Viewpoint: Oprah as Harvard’s Commencement Speaker Is an Endorsement of Phony Science

As America's oldest and most visible university, Harvard should publicly affirm evidence-based inquiry, not quack medicine

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Elise Amendola / AP

Oprah Winfrey receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University during commencement ceremonies in Cambridge, Mass., on May 30, 2013.

It’s possible to admire Oprah Winfrey and still wish that Harvard hadn’t awarded her an honorary doctor of law degree and the coveted commencement speaker spot at yesterday’s graduation. There’s no question Oprah’s achievements place her in the pantheon of American success stories. Talent, charisma, and a prodigious work ethic have rarely catapulted anyone as far as they have this former abused teenage mother from rural Mississippi who became one of the world’s most successful entertainment moguls and the first African American female billionaire.

(MORE: Oprah Expert on How Winfrey’s Brand Changed America)

Honorary degrees are often bestowed to non-academic leaders in the arts, business, and politics. Harvard’s roster in recent years has included Kofi Annan, Bill Gates, Meryl Streep, and David Souter. But Oprah’s particular brand of celebrity is not a good fit for the values of a university whose motto, Veritas, means truth. Oprah’s passionate advocacy extends, unfortunately, to a hearty embrace of phony science. Critics have taken Oprah to task for years for her energetic shilling on behalf of peddlers of quack medicine. Most notoriously, Oprah’s validation of Jenny McCarthy’s discredited claim that vaccines cause autism has no doubt contributed to much harm through the foolish avoidance of vaccines.

(MORE: Pomp and Controversy: 7 Contentious Commencement Speakers)

Famous people are entitled to a few foibles, like the rest of us, and the choice of commencement speakers often reflects a balance of institutional priorities, allegiances, and aspirations. Judging from our conversations with many students, Oprah was a widely popular choice.

But this vote of confidence in Oprah sends a troubling message at precisely the time when American universities need to do more, not less, to advance the cause of reason. As former Dean of Harvard College, Harry Lewis, pointedly noted in a blog post about his objections, “It seems very odd for Harvard to honor such a high profile popularizer of the irrational. I can’t square this in my mind, at a time when political and religious nonsense so imperil the rule of reason in this allegedly enlightened democracy and around the world.”

Many Americans are unaware that federal funding for biomedical and social science research is under siege from Congressional cuts. As a result, observers in the private sector fear a major disruption in American innovation. If we do not take seriously the ability of science to help us understand the world and drive economic growth, we risk imperiling one of the key pillars of American prosperity.

Examples of the disrespect for, and not just misunderstanding of, science are everywhere. It’s not just those who ignore climate science (alas, at our peril). Recall how Sarah Palin famously mocked research on fruit flies, ignoring the reality that most of modern genetics is built on the study of this organism, or the factually incorrect belief that women can ‘shut the whole thing down‘ when they are raped to avoid conception. It even extends to United States senators who misunderstand basic probability (thinking that a tornado could not possibly strike the same town in Oklahoma twice).

As America’s oldest and most visible university, Harvard has a special opportunity to convey its respect for science not only through its research and teaching programs but also in its public affirmation of evidence-based inquiry.

(MORE: Wither Goes Free Speech at Harvard?)

Unfortunately, many American universities seem awfully busy protecting their brand name and not nearly busy enough protecting the pursuit of knowledge. A recent article in the Harvard Crimson noted the shocking growth of Harvard’s public relations arm in the last five years and it questioned whether a focus on risk management and avoiding controversy was really the best outward-looking face of this great institution.

As American research universities begin to resemble profit centers and entertainment complexes, it’s easy to lose sight of their primary mission: to produce and disseminate knowledge from which all of society can benefit. This mission depends on traditions of rational discourse and vigorous defense of the scientific method. Oprah Winfrey’s honorary doctorate was a step in the wrong direction.

644 comments
Pixelosopher
Pixelosopher

Give me a break. How many politicians do we have in Congress who graduated from Harvard? Some of their beliefs are loony involving women's reproduction or climate change. And Erika Christakis, Nicholas Christakis and Time.com are singling out a successful black woman?

