Sunday, November 29, 2015

#1531: Gayle DeLong

Age of Autism is an antivaccine cesspool if there ever was one, and Gayle DeLong is zealous. DeLong is among those who refuse to let go of that most cherished and thoroughly refuted piece of nonsense, that vaccines are causally linked to autism. Originally, the idea was that mercury in vaccines was the culprit. The fact that thimerosal is safe, has been removed from all childhood vaccines since the conspiracy was first launched, and was never in the MMR vaccine anyways is not going to deter DeLong, for “although mercury has been removed from many vaccines, the remaining mercury as well as other culprits such as aluminum and live viruses may link vaccines to autism.” Heck, she has even published a study suggesting such a link in a low-tier journal. DeLong is not a scientist but a faculty member in the Department of Economics and Finance in the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College/City University of New York. Nor does she know much about science, and the study design of the study in question suggests complete incompetence – or perhaps an attempt to avoid a rigorous design out of a suspicion that a good study design would fail to give her the results she wanted (details here and here). That the referees for the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health failed to notice is good evidence that the journal is one you should not put a lot of trust in. One Margaret Dunkle nevertheless took the bait and used DeLong’s article as part of a hysterically idiotic antivaxx article for the Baltimore Sun.

Apparently DeLong also managed to get a commentary in some journal called Accountability in Research entitled “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Safety Research”. Oh, yes, there is a conspiracy, no less. Doctors who fail to find an association between vaccines and autism are scientists at research institution who know their stuff in the pocket of science Big Pharma – as opposed to Andrew Wakefield and concerned parents who torture data into arguing for such a link based on no understanding of the science whatsoever. She cannot cite a single instance of distortion of the data in the science she rejects, of course, but she blithely asserts that FDA is in on the game. The evidence is apparently that they deny a vaccine-autism connection, and since she thinks there is one there must be a cover-up. What other possible explanation could there be?

The important point, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what science or evidence says – DeLong and her merry band of antivaccinationists don’t need to try to engage with any of that, since all those scientists are tainted by conflicts of interests and collusions with BigPharma. Their theory is thus unfalsifiable. Therefore they must be correct.

DeLong does, however, have two daughters with autism; both “have benefited greatly from supplements, diet, chelation, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” Right. She is also a former member of SafeMind’s research committee and has participated in various antivaxx rallies.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which is, to emphasize, something we don’t wish on anyone. We still need to mention that she, rather tastelessly, referred to her condition as “autism-induced breast cancer”. You see, she blames it on having to deal with her autistic kids (and hence, ultimately, on vaccines). “There is virtually no cancer in my family, I eat organically, I exercise, I’m a good weight.” So, caring for children with autism is the only remaining possibility. Yes, even yours truly is left somewhat speechless both by the inference and the premises. But the core idea is actually pretty typical of pseudoscience: As long as you stay healthy and have the right attitude, you avoid cancer; so if you get cancer … well, never mind that the association between stress and cancer is at best “weak”. She also used the diagnosis to launch a pseudoscientific tirade against chemotherapy.

Diagnosis: A truly horrible person, unfortunately. We’re sure she means well, but it really doesn’t matter much when your premises are so detached from reality as DeLong’s pseudoscientific nonsense in fact is.


  1. A recent commenter at a forum on scienceblogsdotcom was kind enough to educate the rest of us on gangrene... evidently it's also caused by stress.

  2. Her latest: HPC Vaccine interferes with pregnancy