Ben Goldacre writing in Bad Science, exposes the dishonesty in recent newspaper reports on how “MMR causes autism”. Ben does what the newspapers should have done and actually contacts noted autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen and other researchers quoted in the newspaper, and finds out what they actually said and think. A sample:
But in fact, the two “leading experts” concerned about MMR were not professors, or fellows, or lecturers: they were research associates. I rang both, and both were very clear that they wouldn’t really describe themselves as leading experts. One is Fiona Scott, a psychologist and very competent researcher at Cambridge. She said to me, very clearly: “I absolutely do not think that the rise in autism is related to MMR.” And: “My own daughter is getting vaccinated with the MMR jab on July 17.”
She also says, astonishingly, that the Observer never even spoke to her, before incorrectly reporting that she has a privately held view that MMR might be partly to blame for autism. I say “reporting,” but in some ways, it’s more like an accusation. Dr Scott horrified. She simply does not believe that MMR has caused a rise in autism.
Ben concludes the news media, in its need for alarmist stories, is more of a problem than dishonest researchers such as Andrew Wakefield. It's worth reading Ben’s entire post.
Edit July 22, 2007
Ben comments on the newspaper’s lame attempts to
retract and apologize cover up its errors. Sample:
This is beyond childishness. They were wrong. They should have clarified the closeness of the relationship in the article, and if they’re making amends now, they should do so properly. But instead they’re still trying to cover up (rather ironically for a story effectively claiming a cover up about autism).