SnowOnionLEE
SnowOnionLEE

This article is selected as the material of Reading Comprehension part of China's College English Test band 6 ( CET-6 ) at June 2014~

gbunny
gbunny

Harvard has shown itself to be be less than its own reputation suggests, by keeping debunked economics professors (the 'austerity' authors) in their cushy tenured jobs, and by producing generations of people whose only talent seems to be that they can work in "I went to Harvard" in every conversation.  As to Oprah - she's a celebrity pure and simple, and an easy non-threatening feel-good speaker.  But I agree with many posters who feel that her positions on quack science and fads have hurt, not helped, her viewers.  Judging by the comments, however, any criticism of Oprah and her style is by definition racist.  NONSENSE.  We joke that there's a set of books that are 'oprah-esque' - sad little child is abused, overcomes her impoverished abusive beginnings, becomes successful and happy.  Nearly every book she recommends has this basic plot.  It's her real story and good for her, but we don't need a whole bookshelf of similar stories.

ReginaldSamothyAdams
ReginaldSamothyAdams

We as a species have a bias towards sameness; we'll like someone more readily if they're "like us"(unless they're exhibiting traits we have which we hate).
I'd say one of the reasons Oprah's so successful is because of how "like" the American populace she is; kind and well-meaning, relatively ignorant of science, and persuaded by "alternative medicine".
"Do you know what they call alternative medicine that actually works? They call it medicine."

AlbusNerdisky
AlbusNerdisky

Just thought the comments here would benefit from some actual science.

The data showing that vaccines do not cause autism, and the fact that the arguments to the contrary are completely BS, has been clearly demonstrated.

E.g.

http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/node/5026

http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Adverse-Effects-of-Vaccines-Evidence-and-Causality.aspx

In contrast there is lots and lots of data on what actually does cause autism:

E.g.

http://www.macalester.edu/~wests/econ431/sep08_Gruber.pdf

http://www.dialogues-cns.com/publication/dialoguesclinneurosci-14-281-xml/

http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3513679

I chose these three as examples because the free full text versions are available.

The pattern is very clear:

1.Data shows that real risk factors fro autism effect embryos

2.Extensive work has detailed the molecules and cells that are affected during embryonic development that result in autism symptoms occurring later

3.Even though they claim to be advocates for parents and informed choice etc, etc, I can’t find a single anti-vacc site that makes even a tiny effort at providing the facts on the etiology of autism.

The conclusion is obvious.

W&N

lilady
lilady

The TACT Study is presently under review by a slew of researchers, for a variety of reasons including failure of retention of study subjects, the early unblinding, the credentials of the researchers and the soft end points of the two armed study.  Here's just one of the cardiologists/researchers who is questioning the TACT study:

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1672219

Oprah is correct, you say?  I don't think has the ability to judge that study or any other study.


chinidesign
chinidesign

The NIH TACT study was published by JAMA on March 27, 2013, after an almost 5 month delay after the presentation by Dr. Lamas on Nov. 4, 2012 at the American Heart Association Scientific Session in Los Angeles. After 10 years and over $30 million of the taxpayers money, NIH proved an overall improvement in all the endpoints by 18%, including heart disease, diabetic heart disease and heart attacks.

chinidesign
chinidesign

Watch the new documentary "Unleaded," then you might learn something about the $30 million 10 year study by Gervasio Lamas, MD of the NIH proving Chelation Therapy improves heart disease by 26%, diabetic heart disease by 18%, and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks, etc.) by 23%. Oprah is correct.

NikiWonoto
NikiWonoto

"clever Business" people are actually what I firmly/strongly believe to be THE core/essential cause of almost EVERY other problems in our "modern 21st century" society/world today!

It's *Capitalism* system coupled with humans' over-greed going UN-controllable!


lilady
lilady

Who is purveying junk science- disgraced and discredited former doctors Wakefield and Geier? Why?

Which anti-vaccine, anti-science organizations set the agenda for the recent Congressional Oversight Hearings?  

Rebut my statements and rebut what former Age of Autism contributor Jake Crosby and Tim Bolen wrote about that Congressional Hearing.

http://www.bolenreport.com/Mark%20Geier/autism%20infighting3.htm


JoshMazer
JoshMazer

Rebut it, footnoted reference by footnoted reference.

Who is purveying junk scuence- CDC or NIH? Why?

supernovita
supernovita

All we got to do is remember how she started and pretty much the only way she did most of her money (other things came later). A talkshow. She did a trashy talkshow but people liked the silly drama and the fact that Oprah would take it 'seriously' (more like acting).

