Posted by: Ticktock | December 6, 2008

MMR in the media – Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Babble is where I go to get a variety of parenting information, but I was quite disappointed in them that they dittoed the poor sensational journalism coming from the UK.

TODDLER DIES SUDDENLY 10 DAYS AFTER MMR VACCINATION.  Oooh… scary.  Ten whole days.  Not the same day?  Not the next day?  Ten whole days away from a routine vaccination.  This is a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, which means “after it, therefore because of it”.  Following the “false cause” rationalization that any event or encounter that happens before a death must be the cause of the death, how can we isolate the reason for death to the MMR vaccine and not other things like television, crayons, or cheerios?

There must be some other line of evidence than the second thing must be caused by the first thing because the first thing happened before the second thing.

The post at Babble said that the parents were suing because they believed that the death was caused by MMR.  Babble, along with many other mainstream papers in the UK, failed to follow up on the story.  This is not uncommon.  Articles with sensational titles such as “psychic predicts Heath Ledger’s Death” are not nearly as interesting as “Correction: psychics are lying douche bags“.

Luckily, there are skeptics like Ben Goldacre to correct these stories.  His column ‘Bad Science‘ in the Guardian pointed out that the coroner has already ruled out the MMR as a cause of death.  Yet, there have been no updates to the original story from Babble or the mainstream press.  At least Babble is a blog that allows comments.  Papers don’t offer that type of feedback, unless they choose to publish a letter to the editor.

*UPDATE:  Babble corrected the original article with an update.  All is well in the blogosphere.



  1. Sigh. I’m so demoralized with this whole MMR thing. Between crap science and crap media, parents are being scared into making a decision that’s potentially deadly for their children. Did you know that Britain had over 1,000 cases of measles in children this year? Why? Crap science, crap media. Thanks for your post!

    By the way, came over from The Noble Savage and am glad that I did. Great site!

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