“Autism Diagnoses Were Increasing and Would Soon Become the Metanarrative of Vaccine Fear”

"The Legitimacy of Vaccine Critics: What Is Left After the Autism Hypothesis?" is well worth a look. It’s something of a political account of the odd left-right populism that fueled the anti-vaccine movement (and that once made Southeast Texas the epicenter of mass tort litigation) and of what has become of the movement now that the lawyers have gone off on more promising quests.

As usual the crusade began with an invocation of Science but once the hypotheses were tested and found wanting, carrying the banner of "Science" was left to those scientists on the fringe, on the make and often both. Thanks to journals desperate for content, papers continued to be published but by an ever smaller cadre "scientists". Yet despite their hypotheses being unreproducible or otherwise found to be evidence-free, these warriors against the medico-industrial complex continue to this day to command large audiences and to rake in significant research dollars to churn out more of the same. Perhaps most tellingly, like those who claim evolution is "just a theory", one popular speaker is reported to have said of the germ theory of disease: "… the theory is that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases … Might I say that this is just a theory. Germs may play a role in children getting sick, but they may not be the reason that children get sick." (pg. 84). On its best day such a statement is merely an exercise in sophistry.

The article has the same sad ending as so many past mass torts that relied on fear rather than falsificationism: "Vaccine critics have built an alternative world of internal legitimacy that mimics all the features of the mainstream research world – the journals, the conferences, the publications, the letters after the names – and some leaders have gained access to policy-making positions. " Enjoy; with antacids.