Nutters And Journalists Who Support Ben Goldacre

Journalist Jim Edwards blogging on the CBS network Bnet issued a warning to Dr Ben Goldacre to respond to the claims that he [Goldacre] had failed to disclose that his father Michael J. Goldacre is a researcher responsible for the publication of medical papers claiming a lack of a causal association between vaccines and autistic conditions in children: Attack on Autism Critic’s “Secret” Father Doesn’t Stand Up to Scrutiny.

Goldacre is notorious for his defence of the MMR vaccine against claims it causes autism and for his public attacks as a national newspaper column writer on those he does not agree with.

Edwards’ warning should be the least of Ben Goldacre’s concerns.  Goldacre encourages a “posse” on his blog including some notorious nutters and bullies who roam the internet ridiculing, abusing and bullying those whom Goldacre and his acolytes choose not to agree with. Targets include parents of vaccine damaged children and those concerned for the health and safety of children threatened by serious adverse vaccine reactions.  Now we see journalists running to Ben’s defence, like Jim Edwards, [albeit seemingly obscure in the UK] as if Goldacre did not have the means to defend himself.

Edwards reworks the criticism of Goldacre, saying that Goldacre’s father, Michael, authored a study claiming that the MMR vaccine containing the Urabe mumps strain had a higher risk for meningitis than other MMR vaccines.  However, Edwards goes on to say that:-

the offending vaccine was removed from the market based in part on such studies, and thus counts as a contribution to vaccine safety and not ….. as evidence that proves Goldacre’s dad is in league with Big Pharma’s vaccine makers.

And at this point Edwards loses journalistic credibility. [And not just for citing Wikipedia as a reliable source.  It is not, and Edwards ought to know that (as is indicated by his boasts of being a former managing editor of Adweek, of spending 4 years at Brandweek and being a “former Knight-Bagehot fellow” at Columbia University’s business and journalism schools.)]

Edwards has no clue what he is writing about.

And there is also a problem with the story that this was simply to do with mumps viral meningitis (which Ben Goldacre’s father Michael J Goldacre wrote about in 1993, after the event).

Urabe mumps virus containing Pluserix MMR was not withdrawn from the UK because of Michael J Goldacre’s work.  It was a known dangerous vaccine introduced irresponsibly into the UK by UK health officials. The Canadians withdrew Pluserix in November 1987 because it was dangerous. Pluserix MMR vaccine should never have been introduced into the UK but it was in October 1988, a year after withdrawal in Canada. It was 1) the identical vaccine as, 2) with identical constituents to, 3) manufactured in the identical SmithKline factory in Belgium as, and 4) was supplied to Canada as: “Trivirix” MMR vaccine.

The UK authorities must have had full disclosure of the problems with the vaccine from the suppliers Smith Kline & French Laboratories Ltd (a Glaxo company) so it beggars belief they unleashed it on the children of their own country.

Jack Ashley MP, now Lord Ashley, had obtained information that Pluserix MMR vaccine was dangerous, caused high levels of serious adverse reactions and that this was known by the UK DoH in 1990 and not two years later in September 1992.  Lord Ashley also discovered that there was no surveillance being carried out, only spontaneous adverse reaction reports under the UK’s “Yellow Card” system.

The vaccine was withdrawn from the market worldwide by Smith Kline Beecham on one week’s notice to the UK Department of Health on 11th September 1992 leaving the UK DoH publicly embarrassed as they were intending continuing  putting further British children at risk of the vaccine until they had got their story straight for an announcement to the medical professions.

Lord Ashley found that during 1990 there were 748 adverse vaccine reactions reports to the UK’s Committee on Safety of Medicines, as Ministerial correspondence showed. On a conservative scale these represented 7,480 adverse reactions. Adverse reactions to any drug are under reported by a minimum of 9 of every 10 cases.  Formally published papers show serious adverse reactions can be under reported by 99 in every 100 cases.

Of these reactions 199 were classified by the CSM as “serious” – 45 involving MMR vaccines and 74 DTP.  There were 7 deaths.

Including unreported serious reactions, conservatively, this represented in just one year 1,990 serious reactions, 450 involving MMR and 70 deaths.  On a less conservative assessment there could have been up to 19,900 serious reactions, 4,500 involving MMR and 700 deaths.

The question is therefore, if Ben Goldacre’s father, Michael J Goldacre, as an Oxford University expert in health-care epidemiology was writing up papers about a relatively mild condition of mumps viral meningitis, why was he not also writing up papers about these other serious adverse vaccine reactions?

Was he wholly unaware of them?  What was and is the position?  Was he hired by the UK Department of Health and kept in ignorance of the other more serious problems?  And if so why?

