My words have been justified a thousandfold by the actions of the AAPS, this time around, it’s giving Andrew Wakefield the Featured Article position in its latest issue of JPANDS. The article? It’s called The Sixth Extinction: Vaccine Immunity and Measles Mutants in a Virgin Soil, and in it Wakefield argues that we’re heading for a sixth extinction because of—you guessed it!—vaccines.
Before I get to Wakefield’s magnum opus of antivaccine fear mongering, let’s review a bit of background for those not familiar with AAPS and its official journal JPANDS. The first time I wrote about AAPS and JPANDS was over 13 years ago. In that post, I described AAPS as the John Birch Society for physicians, given its far right-wing tilt. More recently, I like to refer to AAPS as a right wing crank organization disguised as a medical professional society, given how assiduously AAPS likes to don the trappings of a society like the American Medical Association, the better to use the medical profession to give the appearance of scientific legitimacy to its views.
This brings us back to Andrew Wakefield. In many ways, Wakefield is a perfect fit for AAPS and for the lead article in JPANDS. He “doesn’t follow the herd” (unless it’s a herd of antivaxers) but does bucks the system (albeit in a horrible way). He rejects evidence- and science-based medicine if they don’t conclude what he believes and thereby reinforce his beliefs. He possesses an ego as inflated as that of the fictional Dr. Hendricks, feels completely unappreciated because the medical profession rejects his pseudoscience and scientific fraud. He doesn’t believe that he as a physician—a no longer licensed physician, I hasten to add, his having had his license stripped from him by the UK—should have to bow to any medical authority or science- and evidence-based guidelines, and his narcissism is knows no bounds. You get the idea. So naturally, AAPS would see Wakefield as a perfect contributor to its house organ JPANDS. I’m only surprised that it hasn’t happened before, as far as I can remember. (I’m not going through JPANDS back issues to see if he’s contributed before.)
I also can’t help but be surprised at what Wakefield has written in JPANDS for AAPS. Wakefield has always assiduously tried to deny and avoid the label of “antivax.” Yet, here, he goes further off the deep end of antivaccine pseudoscience, general medical pseudoscience, and conspiracy mongering than I’ve ever seen him go before. In this article, Wakefield manages to be a denialist not only of vaccines, but he also flirts with evolution denial (or at least an incredibly poor understanding of evolution), and even sidles up to germ theory denialism. To set the stage, he starts with Louis Pasteur (of course!), proceeds to evolution, where he misrepresents a lot of science. Naturally, AAPS and JPANDS, being AAPS and JPANDS, the editors and ludicrous “peer reviewers” let it all pass without questioning.
Wakefield begins by decrying how Pasteur framed his germ theory, which is not entirely unreasonable, given how much of our microbiological flora are either beneficial or neutral, something that wasn’t understood in the late 19th century. It doesn’t take long for Wakefield’s complaint to go from semi-reasonable to ludicrous as he abuses science more and more in the article.
From here Wakefield proceeds to the Sir Alexander Fleming, penicillin, and the antibiotic era, making the observation that bacterial resistance has evolved as a result of overuse of antibiotics. At this point, it becomes quite obvious where Wakefield is going with this:
Are vaccines destined for a similar fate? It’s a very interesting question. One answer is, why not? For vaccines, resistance equates to strains of the microbe, the virus, or the bacteria that can elude the imperfect immunity created by the vaccine.
From here on out, Wakefield goes pretty much whole crank, totally off the deep end, listing the “greatest hits” of antivaccine conspiracy theories, including the Simpsonwood conference, thimerosal, and the like, and then, in a feat of projection that only an antivaxer could pull off, accuses scientists of being “too certain”:
Of course, Wakefield buys into the “autism epidemic” distortion, including ridiculous claims that autism prevalence will be 100% before too long, even saying that we are “approaching a situation in which everyone either has autism or is caring for someone with autism.” To him, this is a potential extinction-level event: