Did you see the Huw Weldon lecture last December, in the depths of Chrinter time?
I almost missed it as it went out after Newsnight on a Wednesday evening. Astrophysics answer to Tony B.liar, former rock musician Professor Brian Cox was telling his Cambridge audience about the uneasy alliance between pure science and the televisual medium. He wasn’t concerned with oversimplification or misrepresentation but about excessive zeal in allowing objectivity and dispassionate neutrality. He wanted us to accept that, as scientific method is a tried and tested system and that all scientific work is only published after peer review, there was a need to favour such work in any discussion of the subject matter. Unpublished, “faith based” or conjectural dissent from scientific orthodoxy should be handled with kid gloves and clearly marked as suspect material.
Predictably after talking of his personal spat with some astrologers over Jupiter’s influences, he moved to the topic of the MMR vaccine and used Ben Goldacre as his text and little film vignette.
With no little passion (like B.liar, he does passion well) Prof Cox talked of how the issue had been totally cleared up by peer reviewed papers. They, and so he, could see no statistically significant proportions of the massive populations examined showing disproportionate quantities of the negative outcomes, in this case defined as “Autistic” or “ASD”. He probably looked no further, dismissing the need to examine, for example, case studies citing the desperate descent of countless children into ASD/Autism directly after vaccinations – including the MMR but, of course, not only the MMR.
When you match total vaccination load against rise in autism/ASD the match is perfect but “Orthodox Science” does not allow such a study to be researched, let alone published.
Dr Benjamin Goldacre says “It’s not possible to find a control group for such an experiment. Most kids have had some jabs so cannot act as controls.” Luckily Ben is wrong and there exists a strong group of individuals who are the “never vaccinated” in the UK and globally. Autism is not a feature of this group – I’ve seen just one case suggested in an American child but it was so poorly recorded and unclear in description that it carried virtually no weight. The Amish have also been studied but their lack of Autism is put down by the Scientific Orthodoxy to “Genetic selection” rather than the fact they do not allow their kids to be vaccinated. Once again this is the gross misuse of a science – genetics in this case – where we have a weak understanding of the biochemical/system-operational outcomes of gene differences (“allelic”) in actual cellular activity. Anyway, there is no “gene for autism” although a pair of Oxford professors do suggest that a group of some two hundred loci (individual gene sites) may, acting together in some way, bring on the condition. Did not someone once sing of the lunatics taking over the asylum?
We see Science used un-impartially and incorrectly in defending established positions and a distrust by scientific professionals of criticism of these positions and, frankly, their assumptions. This particular example has vast economic consequences and deep political significance. It’s not a “conspiracy” but a classic example of “The Emperor’s new clothes”.
I tell you, the man is naked.
And the trouble is that when I have such a clear example of a lack of true objectivity emanating from a scientific establishment and defended by others of the scientific community who have no connection with the subject area it undermines any other faith I might maintain in modern scientific methodology and thought. They act like a 1970s trades union and run a closed shop with severe demarcation issues. “Bloody hell mate you can’t pick up that topic if you’re not a paid up member of the Deeply Discerning and Terribly Bright Scientists’ Federation, and if you do we’ll make sure that nobody listens to a word you say or try to write about it”.
Listen, Brian, science is about objectivity and inspiration, it’s about the lack of assumptions and the ability to dispassionately assess data. Most importantly it’s about a constant questioning and the ability to change your mind. And its got a strong element of courage, these days, as ever, to be able to point out truth when an establishment tries to steamroll unwanted facts from consideration.