One thing is certain and documented, there were many many more reasons for the withdrawal of the Pluserix MMR vaccine from the market than the relatively innocuous issue of mumps viral meningitis.  Bacterial meningitis is of serious concern, not viral meningitis, from which the majority of children would have recovered rapidly without permanent harm.  And why, therefore, did Ben Goldacre’s father and co-authors make such a meal of viral meningitis.  These are among many questions which deserve answers.


Professor Stephen Curry – “Half-Arsed” Dumbing Down of Science

The modern “dumbing down” of British science is well demonstrated by the inept efforts of Professor Stephen Curry on his Nature “science” journal’s blog.  Curry was incensed by a well written UK Guardian newspaper article by professional journalist Simon Jenkins and responded childishly with abuse.  Worse still Curry’s efforts were defended in The Guardian by physicist and Vice Dean Professor Jon Butterworth of London University in a style bereft of literary and intellectual merit.

Jenkins argued that the planned £600 million UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation for 1250 “scientists”  as Europe’s proposed largest biomedical research facility was justified by faith and not reason.  This was a money-throwing exercise justified by use of the hallowed mantra of the  “science” word against a history of previous failure.  Jenkins pointed to the failing teaching of science in schools – one of other more justified recipients of such largesse: “Martin Rees makes a religion out of science so his bishops can gather their tithe” The Guardian 24th June 2010.

Curry, as a London University based research biologist of Imperial College [known by some as “Glaxo University”]  no doubt has one eye on what was in it for himself.

So what was the best Curry could do when faced with arguments on spending choices between more on science in schools or on his “cathedral of science”?  In his blog piece Urgent new priority for UK science – Nature blog – 28th June 2010 he wrote a supposed spoof which was childish and little more than pejoratives and abuse:-

“We have to …. address the urgent problem of recovering the missing half of Simon Jenkins’ arse.”

Jenkins expressed huge relief …. “I love science and sciency stuff. ….. But every time I try to write about it, I come out with this half-arsed crap. ….. Complete twaddle!”

Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, announced that …. “… Jenkins’ scientific half-arsedness is like a virulent cancer …. all we need to do is to locate Jenkins’ left buttock ….. Though we suspect the half-arse to be quite big, we know from looking at his newspaper column that it became detached some time ago.”Physicists speculate that Jenkins’ half arse may be source of anti-Dark Matter. Professor Stephen Hawking explained*, “In it’s absence the dark matter of the other buttock appears to overwhelm his grey matter, leaving the poor man incapable of rational thought.”

Ian Sample, Guardian science correspondent ….. speculated* that the arse may also be location of a mysterious entity known as the Higgs bozo.

But Mark Henderson, science editor at the Times, sounded a note of caution*: “It may in fact be dangerous to re-unite the two buttocks because that could make Jenkins a complete arsehole.”

Police forces around the country will also be involved in the search for the missing buttock. When asked about Jenkins’ arse, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said*, ‘We are looking into it.’

But Curry was not alone.  A University College London Professor of Physics Jon Butterworth who is also Vice Dean in Mathematical and Physical sciences was allowed to publish a defence of Curry in The Guardian: “Impromptu Simon Jenkins spoof rallies the defenders of science”  28 June 2010.  This was after Butterworth posted his own incredibly boring answer to Jenkins in self admitted “bollocks” in a state of inebriation.  This was on Butterworth’s own blog as “uncategorized, rambling”: “A Mammoth of Research“.  “Inebriation” [we explain for the benefit of the likes of Curry and Butterworth] means “had drunk too much alcohol”.

In his Guardian piece Butterworth suggested that “ridicule was perhaps an appropriate response” and the entire scientific world was behind Curry. Aside from more disparagement of Jenkins, Butterworth failed to answer any point Jenkins had made or to make any informed contribution.  Dumbing down has reached Vice Dean level in London University it seems.

Ironically, elsewhere in a Guardian science blog, Butterworth laments the problems of communication in science [whilst simultaneously engaging in personal disparagement of another critic of science]:

On communication: There is clearly a problem with the public perception of science. The criticism that Maxwell makes about too much “specialised gobbledygook” may be hilarious, coming from a philospher, but it is a fair criticism in some contexts.

Come on ‘philosophers of science’, you must do better than this

It seems no one has had the heart to tell Butterworth that a “scientist” blogger he quoted in his Guardian piece [as an example of the entire scientific world and in defence of his pal Professor Stephen Curry] is in fact none other than the former unemployed barman and administrator and well known internet “troll” James Cole [aka jdc 325 and 325 jdc].

If this were a Nature science journal blog, Curry and Butterworth would probably be described as “complete tossers” but as it is not, they aren’t. [Aren’t described as such, that is.]