Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Geraldine Dawson Disappoints

In a New York Times, letter to the editor Dawson writes:

The latest British Medical Journal paper about autism and vaccines, which provides evidence that the initial report linking autism and vaccines was fraudulent, and the media coverage that ensued, miss an important point: Until science discovers the causes of autism and explains its dramatic increase, parents will continue to reach their own conclusions and desperately try a wide range of treatments, whether there is evidence to support them or not.

The answer is not to look to the past and look for blame, but rather to look to the future. We need increased research financing directed toward rigorous science that can provide the answers that parents are looking for and deserve. Until this happens, we will continue to wallow in controversy, and people with autism and families will continue to struggle with autism on their own.

Geraldine Dawson
Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks
New York, Jan. 13, 2011

I do not agree with Dawson about “missing the point”. The BMJ article deals in part with the foundations of the vaccine etiology of autism movement, not its continuing trajectory. To advocate that an author call for more research in an article devoted to indentifying fraud feels like a patent absurdity. Frankly, it feels agenda based.

Also, I do not think better research would resolve the issue. I think even if damningly conclusive research were to come out tomorrow on all the issues Dawson raises, the hard-core of vaccine etiology advocates would roll on with lots of accusations of giant conspiracies. And I think a lot of the soft-core people would drink the cool-aide and stay with them.

Dawson talks about missing the point. I think this is ironic, because the obvious point Dawson misses is the vaccine etiology of autism movement may roll along in spite of all the science in the world.

Finally, I do not appreciate the way Dawson says “The answer is not to look to the past and look for blame”. Wakefield committed fraud, a very deliberate act where he knowingly misled others. And this led to harm. To advocate that we ignore this misconduct so as to better focus on upcoming research is contrary not just to ethical standards, but to scientific standards as well. Frankly, this is outrageous. I do not see scientific integrity as a priority for Dawson, and given her current position this disturbs me.