The Sciences

Responding To Ginger Taylor: On Autism And Vaccination, Do Not Confuse Correlation With Causation

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumAug 26, 2009 3:41 PM

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Over at Age of Autism, Ginger Taylor posted a letter to us regarding Chris' recent LA Times interview with Lori Kozlowski. She begins:

Lori, Chris and Sheril,

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism. I saw Lori's piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don't seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing "science" as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public. I feel like you may have confused actual hard "Science" with "things that most scientists think", as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been (and most assuredly still is in many places) wrong.

I was going to respond this morning, but Orac's already done a terrific job:

We humans are hard-wired to leap to conclusions and confuse correlation with causation. If we weren't, we might not need science nearly as much as we do to determine what causes what disease and what treatments work for what disease. Harriet Hall explains it well when she observes that "I saw it with my own eyes!" is not enough. We humans confuse correlation with causation all the time. Given the millions of children who receive vaccines around the age range that the first symptoms of autism most frequently manifest themselves, it is to be expected that some children will regress after vaccines by random chance alone. To those parents, it seems for all the world that the vaccines caused the regression.

Orac goes into great detail explaining all the trouble with Ginger's argument. Go read his full response at Respectful Insolence...

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