In Which I Take Jim Carrey To Task   3 comments

Jim Carrey has a commentary up over at Huffington Post that requires some deconstructive analysis.

Recently, I was amazed to hear a commentary by CNN’s Campbell Brown on the controversial vaccine issue. After a ruling by the ‘special vaccine court’ saying the Measles, Mumps, Rubella shot wasn’t found to be responsible for the plaintiffs’ autism, she and others in the media began making assertions that the judgment was in, and vaccines had been proven safe. No one would be more relieved than Jenny and I if that were true. But with all due respect to Ms. Brown, a ruling against causation in three cases out of more than 5000 hardly proves that other children won’t be adversely affected by the MMR, let alone that all vaccines are safe.

You’re misrepresenting this, Mr. Carrey.  While you’re certainly correct that court cases aren’t scientific evidence in and of themselves in any way, you’re pulling a bait and switch here; watch the commentary.  Ms. Brown clearly frames her commentary based upon claims made by scientists, not by the courts.  She does not even mention the court case in this commentary.

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.

There always was a credible, biological, *foundational theory* to explain that cigarettes are bad for you.  Breathing smoke is sort of contraindicated as a healthy lifestyle choice.  Building studies upon that makes sense.  There are no current foundational theories to explain why injecting an inert virus into your body in a neutral suspension might be in any way harmful.  Comparing the two isn’t even like comparing apples and oranges, it’s like comparing apples to the space shuttle.

The truth is that no one without a vested interest in the profitability of vaccines has studied all 36 of them in depth. There are more than 100 vaccines in development, and no tests for cumulative effect or vaccine interaction of all 36 vaccines in the current schedule have ever been done. If I’m mistaken, I challenge those who are making such grand pronouncements about vaccine safety to produce those studies.

Er, I’m afraid I have to call you out on this.  Please define what vaccinations are included in your list of 36, and define what you mean by “in depth”, in rigorous detail.  Is a 5 year epidemiological study sufficient?  10 year?  50 year?  How do we perform long term studies on something that hasn’t been around that long?  More to the point, why should we spend any time and resources investigating something that we currently have no basis for assuming *might* be dangerous, when we have millions of people dying every year from things that we *know* are dangerous?  Again, we’re not talking about cigarette smoking here… if I design a vaccine, following certain design prinicples that have been shown to produce safe, viable medicines and my designed vaccine reduces the impact of a fatal or crippling disease, how much testing would you agree is enough to call it safe?  You have a proposal: “Vaccines are dangerous”.  Establishing a falsification standard is job number one, tell me what I need to do to prove to you that they are safe, otherwise you’re just engaging in a perfect solution fallacy.

Oh, and your “vested interest in the profitiability of vaccines” is a thinly veiled ad hominem attack.  Just come out and say, “I think all medical researchers are in the pocket of Big Pharma”, why don’t you?

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.

Well, no.  Again… the issue of whether or not the court is a viable source of authoritative information on this issue is your strawman here, not mine (edited to add: Phil Plait’s commentary on this bit).  In spite of that, however, it’s certainly possible for one court case to reach a bad conclusion and another court case to reach a good one.  If you’re going to critique one judgment, you need to critique it directly, not lump it into a class and throw the baby out with the bathwater.  For all we know, “Hannah Polling” and “Bailey Banks” could have been decided entirely on procedural grounds.  Pony up some evidence, here, good man.  (edited to add)  Here’s why the two are not equivalent.

In this growing crisis, we cannot afford to blindly trumpet the agenda of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or vaccine makers. Now more than ever, we must resist the urge to close this book before it’s been written. 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. The legitimate concern they and many in the scientific community have that environmental toxins, including those found in vaccines, may be causing autism and other disorders (Aspergers, ADD, ADHD), cannot be dissuaded by a show of sympathy and a friendly invitation to look for the ‘real’ cause of autism anywhere but within the lucrative vaccine program.

Ah, so many examples of horribleness here!  We’ve got an implied categorical syllogism (lumping the CDC together with vaccine makers, vaccine makers are obviously for profit greedy capitalists).  We have an appeal to emotion (think of the children!), we have a post hoc ergo propter hoc (the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”), petitio principii (how do we know their concerns are “legitimate”?).  “Hey, Jim… how long has it been since you stopped beating your wife?”