She just cheated a bunch of gulliable viewers into that her show was dealing with real "drama".

I dont think she deserves the Harvard honor. Im not sure if she ever deserved the huge pay check for such silly tv shows, but then again celebrities who gain such status are always over payed. I dont think she has done anything outrageous but I think she is a clever bussiness woman and I applaud her for that.

sdryweri
sdryweri

so you get to be a professor now; if you are fcking rich whit out any real skills or intelligence?

lilady
lilady

More damning information from Jenny McCarthy's Generation Rescue and its affiliated organization, Age of Autism.

AoA had the video and commentary of Robert F. Kennedy Jr's presentation at the Gen Rescue/Autism One Conference, where Kennedy again defamed the CDC, public health workers and pro-science/pro-immunization scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses. He *threatened* to re-write and expand his conspiracy-laden, full of falsehoods "Evidence of Harm" article about the "evil vaccine program" and published it in book form "by the end of summer", if Congress did not hold hearings about the grand conspiracy that he conjured up in his head.

The article, the video and the comments were replete with vile accusations, scandalous associations with the Holocaust, the n@zi death camps and other rants.  Here's the link to the article and the video that appeared on Age of Autism...now expunged from their website:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2013/05/rfk-jr-nazi-death-camps-and-the-battle-for-our-future.html


rationalrevo
rationalrevo

Not only is Oprah a bad choice due to her anti-scientific views, but celebrities are poor choices in general. I've listened to some of the speeches given by the like of Oprah and Ellen, and quite frankly they are absurd.

Yes, these people are successful, but following their advice is not only no guarantee of success, but its actually a very poor prescription for success and very much displays a misunderstanding of both their own success and success in general.

Listening to these people is like listening to the advice of a lottery winner. Having these people give commencement speeches is like having a lottery winner give a speech telling people that playing the lottery is a viable path to success because that's how they got where they are today.

Oprah a Ellen say stuff like to "follow you passion" and "never give up", etc., etc. Yeah, well guess, what in their respective fields hundreds if not thousands of people did the same thing that they did, but only a small handful make it "to the top", and the rest that don't end up with horrible unstable careers and lives. The nature of celebrity is that by definition there can only be a small number of celebrities, and the success of those few is dependent upon exclusivity. The only reason Oprah was able to become wealth and powerful is because she was the single top rated day-time talker, getting most of the day-time audience. That's not something that thousands of people can replicate, no matter how much they try or how capable they are.

At least with people like Bill Gates and other such business-people their success isn't purely based on celebrity. There can be more than one Bill Gates, in fact there are many, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, etc. These guys aren't celebrities.

Yeah, celebrity commencement speakers, or role models in general, are just horrible.

TrevorRamsey
TrevorRamsey

I agree. Oprah may have made some positive impact on society at large, but it's questionable at best. She has allowed hucksters, con artists and terribly deluded people to have national media attention and her tacit if not full-fledged endorsement, and she should not be given kudos and accolades for it.

LoyAnthonyMachedo
LoyAnthonyMachedo

Couple of thoughts here:
1) A Degree is no substitute for Common Sense, Intelligence or Creativity.
2) Oprah like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates was lucky to be the Right person at the Right time at the Right place having the Right conditions to help her reach where she got to. If it wasn't luck, then it has to be a science and if anyone repeats her formula can be guaranteed success - which is not the case. 
3) Getting a Harvard's Degree doesn't prove anything. Agreed the Elite and the Best go there. However, after that then what? 

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

Those who do not have their kids vaccinated should be deported

kiwaii
kiwaii

"The degree is often conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field or to society in general. It is often given to graduation speakers at a university or college. The university often derives benefits by association with the person in question. The degree is not recognized by employers as having the same stature as a corresponding 'earned' doctorate and should not be represented as such." (wiki, honorary degree) --Meryl Streep is ok, but Oprah is a different 'brand' of celebrity? Really? Because she invites speakers to talk about their experience of the soul and consciousness and because that leads people to believe that detoxing the body can heal diseases as a wellness thing? Oooh, how devastating for science. People are seeking direct revelation and that might put Science and Higher Ed out of business. Give me a break.  --According to Viewpoint, Meryl's acting ability really outweighs Oprah's accomplishments--??  that is, Oprah's work in creating a platform for more reading, education, therapy, philanthropy and human issues. Not to mention her life's work overcoming social, political, cultural and economic obstacles. --Please, stop talking about the Science smoke and mirroring and look at this specific story about Oprah and Harvard choosing her to speak and to receive an honorary degree in law. You guys can find another thread to argue over who said what about autism. Can you just let this be about the issue at hand?

