Natural News just doesn’t get it

You know people don’t have a grasp on science when they rely on a couple of shaky court rulings to inform them of what is ‘accepted’ within the science-based medical community. They take these far and few between cases, exaggerate the details, misrepresent the facts and present it all as evidence to support a ridiculous claim that has been debunked time, and time again.

Natural News seems to be really good at this, or rather really bad at it. They draw conclusions from things that didn’t actually happen. It’s a classic case of coincidental based reasoning that is so flawed and fallacious, it’s not worth the disk space it’s stored on; let alone published as a ‘breaking news’ article.

They recently posted a story titled, Breaking: Courts discreetly confirm MMR vaccine causes autism. Of course they didn’t, it’s all speculative and if one delves into research the cases a little more, and critically examines the wording of the article itself, we see that the claims are actually untrue.

First of all, I’m going to ignore the inflammatory rhetoric and just hit the hard facts of the article. If they want to present information in such a way that doesn’t criticize a particular system, but insults it, that’s their prerogative, though I don’t agree with it.

In a recently published ruling, part of which was censored from public view, a young boy was awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars after it was determined that the MMR vaccine led to a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This is a pretty straightforward claim: the court awarded damages to this young boy because the administered MMR vaccine caused his autism. The article continues to explain this by saying that the vaccine caused encephalopathy, which is a syndrome of global brain dysfunction that can have many different organic or inorganic causes [1].

The court conceded that the MMR vaccine had caused the infection, and awarded the compensation on those grounds. However, the encephalitis/MMR link has been controversial. The FDA website states:

Encephalitis has been reported approximately once for every 3 million doses of MMR vaccine. Post-marketing surveillance of more than 400 million doses distributed worldwide (1978 to 2003) indicates that encephalitis is rarely reported after MMR vaccination. In no case has it been shown conclusively that encephalitis was caused by a vaccine virus infection of the central nervous system.

However, it would be silly to try and argue against this, since the court ruled in the complainant’s favor. The Natural News article continues:

And in the end, the federal government agreed that Ryan’s encephalopathy had been caused by the MMR vaccine, a landmark ruling that confirms what Dr. Andrew Wakefield found more than 15 years ago when studying gut disorders in children given the MMR vaccine.

Firstly, it does not confirm this one bit. A single court ruling is not sufficient grounds to confirm a medical study that was debunked and retracted fifteen years ago.

While the court and the government at large openly admitted that the MMR vaccine caused Ryan’s encephalitis, it did not make public its opinion on whether or not that encephalitis led to Ryan’s other injuries, including those that fall into the category of ASD. But the fact that these documents remain censored shows that the government is hiding something of importance from the public, which most definitely has to do with the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

So the court did not admit that the child’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccine, and Natural News concedes this and then covers it up with a conspiracy style statement that the government is hiding information from the public. The title of the article is misleading, and in no way shows that an apparent link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been concluded.

The only ‘evidence’ they have to back this up is a statement from the boy’s parents:

According to Ryan’s parents, the MMR vaccine caused their son’s encephalopathy, which manifested as “neuroimmunologically mediated dysfunctions in the form of asthma and ASD.”

‘According’ to their parents is not causal evidence. They could be holding this belief personally without the agreement or consensus of a medical doctor (i.e., licensed pediatrician). However,  whether or not encephalitis causes autism is simply inconclusive. Scientists are currently of the opinion that encephalitis may cause autism, but there are no peer-reviewed studies that prove it does. In fact, the Science Based Medicine blog cited this study on the vaccine/autism link:

Mäkëla et al. Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Pediatrics 2002; 110:957-63.

Summary: A further study was published in the journal Pediatrics. The aim of this study was to assess whether there was an association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, and autism. This retrospective record linkage study in Finland looked at over 500,000 children aged between 1 and 7 years of age vaccinated during November 1982 and June 1986. This study did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis or autism.

So how exactly did this court case provide the MMR/autism link? It didn’t. It’s misleading, scare mongering and unethical. Natural News doesn’t present all the facts. They offer a one-sided, biased view in which most of the information is twisted and skewed in such a way that is sensationalizes a false-truth.

I’ll cover the second court case in a separate article, but for now, reflect on just how bad Natural News’ reporting skills really are.

[1] Encephalopathy – Wikipedia


About Brad Smith
Freelance writer, blogger and secular humanist. I run "The Atom Stew" blog and I'm the self-appointed editor of Skeptical World.

One Response to Natural News just doesn’t get it

  1. Pingback: More alt-med misinformation | Skeptical World

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