The stamp of a superhero and the principles of the Enlightenment

In today’s New York Post, Sarah Vowell was asked about what she’s been reading lately. To make it onto Vowell’s reading list is serious praise; the voice of Violet Parr is also the author of many brilliant books, including, most recently, Unfamiliar Fishes, about the transformation of Hawaii from an independent island nation into the America’s least American state.   Along with Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt, Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, and Henning Mankell’s The Troubled Man, Vowell listed The Panic Virus:

By investigating and debunking widespread — and dangerous — myths about the relationship between autism and childhood vaccines, Mnookin, employing reason, logic and an investigative reporter’s shoe leather, has written an old-fashioned book. And by old-fashioned, I mean that he adheres to the principles of the Enlightenment.

I’m doubly (triply?) honored because I’ve read The Psychopath Test and The Troubled Man; both are great. Thanks, Sarah!

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11 Responses to The stamp of a superhero and the principles of the Enlightenment

  1. Mary says:

    Hmm….that’s the second mention of the Enlightenment today. There’s a meme developing. The other one was in the review of the book on conspiracy theorists:

    Kay writes: “Many true conspiracy theorists I’ve met don’t even bother with Web surfing anymore. . . . From the very instant they first boot up their computer in the morning, their in-boxes comprise an unbroken catalog of outrage stories ideologically tailored to their pre-existing obsessions.” As Kay sees it, the Enlightenment is itself at stake.

    Is the Enlightenment really at risk? It’s worse than I thought then. I thought the internet had just become a megaphone for kooks. I didn’t think it was really undermining hundreds of years of progress.

  2. Twyla says:

    If Sarah Vowell knew something about the subject matter, she would prefer “Evidence of Harm” by David Kirby, “Vaccine Epidemic” edited by Mary Holland and Louise Kuo Habakus, and “Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Man-Made Epidemic” by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill.

    • René Najera says:

      Sure, but all of those are works of fiction. This is dealing with actual, real stuff that happens in the real world, where the rules of physics, cause and effect, and basic biochemistry apply. Maybe your demigods can look forward to a Hugo award or maybe even a Saturn for science fiction?

      • Twyla says:

        Nothing in these books is fiction. Vaccine induced autism is “actual, real stuff that happens in the real world, where the rules of physics, cause and effect, and basic biochemistry apply.”

        • Chris says:

          Prove it.

        • René Najera says:

          I have to thank you for that, Twyla. I laughed out loud at home, and my wife asked what was so funny. I read her your comment, and now she’s laughing too. You have quite the ability to be funny.

        • Matt Carey says:

          Evidence of Harm isn’t about vaccine induced autism. It’s about a mercury induced autism epidemic. “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy”

          That controversy is over. Mercury in vaccines did not cause an autism epidemic.

          • Andrew says:

            One of the mysteries of life is how people can agree with mercury hypothesis and the MMR hypothesis at the same time, since the ideas are not terribly compatible. If almost all autism is caused by mercury, then it’s not caused by MMR; if almost all autism is caused by MMR, then it’s not caused by mercury. I suppose it’s possible to believe that some autism is caused by MMR and some is caused by mercury, but that would be a pretty weird coincidence (two different factors happen to cause the same condition, and both happen to be delivered the same way), and would almost have to involve a conspiracy theory.

          • Twyla says:

            Evidence of Harm is indeed about vaccine induced autism — both the thimerosal and MMR versions. When I read that book, I wondered how these two very different substances — a toxic heavy metal in some vaccines, and multiple live attenuated viruses in others — could both cause autism. I think basically both of these things can over-stimulate the immune system in ways that are not fully understood. Some articles of interest:

            An interesting article on how little we know about “early life immune challenges”:

            How mercury affects the dendritic cells of the immune system (page down):

            Mercury has been reduced or removed from most, but not all, vaccines. At the same time, environmental mercury is increasing. And, vaccines contain other substances such as aluminum, another neurotoxic metal, which is used as an adjuvant to stimulate the immune system.

            I do understand the value of vaccines, but we do need to know why some babies are especially sensitive to some vaccines. We need to weigh the risks and benefits of each vaccine. We need to know more about the combined effects of so many vaccines. If the MMR by itself causes adverse reactions in a few susceptible individuals, why on earth would we give it at the same time as the DTaP and several other vaccines? Our program is out of balance.

          • Chris says:

            I picked up a copy of Evidence of Harm for fifty cents. I will peruse it for interesting bits when I have a chance. It brings of red flags when a guy goes from travel reporting to medical science reporting.

            You really need to learn how to properly vet out the information you read. One way is to actually learn about the subjects you are commenting on… specifically biology and statistics.

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