LawrenceMcNamara
LawrenceMcNamara

http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2013/01/mms-yes-it-is-bleach.html

http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2012/05/30/mms-or-how-to-cure-autism-with-bleach-brought-to-you-by-autismone/

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm220747.htm

These are the types of people you are supporting Heather - given that autistic children are already prone to a variety of sensitivities, how exactly do you think this would go down with them? How can you not call this child abuse?

JoshMazer
JoshMazer

"Junk science" is a hard term to define. Even journals that claim to be "peer reviewed" can actually be "play to pay pseudo science bunko con jobs masquerading as objective scientific forums.

One indisputably credible, mainstream, and conservative journal, The British Medical Journal, in the past three weeks has labeled CDC vaccine studies as "junk science."  Here is a link to the article marketing disease marketing vaccines:

http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037

"Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims."

Translation: CDC officials use "junk science" to dupe you into using vaccines. 

This BMJ article presents a real conundrum for folks trying to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of various vaccines. Is the BMJ dealng in "junk science," or is the CDC? Perhaps some of the folks on this forum who have training and expertise in this area can offer their views.

Here is another example:

The NIH website publishes the peer reviewed article cited below. The article points out that a dispassionate measure of vaccination schedules around the world demonstrates that the more aggressive is the vaccination schedule, the greater is the infant mortality rate:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3170075/

"Conclusion
The US childhood immunization schedule requires 26 vaccine doses for infants aged less than 1 year, the most in the world, yet 33 nations have better IMRs. Using linear regression, the immunization schedules of these 34 nations were examined and a correlation coefficient of 0.70 (p < 0.0001) was found between IMRs and the number of vaccine doses routinely given to infants. When nations were grouped into five different vaccine dose ranges (12–14, 15–17, 18–20, 21–23, and 24–26), 98.3% of the total variance in IMR was explained by the unweighted linear regression model. These findings demonstrate a counter-intuitive relationship: nations that require more vaccine doses tend to have higher infant mortality rates."

Again- I would call upon those with scientific and/or medical training to evaluate and explain the seeming contradictions in these two articles. Is BMJ "junk science," is CDC "junk science," is NIH "junk science?"


Pug-PugMcPug
Pug-PugMcPug

I find Harvard's choice of Oprah as their commencement speaker quite fitting, as Harvard has descended into the realm of quackery itself.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

Anybody I ever met from Harvard has always had an incredible view of their own importance not to mention a stick up their ass.

commentpanther
commentpanther

Would the author's of this article object to white male billionaires like the Google founders getting honored by Harvard?  Hundreds of millions more people  see anti-science views by doing google searches than had ever seen Jenny McCarthy's 30 second anti-vaccine comment on Oprah.  And Oprah read a disclaimer when anti-science views are expressed, google doesn't.  What about all the anti-science views on youtube and facebook?  Would the authors object to them being honored by Harvard?

Why is Oprah blamed  for the opinions of all 35,000 guests who ever appeared on her show but the authors of this article are not responsible for all the anti-science people they allow to post on this forum?  When white people like the Google, facebook, youtube,  and the authors of this hit piece allow free discussion they're noble proponents of free speech, but when a black woman does it, it's time for a witch hunt because the African voodoo witch is promoting pseudoscience.  Gotcha!

giantsloar
giantsloar

I hope none of you anti-vaccine people posting has kids. Your anti-science extremism could kill your child some day.

annabellep
annabellep

Article is riddled with appeals to authority, a basic fallacy that any community college graduate can identify. Maybe science is losing so much credibility and cultural pull because the practitioners of it are so often condescending narcissists who have forgotten fundamental tenets of science itself. Leave the ridicule to the priests, and start trying to actually persuade people instead of calling them idiots with questionable motives. 