With vaccines being the fastest growing division of the pharmaceutical industry, isn’t it possible that profits may play a part in the decision-making? That the vaccine program is becoming more of a profit engine than a means of prevention?

Certainly, profits may play a part in decision-making.  This is not an unreasonable question.  However, please provide me some credible evidence that profit-driven motives of companies can bypass the FDA, the CDC, and the medical research community in a systemic manner.  I am not looking for one or two or three cases of malfeasance here; you are asserting a massive, pervasive conspiracy across several different organizations.  Where’s the whistleblowers?  If the NSA cannot keep a wiretapping program secret, why should I assume that several companies can somehow manage to implement such a wide-reaching conspiracy without dozens of leaks?  Moreover, you’ve got a false dichotomy here… if the vaccine program *has* become more of a profit engine than a means of prevention, how is that evidence that it’s not also a means of prevention?  If I can make money by making you healthier, is that somehow less valid than making you healthier out of the goodness of my heart?

In a world left reeling from the catastrophic effects of greed, mismanagement and corporate insensitivity, is it so absurd for us to wonder why American children are being given twice as many vaccines on average, compared to the top 30 first world countries?

Whoo!  Hasty generalization!  The financial industry blew up because of greed, ergo all industries must blow up because of greed.  Mr. Carrey, in case you haven’t been reading the news, the finanical industry blew up because the lack of regulatory oversight enabled companies to incorrectly and fradulently mis-attribute risk to financial products.  If you’re going to draw a reference to the Economic End Times, you need to show how the CDC, FDA, etc. are negligent in a manner similar to the SEC and Fed… not compare Pfizer to AIG.  Oh, and we may be getting twice as many vaccines on average than other countries, but there are an entire slew of completely non-conspiracy-related, non-evil, non-monetizing explanations why this might be the case (some countries might not recommend Gardasil because they have a lower teen sex rate and it’s not a good use of money, for example).

Paul Offit, the vaccine advocate and profiteer, who helped invent a Rotavirus vaccine is said to have paved the way for his own multi-million dollar windfall while serving on the very council that eventually voted his Rotavirus vaccine onto our children’s schedule.

Paul Offit has a pretty impressive track record as a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases.  I suspect that you may be irritated at Dr. Offit (note, Jim, you should call him by his title in public discourse) for campaigning against the anti-vaccination movement.  It stands to reason that anyone working a lifetime in infectious disease research may have invented a vaccine or two, and thus probably has profited somewhat from it.  While this of course have resulted in a conflict of interest, that doesn’t mean outright that anything unethical or untoward has occurred.  Conflicts of interest are everywhere in public policy debates, if they are disclosed properly they are evidence of a *lack* of conspiracy, not the other way around.  [edited to add] Liz Ditz explains how the timeline doesn’t quite match Mr. Carrey’s characterization of Dr. Offit.

With many states like Minnesota now reporting the number at 1 in 80 children affected with autism, can we afford to trust those who serve two masters or their logic that tells us “one size fits all” when it comes to vaccines?

If you give a large group of people a schedule, most will follow it.  If you give a large group of people a tenuous list of recommendations, lots of things won’t get done.  It’s human nature.  Defending a vaccination schedule is defending a consise set of instructions on the grounds that it’s most likely to produce consistent results.  By the way, what does Minnesota’s autism rate have to do with the second half of this sentence?

Can we afford to ignore vaccines as a possible cause of these rising numbers when they are one of the fastest growing elements in our children’s environment?

Er, that was the entire point of the study that is so widely quoted as refuting your entire premise.  The rate of vaccination has no correlation with the rate of autism diagnosis.  That means that the answer to your question is, “Yes.”

With all the doubt that’s left hanging on this topic, how can anyone in the media or medical profession, boldly demand that all parents march out and give their kids 36 of these shots, six at a time in dosage levels equal to that given a 200 pound man? This is a bias of the most dangerous kind.

The doubt seems to be in the mind of the beholder.  Oh, and I give my daughter maybe eight 8oz doses of milk a day; quite a bit more than almost any 200 lb man.  She seems to be doing just fine.  The size of dosage is only related to the risk equation if you can show that there is a risk to begin with, and the risk is compounded by magnitude.  Neither has been shown to be the case.

