Posted by: Ticktock | April 3, 2008

Jenny McCarthy on Larry King


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.


  1. Tick-Tock:

    I respectfully disagree with your assertion that autistics lack the ability to intuit information. People who have autism are oftentimes extremely intelligent. Usually included on the Autism Spectrum is Aspberger’s Syndrome (people with it typically are geniuses and have every ability to intuit information). I have a brilliant professor who is on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum and who obviously is able to intuit information. Is it your belief that people with autism are unable to have rational thoughts? Even in cases of individuals who have (proven) low-cognitive functioning, intuition remains cloaked in mystery due to accompanying communicative disorders. I am not sure that Autism experts concur that people with autism do not intuit information.

    Also, please do not refer to people with autism as Autistics. This label is akin to calling persons with spastic disorders “Spastics.” It just isn’t sensitive because it reduces a person to the label of their disorder or syndrome.

    I love this site because it encourages rational debate on subjects that are largely based in the irrational–in hype/fear tactics.

  2. My Mother, who works with autistic children, is the one who described children with autism as having problems with intuition. She never said “lacks” intuition, so I probably went too far. Intuition and intelligence are both different things. Intuition is how you interpret or process social cues and emotions, while intelligence is how you retain information.

    Wikipedia said this “People with autism have social impairments and often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted.”, but I don’t take wikipedia as a trusted source. However, if you look at the symptoms of autism- in short, problems with social skills and communication, you can see that intuition is the over-arching factor.

    I must agree, though, that the comment was unfair. The spectrum of autism is wide and varied, and it is not appropriate to say that people with autism completely “lack” intuition as I did.

    I disagree that “autistics” is offensive, but I respect you enough to edit the comment to be more politically correct.

    I’m interested to see what my Mom has to say on the issue. She is very opinionated and often corrects my insensitve language.

    Thanks for the feedback.


  3. I think where we initially parted in our understanding or our perspective, here, is over language. Specifically, the use of the word intuition. People with Autism may lack intuition in social situations, but they most certainly do not lack intuition in general. The very definition of the word intuition is interesting in light of the discussion. I cut and pasted the following from Merriam-Webster:
    1: quick and ready insight
    2 a: immediate apprehension or cognition b: knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c: the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

    Many people with autism have immediate apprehension! And of course, the definition under c is compelling…it turns the idea of a need for rational thought (as it relates to our understanding of intuition) on its end. To me, this definition of intuition conjures up the notion that people with autism are actually quite intuitive!

    Intuition and reaction are closely related and often people with autism have tendancies to be reactive, or behave reactively. Being reactive can be related to being irrational, but I do not think this always is the case. Thus, the complexity of autism keeps people like me trying to understand its stronghold.

    I cannot wait to hear what your mom says regarding whether use of “Autisitcs” is offensive because I really have no idea if use of the term is truly offensive or not. My INTUITION tells me it is, but….

  4. Fair enough

  5. […] written several times before about Jenny McCarthy’s ignorant and arrogant attacks on the vaccine program and the […]

  6. Jenny McCarthy’s son was never autistic, say some experts. That said, we need to focus on the serious pending issues affecting some of the autistic population such as seen on you tube under the titled videos:
    “Portrait of severely autistic student with self-injurious behaviors” or “sweet sides of autism” or “autism epidemic out of control” Be prepared to consider this case has been seen by 23 behavioral experts….what would you do differently? What could you offer this family that they haven’t already been told and the boy hasn’t been subjected to?

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