JoshMazer
JoshMazer

"The CDC pledges “To base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data, openly and objectively derived.” But Peter Doshi argues that in the case of influenza vaccinations and their marketing, this is not so


Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today. Twenty years ago, in 1990, 32 million doses of influenza vaccine were available in the United States. Today around 135 million doses of influenza vaccine annually enter the US market, with vaccinations administered in drug stores, supermarkets—even some drive-throughs. This enormous growth has not been fueled by popular demand but instead by a public health campaign that delivers a straightforward, who-in-their-right-mind-could-possibly-disagree message: influenza is a serious disease, we are all at risk of complications from influenza, the flu shot is virtually risk free, and vaccination saves lives. Through this lens, the lack of influenza vaccine availability for all 315 million US citizens seems to border on the unethical. Yet across the country, mandatory influenza vaccination policies have cropped up, particularly in healthcare facilities,1 precisely because not everyone wants the vaccination, and compulsion appears the only way to achieve high vaccination rates.2 Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims. The vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated."

The British Medical Journal May 16, 2013, on the subject of vaccine safety http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037

The money sentence is this one:

"Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims"-

Again:

"Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims"

Also worth a look are the Rapid Responses to the BMJ article. Here is a sample:

"Marketing vaccine by state's force

It is notable that P. Doshi mentioned only two cases of side effects of flu vaccination. In reality the sporadic side effects are quite numerous, but because of their 'flu-like' nature they are not reported.

In Russia the vaccines produced locally (side effect of the support to national businesses) are bought by Government for 'free" vaccination.

Children in schools and kindergartens are the most prevalent subjects forced to be vaccinated for free. Almost every year in one or another region of Russia the vaccination is stopped because of the reports of the mass suffering of children from the side effects of vaccination. Usually the specific series of vaccines are recalled.

The pressure on physicians to use the already prepaid vaccines is so strong, that they fill the patients' records with false statements of vaccination. We know about this accidents, because from time to time here and there the criminal cases are opened against these physicians.

Competing interests: None declared"

http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037/rr/646092

Some posters on this Time Magazine Board would like to discuss everything else under the sun- except this crushing piece of peer reviewed research published by British Medical Journal within the past three weeks. That is because the British Medical Journal describes CDC officials as "disease mongering," and lying about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

In describing CDC vaccine policy, BMJ publishes the following:

"Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims"

When did the British Medical Journal begin peddling in "junk science"?

Never. CDC vaccine policy makers are "disease mongering," and make  false claims about vaccine safety and effectiveness, so says the British Medical Journal.



Twyla
Twyla

It was actually Katie Wright, daughter of the founders of Autism Speaks, who first spoke out about vaccine causation on Oprah's show.  Katie tells about this here:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/06/katie-wright-first-woman-to-use-the-v-word-on-oprah-on-newsweek-dreck.html

As Katie wrote, "Oprah gave me the opportunity to speak freely, for which I am tremendously grateful, but at NO time did she endorse my opinion. Oprah carefully listened to all sides of the debate... Since when is a free an open exchange of ideas so frightening?  When did asking questions and telling our children’s stories become subversive?  Why is talking about vaccine safety and conflicts of interest forbidden?"

jbutler4815
jbutler4815

The authors have a valid point to make about Oprah. But they just couldn't stop there. It must have been a requirement for this piece to include some kind of Republican-bashing. They even dragged out Todd Akin again, even though just about the entire Republican Party denounced him, and he stayed in his race out of some narcissistic inability to perceive his status as electoral poison. I won't deny that every Republican is completely "pro-science," but let's consider a few things. What would scientists like to do about global warming, assuming it is happening? Most of them have pointed to massive subsidies of alternative energy and carbon trading schemes. Well, the former do not succeed as business enterprises, which is how almost every government in the West sets them up (I'll readily accept a case for non-commercial research into such energy sources, however); the latter destroy economies. The other two examples the authors cite are obscure anecdotes, two of which belong to people no longer in positions of power, and one of which lazily links to another article to make their arguments for them. As for Sen. Coburn: he did not oppose tornado relief because he believed that a tornado would not strike his area again; as someone who has lived there for a long time, he likely is aware of the odds. Rather, he was saying that a) the Federal government already has a well-stocked fund for such disasters, meaning that b) any attempts to legislate "disaster relief" would provide an opportunity for legislators to load the bill with earmarks, pork-barrel spending, and other wasteful projects, as occurred in the Hurricane Sandy relief bill. Republicans, in short, do not uniformly oppose science. They oppose liberalism, to be sure, but the two terms are not one. Let's look at some examples.

