This morning I happened across this Slate article, published on the Bad Astronomy Blog.
I like (for the most part) how Phil Plait argues his point about being supportive of Dr. Bialik as a scientist overall. However, I find it interesting that he, as a scientist with a Ph.D. in astronomy, appears to feel confident that his background and training have given him the tools to understand vaccines and the brain on a deeper level than the training and experience of Dr. Bialik, whose Ph.D. is in neuroscience.
Phil Plait seems to have forgotten (or is intentionally ignoring) the basic tenet of science, which states that the purpose of the field is investigation and inquiry. A hypothesis can never be proven; it can be supported by the results of well-conducted experiments, or the results of research can fail to support the hypothesis.
When it comes to “vaccine science,” the bulk of research regarding the safety or efficacy of vaccines as they are administered to children is fraught with deep problems in validity and reliability. Much of the research has been conducted and paid for by the companies who benefit from the sale of vaccines. This raises concern about bias, a very basic consideration when it comes to validity.
Another very basic problem is that, as Dr. Bernadine Healy (another brilliant female scientist and the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health) stated in her 2008 interview with Sharyl Attkisson, those who are putting out the research that argues against causality in the vaccine-autism debate are intentionally refusing to do the type of research that would identify such an association because they are afraid of what they will find and they are afraid the results will scare the public away from vaccines altogether. That’s not good science.
Arguing, as Phil Plait does, that this issue has somehow been settled, and that there is nothing further to investigate or pursue in the way of scientific inquiry regarding the dangers of the untested Childhood Vaccination Schedule, is also not based on science, and it’s not good journalism.
As a scientist, Dr. Plait should know that something as complex as the synergistic interaction between untold numbers of injected chemicals (many of them toxic), viruses, and bacteria, in a subject pool comprised of billions of individual children, with unique body chemistry, and individual differences in genetic makeup and other environmental exposures, the question of vaccine safety can never be answered. It can never be solved and put to rest. There are simply too many potentially confounding variables. And… The scientists and policy-makers are NOT LOOKING. They stopped doing ANY experimental work that could show causality a decade ago.
To maintain, as Dr. Plait does in his blog entry, that the question of vaccination has been solved, and there is no more need or justification for inquiry or doubt is absolutely not scientific.
To assert that there is no gray area (pun intended) regarding the effect of vaccines on the developing brain (and body) is not science. What Dr. Plait is saying is “This is truth and you must believe.”
That’s not science. That’s religion.
Phil Plait should probably stick to what he knows (astronomy), and stop proselytizing. A refresher course in the scientific method might also be a good idea.