur in animals, none of which entails “overwhelming the immune system” or any such entity as “vaccinosis.” Need I add that dogs and cats are not humans? Or that we don’t receive the same vaccines? Or that, unlike veterinary vaccines, human vaccines have been well-studied, both before and after release, and have not been found to cause things like vaccine-associated sarcoma, (which was one of the prime issues that prompted the revision)? Oh, or autism? Moreover, an important aspect of the AVMA revision was to reduce the frequency of “booster” vaccination, which in most cases, had been given annually. Unlike human vaccines.
Next, Mr. Carrey quotes the above-mentioned Dr. Bernadine Healy (the Bush-appointed former Director of the NIH), a cardiologist who served on the advisory board of TASSC, a front organization for Phillip Morris, getting it wrong on Hep B. (That’s okay, Dr. Healy. It’s not as if anyone expected you to be an expert in vaccines or immunology.) Oh, except the anti-vaccinationists.
Next comes the inevitable litany of toxins:
“While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well. The assortment of viruses delivered by multiple immunizations may also be a hazard.”
This gambit has been so thoroughly debunked by better minds—here, here, here, and here— that I won’t go into it (except the anti-freeze. That’s just too delicious to pass up.) I suspect the scientific advisors to anti-vaccination organizations and spokespeople know this, but it is such an irresistible bit of bait with which to lure uncritical believers in so-called “natural” health that they just can’t afford to let it drop. “Green Our Vaccines” is a really catchy slogan, no doubt about it. But it’s just that: a catch slogan—every bit as meaningful and trustworthy as any advertisement put out by the dreaded Big Pharma.
And Carrey closes with this stunning coup de grâce:
“If the CDC, the AAP and Ms. Brown insist that our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world, we need more independent vaccine research not done by the drug companies selling the vaccines or by organizations under their influence. Studies that cannot be internally suppressed. Answers parents can trust. Perhaps this is what Campbell Brown should be demanding and how the power of the press could better serve the public in the future.”
We may give more vaccinations than other developed nations, but we don’t have more people diagnosed with autism, as Kev points out in his post. So I’m not really sure what the point of Mr. Carrey’s assertion is, except to scare people into believing we are over-vaccinating our children. I’m also unsure whom Mr. Carrey would trust to conduct studies on vaccine safety. I can understand skepticism of studies funded by pharmaceutical companies, although these are published and available for review and critique. It is not difficult to believe that they could hide or manipulate data, as occurred in the Vioxx case (malfeasance which was uncovered relatively quickly, and decried by the very medical and scientific community Mr. Carrey and his ilk accuse of being part of a massive conspiracy to harm children.) The government, while not inevitably innocent of cover-ups and wrongdoing, is not a monolithic entity. It is made up of individuals, most of whom are decent human beings, just like the folks who vehemently believe that vaccines cause autism. If there were a vast, multi-organization, multi-study coverup, might one not expect a few leaks? A crack in the wall? No?
It is, of course, only speculation on my part, but I suspect the only people Mr. Carrey and his supporters would trust to study vaccines would be those guaranteed to come up with a conclusion he and other anti-vaccinationists would like. Which is why organizations like his keep insisting on throwing good money after bad, requesting study after study, long after the majority of the scientific community has (sorry, Jim) reached consensus on this issue.
This was demonstrated when Sallie Bernard, a founder of Safe Minds and a leading proponent of the thimerosal-causes-autism theory, was invited to participate in the planning and design of a two-year CDC study of thimerosal. No complaints were heard from her until shortly before the release of the study, which failed to find a causal association between thimerosal and neurological function. As Isles so aptly said in his post on the piece:
“Here’s a clue, Sallie: If you’re going to play scientist, you have to follow the rules of science, and that means you stand by your results. You don’t get to say ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ by waiting to see the outcome before deciding whether the study was any good.”
I am not a scientist. Neither is Jim Carrey. Although, unlike Mr. Carrey, I did manage to make it through high school and college, I doubt my scientific education is significantly better than his. I don’t stand to profit from a pro-vaccination agenda. Neither does Mr. Carrey, as far as I’m aware, officially profit from his anti-vaccination activities (although his and girlfriend Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination celebrity appearances can only help sales of her books on autism.) I certainly don’t think anyone should take my writings on science with anything other than a healthy grain of skeptical salt. Yet Mr. Carrey is given a platform on one of the most popular blogs on the internet (among other media) in which to speculate on the safety of vaccines, and, if the HuffPo commentary is any indication, is lauded as some kind of hero.
Strange old world.