Despite an exhaustive study from the HHS itself proving that Head Start's effects are negligible at best, President Obama and leading Democrats continue to cling to two outdated, flawed studies as evidence that we should keep the program. Who's anti-science?

Despite another exhaustive study conducted in Oregon that showed Medicaid's only real benefits pertained to reducing stress and mitigating bankruptcy, Democrats wish to expand the program countrywide to millions of people into medical areas far beyond those at which it has even an arguable degree of success. Who's anti-science?

A few days ago, left-wing protestors across the globe protested against Monsanto, the food giant. Sure, Monsanto has some problems, as will every human enterprise. But the science behind Monsanto has fed billions of people who otherwise would have undoubtedly starved. Who's anti-science?

I could go on, but I'd rather end with this: both Republicans AND Democrats will oppose empirical data at times when it conflicts with what they believe. This is why science is better off when it stays as far away from politics as possible. Unfortunately, the authors of this piece cannot resist, and so likely have inflamed enough people to have hurt their possibly worthy causes.

LawrenceMcNamara
LawrenceMcNamara

For the "research-challenged" folks that keep posting here, I would recommend that you read:

http://antiantivax.flurf.net/

As a first step, before trotting out the typical anti-vaccine lies, misunderstandings and misrepresentations. You'll save us all a lot of time.

LawrenceMcNamara
LawrenceMcNamara

Oprah is a successful business woman - good for her. She has done a lot of good, but her support, even tacit, of bad science, has effects all out of proportion due to her popularity.

I hope she someday realizes her mistake.

lilady
lilady

anastia.nyc: Could you, um, manage to, um, post something, um, of value, um, here?  Why not go to your computer and post in understandable English...with links to back up your pidgen English tweeting code?

anastia.nyc
anastia.nyc

wow Oprah! good job! And the article is nasty. And all vaccine supporting comments about it r so dumb, no actual facts etc. No surprise there, its hard to come up with real facts that r pro vaccine

For the vaccine supporting ignoramuses -autism istn genetc. Ad fyi , even for most genetic conditions enviroment playsa bigger role then genetics. This is what mainstreem medicid states.

SkepticalScientist
SkepticalScientist

Instead of attacking Oprah for reporting the unpleasant truth you should ask why we have roughly 2% of kids today with autism, many more with ADD, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases. The rise in Type 1 diabetes cannot be blamed on better diagnostics.  Jenny McCarthy and Oprah may be easy target for lazy academics but time is running out for our society that will be unable to foot the bill for the growing epidemic of chronic illnesses.

BorisOgon
BorisOgon

If I may briefly divert with a point of clarification, I'd like to note that I'm not "BorisIII" (nothing personal, but it's not a common namespace collision).

lilady
lilady

doctorsensation:  As a pediatrician, I presume you subscribe to the Pediatrics Journal.  Would you care to comment on this compilation of recent studies published in the January, 2013 Pediatrics issue?

http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/vaccinestudies.pdf

" I have personally seen dozens of children regress immediately after vaccination. To say that mounting a fever, having seizures all within hours of receiving a vaccination is not related is akin to stating a broken leg which is occurs just after being hit by a car is unrelated. Children dont mount fevers, have seizures and then loose their speech without a cause, a cause involving some type of neurological damage and since mercury and aluminum are both neurotoxins as well as polysorbate and viral material together (polysorbate breeches the blood brain barrier), it seems obvious that some children will respond poorly. To blame the victim is deplorable."

And, as a recently retired public health nurse clinician-epidemiologist who investigated thousands of individual cases and hundreds of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable-diseases, I am stating that your education did not serve you well...as evidenced by your deplorable lack of knowledge of basic science (immunology, virology, bacteriology, organic and inorganic chemistry, biology and physiology).  

Have you any, um, links to studies that the "neurotoxins" you named do, in fact, pass the blood brain barrier?  Citations desperately needed from first-tier peer reviewed science and medical journals.

