28 March 2010
Kudos to Brian Deer
I had heard of that retraction, of course. I noted the news thereof casually in stories like this one soon after it happened. But Deer's role had not registered for me, until I saw a write-up in the latest issue of Health Care News, a publication of The Heartland Institute.
Heartland quotes Trisha Greenhalgh, a professor of primary health care at University College, London: "The hero of this story is Brian Deer, who persevered for years even after the Lancet editors had apparently done their investigation. Increasingly the knowledge to nail people like Wakefield is in the public domain, so journalists can play the 'free market' to their advantage."
Greenhalgh is referring there to the fact that back in 2004, the Lancet ran an internal investigation and issued a partial retraction. But Deer continued to research the matter for six years, producing in time a full retraction.
The cause of autism remains unknown, but the notion that it is due to vaccines seems to derive its plausibility from the matter of timing -- symptoms manifest themselves at around that time in a growing child's life when he receives these shots. One might as plausibly say, though, that going to junior high school causes acne, on precisely the same evidence.
Anyway: Kudos for Deer.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.