Correlation is not Causation

February 12, 2009

I can’t say it any better than Kathleen Seidel at Neurodiversity Weblog:

This morning, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Office of Special Masters released decisions in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) claims, Cedillo v. HHS (Case No. 98-916V), Hazlehurst v. HHS (Case No. 03-654V) and Snyder v. HHS (Case No. 01-162V), the first three “test cases” in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding.

All three cases have been dismissed in lengthy, complex rulings befitting the extent of scientific evidence and testimony presented to the court regarding the possible causal connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, thimerosal-containing vaccines, and autistic spectrum conditions.

Seidel’s report is well worth your time, but if you want a brief summary, try the CNN article:

In a statement shortly after the release of the decisions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it continues to support research “to better understand the cause of autistic disorders and develop more effective methods of treatment.”

However, “the medical and scientific communities … have found no association between vaccines and autism.”

“Hopefully, the determination by the Special Masters will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism,” the statement said.

Sadly, as the comments section in the CNN post shows, proving a negative never has the same impact as demonstrating a positive effect. It took less than an hour for the vaccine conspiracy theorists to drown out the more reasoned, moderate responses.

A wiser person from an earlier era made the perfect observation:

And do you think that unto such as you;
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew:
God gave the secret—and denied it me?
Well, well, what matters it? Believe that, too.
— Omar Khayyam

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