Tsk, tsk, doctor...you're an enabler who does not follow the AAP Standards of Care for timely and complete immunizations to protect your young patients from serious, oftentimes deadly V-P-Ds. 


doctorsensation
doctorsensation

How very interesting for two post grads who must have learned the notion of "attributable rate"

until we see a study which fulfills the equation for the numerator in the attributable rate equation, we can not rule out vaccines as a cause of autism. We don't get to rewrite definitions. the numerator includes the "rate of disease in the unexposed population"

so far any study wihch states vaccines have a 0 attributable rate for autism, put forth by the CDC or the AAP has not included

this necessary part of the equation. THey've included all kinds of background noise such as how many different antigens vaccinated kids were exposed to , those studies may make their own conclusion but not the one the writers of this article are implying. The lates study printed in the AAP was not even good enough to make it in JAMA or the NEJM, this study and previous ones showing the more mercury , the less autism, were rejected for poor statistical analysis.  

While training as a pediatrician I was taught  to "listen to parents as parents know their children". this seems to be ignored by all but the most astute doctors. I have personally seen dozens of children regress immediately after vaccination. To say that mounting a fever, having seizures all within hours of receiving a vaccination is not related is akin to stating a broken leg which is occurs just after being hit by a car is unrelated. Children dont mount fevers, have seizures and then loose their speech without a cause, a cause involving some type of neurological damage and since mercury and aluminum are both neurotoxins as well as polysorbate and viral material together (polysorbate breeches the blood brain barrier), it seems obvious that some children will respond poorly. To blame the victim is deplorable.

LawrenceMcNamara
LawrenceMcNamara

Oprah supports "crank science" for ratings. She's putting people's lives at risk for the sake of larger audiences & higher advertising rates. It is a shame that someone who has so much influence has landed decidedly on the side of anti-Science.

lilady
lilady

You've got that all wrong JoshMazer...as evidenced by the blitzing of the Rapid Response comment section by all sorts of assorted anti-vaccine cranks, who only think they have the science of immunology and epidemiology down pat.

I find your conspiracy comments and your conspiracy inferences about our public health initiatives to protect babies and children from serious, sometimes deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases offensive.  

You need to do some serious research into the Holocaust to learn how offensive you really are.





JoshMazer
JoshMazer

The British Medical Journal is a conservative, evidence based, peer reviewed, mainstream medical journal.  They describes CDC officials as making unsubstantiated claims about vaccine safety and effectiveness. Instead of reading the carping of this message board, you will be better informed if you read the article

http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037

and the Rapid Responses, like this one:

http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037/rr/646092

"

Marketing vaccine by state's force 24 May 2013

It is notable that P. Doshi mentioned only two cases of side effects of flu vaccination. In reality the sporadic side effects are quite numerous, but because of their 'flu-like' nature they are not reported.

In Russia the vaccines produced locally (side effect of the support to national businesses) are bought by Government for 'free" vaccination.

Children in schools and kindergartens are the most prevalent subjects forced to be vaccinated for free. Almost every year in one or another region of Russia the vaccination is stopped because of the reports of the mass suffering of children from the side effects of vaccination. Usually the specific series of vaccines are recalled.

The pressure on physicians to use the already prepaid vaccines is so strong, that they fill the patients' records with false statements of vaccination. We know about this accidents, because from time to time here and there the criminal cases are opened against these physicians.

Competing interests: None declared

Those who describe valid vaccine safety concerns as crank or junk science need to take it up with the British Medical Journal- perhaps in the interest of der vaderland and The Motherland BMJ articles on vaccine safety should be censured and removed from the internet? The interests the state take precedent over the individual! Neo-fascistic state sponsored mandatory vaccination is necessary for the good of the state! Those who refuse must be singled out, silenced, culled from society! They pose a risk to national security! Sieg heil! Sieg heil! Sieg Heil!

BorisIII
BorisIII

I think a big reason parents blame their child having Autism, schizophrenia or other genetic disorders on false claims is they don't want to admit they gave their child bad genes that ruined their child's life.  Even though children getting good or dysfunctional genes is usually a crap shoot.

4realscience
4realscience

It's odd how "pro-vacciners" who claim to be scientifically-minded like to refer to those who conduct inquiry and research on vaccines as "quacks."  Are not the very fundamentals of science to observe, question, test, replicate?  Vaccines are a form of medical treatment which deserves to be analyzed just as do all medicines, all of which have pros and cons .  The very idea that vaccines have immunity from being questioned is nonscientific and "quackery" in and of itself.

