Monday, March 5, 2012

#306: Dan Olmsted

After the creationists come the vaccine-denialists. Olmsted is an “investigative reporter” and self-proclaimed medical expert who started out writing about the vaccine manufactroversy and adhered so completely to the “cover both sides” misunderstanding of objectivity (a spectacular display of this misunderstanding, and how pervasive it is among journalist, is committed by Daniel Schulman here) that he ended up jumping the ship of reason. Currently he edits the Age of Autism website, billed as the “Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic”. Although real experts think autism is a genetic disorder and that reported increases are due to changes in diagnostic practices, Olmsted thinks (well, because he thinks so) the (probably non-existent) increases are due to environmental factors and that the genetics is mostly secondary. He has been described as a serious case of confirmation bias.

Olmsted has been a major contributor to enforcing policy changes (together with David Kirby), and a major force in flogging the scientifically stone dead thimerosal-autism link, despite the fact that he is completely without understanding of medical science (e.g. this). He has also written books, such as “Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic” (with Mark Blaxill). As a consequence of the fact that the book didn’t make much of an impact, and that Olmsted’s movement and complete lack of scientific support have proven unable to convince scientists and physicians that vaccines cause autism, he has realized that he needs a scapegoat. So, in the style of a true conspiracy theorist, he is blaming “progressivism” for being a huge part of the reason his impact is limited to cranks and denialists (also here). He has also accused critics of the antivaxx movement, such as Paul Offit, of committing “character assassination”. The mind boggles.

He also claimed that the BP spill finally showed that experts are not to be trusted. Hence, vaccines cause autism.

Diagnosis: Spectacularly delusional crackpot who delivers every time you’d think that confirmation bias couldn’t be taken any further. A tireless and extremely dangerous promoter of bullshit.

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