Friday, September 4, 2009

It is all in the statistics

The medical community and a host of others claim that the proof is out there if we would only look.  There is no connection between autism and vaccines.  For those of us who have looked and for those of us who have not looked, the proof offered is statistical.  As an engineer, I have learned about statistics and about the design of statistical experiments.  So if I were looking to see if there is a relationship between autism and vaccines, (note I said relationship, not causal relationship) I would do the obvious experiment.  I would compare the rate of autism among those the vaccinated population and the unvaccinated population.  We already know the autism rate in the general population, at least to an approximation at 1 out of 160 children are autistic.  With the rate of unvaccinated children being so low, the autism rate among the vaccinated children will be similar to what they are in the general population.  (This assumes that the reader is willing to say that the autism rate does not increase with decreasing vaccinations.)  What is missing are the statistics among unvaccinated children. 

I am always amazed at the reaction among the pro-vax community when I say that we should take statistics on the autism rate among unvaccinated children.  Among the reactions are:

1.  Nothing we say is going to convince you...  At this point that is true.  I will not be convinced that anything has been proven statistically when no data has been collected from the control group.  This is fundamental statistics and I do not feel that it is unreasonable to require a sample of the unvaccinated population.

2.  Leave science to the scientists, You know nothing, ...  If you want to say that I do not know medicine, not a problem.  I am an engineer, not a doctor.  But I know what a control group is and I know what its purpose is.  I know that it is fundamental in the statistical search for the truth.  I know that the "scientists" have never taken a sample of the unvaccinated autism rate and published it.  What puzzles me is why not.  No, I am not a conspiracy nut.  I believe in the addage "Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance or stupidity."  Missing this fundamental piece in the thesis that says that there is no connection between autism and vaccines is for me - really stupid.

3.  It would be unethical ....  No.  It would not be.  There are many parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.  There are whole groups who do not vaccinate their children.  This is being done without any coersion.  Coersion would be unethical.  (Though there are some who believe that all children should be vaccinated and that there should be laws enforcing this.  That, of course is coersion.)  Samples of unvaccinate children can be gotten without coersion.  If the unvaccinated children showed a lower autism rate, would publishing that information be unethical?  I don't think so, but I would not be surprised to find people who think that way.

4. Mockery .... You really think I am stupid for wanting to know the autism rate among the control group, the unvaccinated population?

5.  This was measured in the Japanese MMR study....  No it was not.  The unvaccinated in the Japanese study were not vaccinated with the MMR.  They were still vaccinated with other vaccines.  That disqualifies that population from the control group.

6.  It is way too hard....   I think it is too hard to get past the committees.  It is hard to get the pro-vax community to take this simple step.  It is hard to get the pro-vax community to see the obvious value of such a survey.  It can be done and it is worth the effort.

7.  It would be biased toward the poor, who can't get vaccines, who can't afford the wonders of modern medicine......  Since when is autism biased toward the very poor, or the very rich for that matter?  The poor in this country are vaccinated.   You can't exclude children from school because they can't afford the vaccines that are mandatory for participation for public schools and therefore there are programs everywhere to make sure it happens.

Hey you scientists, the ones I should leave this debate to, the ones who are smarter than I am, I am calling you.  You understand - control group, science, they go together.  Do you understand that the autism rates among the unvaccinated should have been collected at the beginning of the debate?  Do you understand that control group measurements are scientific?  Do you understand that any argument to the contrary is specious?

The statistics are out there if we would only look.  The first place to look is before vaccines. Before the great vaccine push, the CDC was saying that the autism rate was 4/10000.  Now it is 1/160.  The correct inference from this is that there is a chronological relationship between autism and vaccines.  Note that this is not a causal relationship.  You can show a chronological relationship between autism and electronics.  The inference that electronics causes autism can't be drawn either.  But then there are the Somalis in Minnesota.  When they came to the US they had no word for autism.  They do now.  This is a group that went from no vaccines to the US rate of vaccines and from no autism to the US rate of autism.  It is hard to explain away but there are a lot of spokesmen for the pro-vax side who try. 

Some would say that I should have faith in the medical community and the vaccination program.  Our children are hurt by being wrong saying that vaccines cause autism when it does not or by saying that vaccines do not cause autism when it does.  There is too much at stake.  I will not back off from saying that the autism rate among the unvaccinated should be scientifically measured.

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