Twyla
Twyla

The concerns about vaccines and autism are becoming more mainstream, as shown in this bipartisan Congressional Oversight Committee Hearing on 11/29/2012.  This is real.  Families are suffering.  Good science and medicine would look for answers, prevention, treatment, not just dogmatic defense of the vaccine program.  It's not just a question of vaccines being either all good or all bad.  Vaccines have value, but we need to understand much better the collateral damage caused by our war on germs, and the vested interests which prevent honest, adequate tracking and study of adverse reactions.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/309672-1

Although it is quite long, below are some brief highlights of the hearing:  

00:00:10  Good opening statement by the Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa ( R-CA) emphasizing the bipartisanship of this issue. (7 minutes)

00:21:41 Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) talks about mercury in the environment, the impact of financial interests, and a legislative slight-of-hand. (2 min. 20 seconds)

00:38:27  Rep. Darrell Issa (R–CA) asks excellent questions (5 min. 30 seconds)

00:50:40  Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) shows a video from the University of Calgary on the effects of mercury on nerve cells (4 min. 30 seconds)

01:04:36  Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who is a dentist, talks about his family history of celiac disease, how much his autistic nephew benefited from a GFCF diet, and the need for more study of dietary intervention.  “We should be focusing on the family; they’re telling you what’s going on...”  (5 minutes)

01:15:46  Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania) asks a bunch of hard hitting questions and gets woefully inadequate responses from the to govt officials.

“Have you ever seen anything in which there has been such a dramatic progression in the incidence of diagnosis in a 6 year period, in your experience at the CDC?” 

1:22:20  Rep. John Tierney (D-Massachusetts)  mentions that the Higher Education Opportunity Act provided programs at colleges and community colleges for students on the spectrum, but the funding was cut. He asks why thimerosal hasn’t been removed from all vaccines – is still used in multi-dose vials of flu vaccines. He asks about prevalence data in other countries and what is done to try to determine why there are different rates, and Dr. Boyle talks about a study of families.  (5 min. 13 seconds)

***01:38:53 Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida) – one of the very best – don’t miss it!!  Asks so many great questions that I can’t list them all, and he doesn’t accept evasive answers.***

01:50:10 Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) says that it hurts the effort when people keep saying that the increase is due to better diagnosis, such as Dr. G. quoted in a NYT article saying that “the jury is still out”.  Rep. Smith chairs the African Global Health and Human Rights Committee Foreign Affairs and African committee and has worked on the Foreign Affairs committee for many years, and says that they have never seen such a prevalence spike in Africa as they have seen during the past 15 years.  Asks why NJ has high autism rates, and also asks about gut flora.  (7 minutes)

01:57:10 Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) – another of the very best.  Rep. Maloney asks whether a study has been done comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.  She questions why we give so many vaccines at the same time.  She tells about how many of her constituents have come to her with stories of changed lives after vaccine reactions. 

02:03:05  Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) asks whether children get 40 vaccines today.  Dr. Boyle and Dr. G. don’t know!  He asks why we give so many more shots than other countries, and than 40 years ago?  Have we looked at the impact of these combinations of vaccines?  Are we over-vaccinating children?  1000% increase in autism while # of vaccines increased from 6 to 40.  Costs of autism: 2.3 million for life-time care per person, 137 billion per year for the country?  Dr G “doesn’t have the data to agree or disagree” with these figures.  (4 min. 20 seconds)


02:07:25 Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) gets right to the heart of the matter:  “There’s something wrong with this picture”.  A beautiful, simple, eloquent statement.  Says, let’s put the brakes on this and at least figure it out.  (1 min. 40 seconds)

02:11:10 Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) asks about the disparities in autism rates in different states.  Utah has rate of 1 in 47.  Are they are studying reasons for these disparities? Dr. Boyle talks about differences in how states identify autism.  Rep. M asks skeptically whether Utah is so much better at diagnosis?  He asks if there are any new effective therapy approaches emerging.  Dr. G. says there are some behavioral therapies but they’re much farther from finding any medical therapies -- he hopes they'll find some eventually.  (4 min. 30 seconds).

Twyla
Twyla

Concerns about vaccine safety and the very real autism-vaccine link have nothing to do with denial of global warming, or the belief that rape victims can use will-power to prevent pregnancy.

Erika and Nicholas Christakis, you wish to black-list Oprah because she allowed discourse on the issue of vaccines and autism?  It is you who are anti-science, not Oprah.  You would be on the side of those who persecuted Gallileo, and those who said that the emperor was wearing clothes.