Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #17 (MMR-Autism Scandal)

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In short: Our next case-study from mainstream psychology relates to 'Autism Controversies'; specifically, the Wakefield MMR vaccination scare scandal.

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #17 (MMR-Autism Scandal)

  1. 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
  2. 2. Case Studies:Examples of Psychology-related Pseudoscience
  3. 3. Case Studies fromWithin Mainstream Psychology: 3. Autism controversies
  4. 4. MMR vaccination and autismThe WakefieldMMR-autismstudies(1997) British Medical Journal January 2011
  5. 5. Vaccination scares
  6. 6. Vaccination scares
  7. 7. Anti-vaccination arguments fromthe 19th centuryArgument 1878, The National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Reporter“Vaccines cause illnesses” “…diptheria, erysipelas, and not unfrequently abscesses...diarrhoae, bronchitis, convultions…”“Vaccines contain toxic “saturating the small-pox [vaccine] with carbolicadditives” acid…a virulent poison [that] enters the blood”“Vaccines are ineffective” “Epidemics still continue to break out…” .“Vaccine immunity is “The duration of protection be limited…can thetemporary” short-lived protection be expected to guard us?”“Vaccines are promulgated “Friends, this medical despotism is asolely for (others’) profit” hard, materialistic, infidel thing…”“State promotion of “insults every human being…despotism, injusticevaccination is totalitarian” and tyranny…”“A healthy lifestyle is better “…a substitute…for faithful obedience to the sacredthan any vaccine” laws of health…” Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432.
  8. 8. Anti-vaccination arguments fromthe 21st centuryArgument 2002, various websites cited by Wolfe & Sharp“Vaccines cause illnesses” “…autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, allergies, cancer, and other conditions…”“Vaccines contain toxic “...significant amounts of highly toxic substancesadditives” such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde.”“Vaccines are ineffective” “…studies have shown that vaccination has been unreliable as a means of preventing disease”“Vaccine immunity is “The vaccine requires multiple boosters throughouttemporary” life…”“Vaccines are promulgated “manufacturers use the government to say ‘yousolely for (others’) profit” must buy my product and inject it into your body’”“State promotion of “The Orwellian spectable of monopolistic andvaccination is totalitarian” oligopolistic pharmaceutical manufacturers…”“A healthy lifestyle is better “personal hygiene & diet stop diseases, folks, notthan any vaccine” injecting virulent genetic material into your veins” Wolfe, R.M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). British Medical Journal, 325, 430-432.
  9. 9. The Wakefield controversy February 28, 1998
  10. 10. The Wakefield controversy
  11. 11. The Wakefield controversy
  12. 12. The Wakefield controversy
  13. 13. The Wakefield controversy
  14. 14. The Wakefield controversy •Not consecutive •Self-selecting •Incomplete •Involved in litigation
  15. 15. The Wakefield controversy •“Review of records” constituted only data on MMR.
  16. 16. The Wakefield controversy
  17. 17. The Wakefield controversy •Procedures not clinically or ethically approved •One child (in follow- up study) seriously harmed
  18. 18. The Wakefield controversy
  19. 19. The Wakefield controversy
  20. 20. The Wakefield controversy •Self-report data only •Key details of reports contradicted by participants
  21. 21. The Wakefield controversy •Unreplicated •Refuted by whistle- blower
  22. 22. The Wakefield controversy •Common in autism
  23. 23. The Wakefield controversy •“Interpretation” that this means link with MMR was formally retracted in 2004
  24. 24. The Wakefield controversy •“Interpretation” that this means link with MMR was formally retracted in 2004 •Approval did not cover the research that was done
  25. 25. The Wakefield controversy •“Interpretation” that this means link with MMR was formally retracted in 2004 •Approval did not cover the research that was done •Plus c. £500,000 in legal fees to Wakefield •Also, Wakefield had applied to patent his own vaccine in 1997
  26. 26. The Wakefield controversy
  27. 27. The Wakefield controversy BMJ (2011), 8 Jan & 15 Jan
  28. 28. The Wakefield controversy Source: Deer (2011), BMJ
  29. 29. The Wakefield controversy
  30. 30. The Wakefield controversy“Failed in your duties”“Acted against the interestsof your patients” 28 January 2010Lancet paper was“dishonest”, “irresponsible”,and “misleading”, in severalrespects and overallOverall finding of “seriousprofessional misconduct”
  31. 31. The Wakefield controversy www.ageofautism.com, 16 February 2010
  32. 32. But is it pseudoscience? Science by press conference? Key feature of the Wakefield episode Secrecy of data? Insofar as relevant information was withheld/distorted Vagueness in measurement? Many ‘measures’ wholly inaccurate Confirmation bias? Fitting the ‘findings’ to extant prejudices/conspiracies Click here for the latest “Jenny McCarthy Body Count” Exaggerated importance of key contributors? Wakefield as guru
  33. 33. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes

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