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… But if you care to look, it’s really quite impressive. For a sample of vaccine injury evidence go to

I don’t “care to look”.  I care to have it presented to me in a method that addresses a rational, composed, logical structure that supports an overall argument.  Address the counter-arguments, provide reasonable evidence for your claims, and go an entire editorial without relying on multiple fallacies and perhaps I’ll assume you might have something of consequence to say. [edited to add] – Commenter Dan, who may have more patience than I do, has blogged about the “vaccine injury evidence” here.

We have never argued that people shouldn’t be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio, but surely there’s a limit as to how many viruses and toxins can be introduced into the body of a small child.

Surely there isn’t.  Maybe there is.  Perhaps there isn’t.  Again, you have a hypothesis.  Where is your evidence?

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? These forward thinking vets also decided to remove thimerosal from animal vaccines in 1992, and yet this substance, which is 49% mercury, is still in human vaccines. Don’t our children deserve as much consideration as our pets?

There’s no reference to “vaccinoisis” in Wikipedia, and the first six pages of references I find to the term in Google Scholar all point to homeopathy literature.  I found one article that seems to be referenced quite heavily by people using the term “vaccinoisis”, “Vaccination and Autoimmunity—‘vaccinosis: A Dangerous Liason” by Shoenfeld and Aron-Maor, published in volume 14, issue 1 of the Journal of Immunology.  From the abstract:

So far only one controlled study of an experimental animal model has been published, in which the possible causal relation between vaccines and autoimmune findings has been examined: in healthy puppies immunized with a variety of commonly given vaccines, a variety of autoantibodies have been documented but no frank autoimmune illness was recorded. The findings could also represent a polyclonal activation (adjuvant reaction). The mechanism (or mechanisms) of autoimmune reactions following immunization has not yet been elucidated. One of the possibilities is molecular mimicry; when a structural similarity exists between some viral antigen (or other component of the vaccine) and a self-antigen. This similarity may be the trigger to the autoimmune reaction. Other possible mechanisms are discussed.

Even though the data regarding the relation between vaccination and autoimmune disease is conflicting, it seems that some autoimmune phenomena are clearly related to immunization (e.g. Guillain–Barre syndrome).

The issue of the risk of vaccination remains a philosophical one, since to date the advantages of this policy have not been refuted (editors note: emphasis mine), while the risk for autoimmune disease has not been irrevocably proved. We discuss the pros and cons of this issue (although the temporal relationship (i.e. always 2–3 months following immunization) is impressive).

You seem to place an awfully large chunk of weight in a concept that has merited precisely one controlled study.  Why?  (let’s discount the fact that the actual study doesn’t conclude what you think it does).

In all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad. While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well.

Actually, in all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that their goodness so vastly overwhelms any potential badness that any reasonably coherent risk analysis would lead you to recommend the sudden and immediate deployment of them in as broad a population as is practical.  While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may be toxic, they certainly ought to be present in levels greater than what the body has naturally before we jump off the deep end of fear, and of course actually be part of the vaccine to begin with.  Metal toxicity is a vanishingly tiny danger.  If any of these ingredients had any sort of measurable incidence, there would be a huge number of associated cases.

[edited to add] A more thorough analysis of the science (I concentrated on the fallacies) in Mr. Carrey’s editorial over here at Orac’s place and over here at Autism News.

Posted April 23, 2009 by padraic2112 in parenting, rants, science

3 responses to “In Which I Take Jim Carrey To Task

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  1. Pingback: In Which I Take Jim Carrey To Task | rheumatoid arthritis information

  2. Pingback: In Which I Take Jim Carrey To Task | rheumatoid arthritis information

  3. I actually went to the trouble of clicking on the link Carrey supplies, and was pretty astounded. The pile of “peer reviewed scienc”, much of which are nothing more than citations and none of which is more than abstracts, is almost entirely devoid of references to vaccines at all. While the majority of it deals with autism, far less than 10% is in any way germane to the point Carrey seems to want to make. Of the references that do discuss autism and vaccinations, several plainly refute a connection (it’s right there in the abstract or title) and several more probably do, but there is no content to review. Carrey is clearly referring people to a resource about which he knows absolutely nothing. It is astoundingly irresponsible and dishonest.

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