Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cognitive Dissonance and the Wakefield Groupies

A few things have struck me recently about Andrew Wakefield's infamous withdrawn Lancet piece, the small case study that kicked off the whole "MMR causes Autism" furore and conspiracy-mongering.

(A note to wingnuts: I'm well aware that you think other things cause autism - mercury, aluminium, formaldehyde and whatever else you (often wrongly) think is in vaccines, but I'm referring specifically to MMR here.)

In the comments of a piece at Age of Autism, John Stone (who, as we will remember is a cock) has been banging on for some reason, trying to get other comments to refer to Wakefield's work as a "paper" or "report", rather than a "study". I'm not sure why - unless he feels that the word "study" implies "work done for the purposes of research" as opposed to "report" which implies simply "writing up what has been observed during normal clinical practice". Of course, that was the whole point of John Walker-Smith's appeal - that he believed he was doing clinical work, treating ill children, and he wasn't involved in actual research. Is John Stone preparing the ground for the same argument to be used by (or on behalf of) Wakefield at some point in the future?

After all, one of the themes you'll find from wingnut anti-vaccine green-inkers is that since Walker-Smith was exonerated, that clearly exonerates Wakefield, and so the Lancet study (I'll stick to "study") should be re-instated blah blah blah.

Given that Walker-Smith stated, through his solicitor, that there was now no credible evidence to support the MMR/autism hypothesis, and that anti-vaxers the world over have been lauding him as an honourable man, a world-renowned paediatrician and the man who gave Wakefield's work the academic rigour it craved, surely they should be holding their hands up in a "Mea culpa" style (I'm sure that's not quite the right Latin, but you know what I mean), saying "OK, we got it wrong. John Walker-Smith, expert, honourable man and world-renowned paediatrician says so, and he's right."

Or maybe they won't believe their honourable expert and world-renowned paediatrician. He's got this major conclusion wrong. Well, in that case, he's clearly not the expert you thought he was, is he? And so he doesn't really add any respectability to Wakefield's work, does he?

But neither of those are likely. The conspiracy minded among them, led by John "Cock" Stone will bleat "But Professor Walker-Smith had to say that - he'd never have been exonerated otherwise." But of course, if that's the case, that Walker-Smith had to grovel and say the study was wrong all along in order to be vindicated, then frankly, the rest of his evidence and testimony can't have been up to much in the first place, and he knew he was conducting research. Which means the whole study was totally unethical after all.

So, wingnuts; which is it?

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