Jenny McCarthy, a former playboy bunny and TV personality, was on the Larry King Show last night to tell her side of the vaccine-autism debate. She, of course, comes down on the side against vaccines (the schedule and the ingredients), and she uses all kinds of questionable logic to arrive at her conclusions.
We’ve heard this type of logic before when she was on Oprah insisting that a mother’s intuition trumps science. Intuition can basically be described as a gut feeling that may guide a person’s decisions and behaviors without the use of reasoning and logic. It must be said that some people diagnosed with autism have a hard time intuiting information; they are probably better off if the results of their logicless thinking leads them to Jenny’s “truth” about dangerous vaccines. The rest of the world needs proof that can be tested, studied, peer reviewed, and analyzed. So far, none of those studies have proven the Mom Hypothesis correct.
Jenny also insists that anecdotal evidence is science. This is completely not true, and she knows it, which is why she ranted about it early on without a doctor there to argue with her. Why is anecdotal evidence not science? Because perceptions can be distorted by bias, time, assumptions, ignorance, confusion, fear, and a host of other uncontrolled factors.
David Kirby also came on the program and talked about the Hannah Poling case. She is the girl who was awarded money from the government because her autistic-like symptoms were caused when her mitochondrial disorder was aggrivated by an overdose of vaccines. She’s not autistic. She has a few symptoms that fall into that category, but also fit into the category of a mitochondrial disorder. Activists are quick to point to this case as definitive proof that they are right. This is a complicated case that is dissected in Dr. Novella’s blog, and if you read the comments, you can see that Hannah Poling’s own father briefly joined in the discussion.
I already don’t like Larry King for his poor interview style and bored enthusiasm, and reading the transcript of the interview with Jenny McCarathy bothers me for different reasons. He gave Jenny McCarthy free reign to froth at the mouth about mother’s intuition and anecdotes, and then relegated three doctors to a small segment of the show, only to see their arguments become drowned out by McCarthy’s constant interruptions.
If I had known that Jenny McCarthy would become the voice that turned parents away from autism, I would have never stood in line to get an autographed copy of her book “Belly Laughs” for my pregnant wife. I have nothing against cute and silly comedians writing books about their personal experience on pregnancy and being a mother. I do strongly disagree that anecdotes and intuition should be regarded as science. Let the scientists do the research, the mothers do the mothering, and the fathers do the fathering. In the end, we’ll all be a lot safer.