Kirby closes his lengthy piece with an unjustified appeal: “The CDC estimates that there are about 760,000 Americans under 21 with an ASD. Even if just 1 percent of those cases was linked to vaccines (though I believe it is higher), that would mean 7,600 young Americans with a vaccine-associated ASD.” There's not only no good scientific evidence for vaccines causing autism, there's absolutely no reason to think that 1% of cases of autism is caused by vaccines.
At the same time Kirby tries to instill fear, he manages to decrease exponentially the number of families who know what they know: that their child regressed into autism after vaccines and that tens of thousands of parents have experienced this. Interesting gambit.
Among the other errors in Kirby’s piece is his assertion that autism is a neuroinjury. There's no sound scientific evidence to believe that autism is a neuroinjury. Neuroinjury would mean an injury to the brain. And autism is a neurological disorder not the result of an injury (unless of course you’ve decided that your child was injured by vaccines) Different wiring isn't an injury, though. It's just different. Injury means it was fine at some point, then damaged. Despite some parents' assertions that this is true, that their kids were perfect and then not, there is no evidence that autism was suddenly visited on their children. All that can really be said is that in some cases, the regression appears to have been sudden; it doesn't mean that there weren't indicators of difference prior to the regression (research bears out that there are often subtle differences that the experienced diagnostician can recognize).
Pubmed pulls back exactly 0 hits for the search query of "autism neuroinjury" as did an EBSCO search using Academic Search Complete, Medline, all available psychological-related databases and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition.
Autism is recognized as a complex neurological disorder (it isn't a psychological disorder or a mental illness); there are undoubtedly multiple causes and some form of autism have stigmata (physical signs); these types of autism will have genetic disorders. Other autism cases will manifest with absolutely no physical signs and no known cause will be identified.
The science to date (mainstream, replicated and accepted science) indicates that autism is caused by a rich interplay of genetics and environment, not that it is an injury. Do some individuals sustain an injury to the brain, like anoxia, and later get diagnosed with autism? Yes. Did the anoxia cause the autism? I don't know.
Another fallacy that Kirby commits is to discuss what Americans believe relating to autism and vaccines. It's completely irrelevant what Americans think regarding autism and vaccines as to whether any link exists; appeals to popularity and appeals to belief have nothing to do with the claim "some autism is caused by vaccines." Only sound, replicable science can answer that question with any degree of certainty.
Kirby also argues that the controversy is going to remain because parents must know an absolute cause before they'll let the vaccine idea go. Those who believe that vaccines caused their child's autism are unlikely to reconsider that belief regardless of what the scientific research shows. Instead, they will continue to cite studies they believe bolsters their arguments, like the mother who cited a study on the onset of diabetes in rodents to bolster her claim that vaccines are unsafe for humans. When they know what they know, they’re no longer looking for answers. They’ve already gotten them. There’s little that will sway them. They have become belief systems.
That's the problem with belief systems; they tend to be immune to contradictory information and evidence that refutes the belief system. People are swayed easily by testimonials and anecdotes; they fall for appeals to emotion, to popularity, to belief. How can those thousands of parents be wrong, they argue? They can be wrong in the same way that those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens are wrong. They can be wrong in the same way that those who believe the earth is 6,000 years young are. They ignore mainstream, replicated science in favor of their belief systems.
People forget the key points: it's not who makes the claim; it's not who believes the claim. It's the evidence for the claim that matters. And anecdote isn't evidence. Neither are fallacious appeals.
- Mnookin's The Panic Virus, Offit's Deadly Choices And Vaccine Epidemic: One Of These Is Not Like The Others
- Science Debunks Fad Ideas About Autism, But That Doesn't Dissuade Believers
- Bias In Reporting: It's Not The Person; It's The Claims That Matter
- Concern Over Health Risks Of Tasers
- Appeal To Evidence: The Vaccine Controversy