Chris Mooney’s Pharmaceutical Influence
He is the drug industry’s newer, trendier go-to guy in the media, replacing the role of Arthur Allen, who took a break to write about tomatoes. An expatriate of “Science”Blogs who now blogs for Discover, and contributing editor to Science Progress, Chris Mooney is perhaps Pharma’s newest writer who has taken on the task of spoon-feeding its message to the public.
He has co-written a book with Sheril Kirshenbaum entitled “Unscientific America,” where he briefly writes about this controversy as an example of something that should be written off as…well…unscientific. In an interview for his book in The LA Times, he slams Age of Autism and praises his former domain, “Science”Blogs. The interview aroused a series of emails from Ginger Taylor of Adventures in Autism to Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Mooney’s interviewer Lori Kozlowski. Of the three, Chris Mooney was the only one who did not reply.
His involvement in this debate has since intensified. Most recently, he appeared on the MSNBC show, “Morning Joe,” with former Vice President of Consumer Education for Johnson and Johnson Nancy Snyderman, who said that no studies show a link between vaccines and autism, a bald-faced lie. To criticize studies is one thing, but to deny that they even exist is flat-out drug industry denialism, the kind Mooney apparently felt no discomfort in associating himself with. He certainly had no problem taking advice from Michael Specter, who started writing about this controversy in his book from the same biased perspective by plagiarizing Paul Offit’s talking points. Specter’s book “Denialism” was, if anything, written from denialism.
Yet despite the previously described mingling with obvious denialists and plagiarists, Chris Mooney is perhaps most notorious in the autism community, for the May 2009 article he contributed to Discover Magazine, entitled, “Why does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?” Now, that doesn’t really say much, given that Mooney has never managed to get his articles regularly published in anything above D-level pop science magazines such as SEED, and the Skeptical Inquirer.
Still, he interviewed David Kirby, who gave him a laundry list of people in public health to interview who support further vaccine safety research in relation to autism, a list that Mooney evidently dumped in the trash. Instead, he interviews a number of the industry’s finest, such as Marie McCormick who produced the IOM Reports for the CDC, millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit, Merck scholar and epidemic denialist Paul Shattuck, and CDC insider and Simpsonwood meeting attendee Roger Bernier, who once exclaimed of an autistic child, “get that brat out of here!”
Among those he quotes favorably is a bio“ethicist” named Arthur Caplan, who wrote, “If there has been a more harmful urban legend circulating in our society than the vaccine-autism link, it’s hard to know what it might be.” He sits on the advisory board of Science Progress, where Chris Mooney is the contributing editor. Caplan also sits on another advisory board, one of Bio“ethics” for GlaxoSmithKline. Is it really any wonder why Chris Mooney ignored all those names given to him by David Kirby?
In 2008, Discover Magazine named Arthur Caplan one of the 10 most influential people in science. If he is that big an influence on science, there is no question this adviser to a major pharmaceutical company influences Chris Mooney.
Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University, and contributing editor to Age of Autism
To Michael Anderson : You say "When I was young I got 20 something shots and IM completely fine." But then you also say "These BRIALLIANT people, who NO DOUBTEDLY feel for the parents of autistic children, worked COMPLETEY INDEPENT /with out/ financial motivation from either side and found nothing." ( I have highlighted your spelling and grammatical errors. ) What is the last year of school you completed?
Posted by: Root | April 12, 2010 at 07:44 AM
re: "Hey parents, I guess you never heard about the study done by scientist tasked by the CDC to study the affects of Vaccines and their link to autism. They worked independent and not one of the scientist had any type of interest in government or the drug companies. They reported no link existed." That is pure fiction!!
re: "I just saw that your comments are moderated by who ever wrote this laughable article. Well I guess mine won't get posted, because you wouldn't want any opposing viewpoints on here." Guess you have to eat your words! Maybe they'd be good in a bowl with milk & sugar!
Posted by: Twyla | March 23, 2010 at 02:42 AM
Michael, since you have had 20 shots you may be looking for more to take.
May I suggest the anthrax vaccine, it could possibly save your life if you receive some tainted mail.
It was also given to our brave soldiers in the Desert Storm campaign.
Don't want you to feel like you are missing anything.
Posted by: Benedetta | March 22, 2010 at 08:32 PM
I recommend this comment for Comment of the Week. Hell....the year.
You, sir, win the Interwebz!!
Posted by: Craig Willoughby | March 22, 2010 at 03:42 PM
"They reported no link existed."
Michael - are you a "cub" reporter by any chance - looking for your shot at the big time? Trying to impress Mr Mooney? 'Cause I gotta say, this is precisely the kind of subtle hit-and-run slam-the-door sound bite that only lazy journalists love to throw around. Absolute zero risk? Right. "They" (if you're referring primarily to the authors of the epi studies that have been discussed at length on this site) reported that they didn't find a statistically significant link, and with caveats wrapped around some of those same conclusions.
That kind of "proof" by design is at best a conclusion that's supposedly beyond any reasonable doubt. So even if you considered the studies to be rock solid, and the reasonable doubt aspect covered from a population perspective, silly little things like the potential for susceptible subgroups (as the authors themselves elude to) could be a whole different ball of wax. Mix in some heavy duty politics, boatloads of money and industry influence, several thousand parents with similar stories, the useless mainstream media, and I'd say you have plenty of room for "reasonable doubt".
The CDN Charter of Rights, the US Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, all these things talk about the right to survival, to develop to the fullest, to be protected from harmful influences, to be free from abuse and exploitation, etc. When science is used to support those goals, it's laudable. But when "science" is used as a buzzword in some crappy article, as an excuse for throwing even one child under a bus, it's a crime and a travesty, no matter how good the studies are, or how brilliant any of the actors may be.
Science is a process, not a steamroller. It should be ok, in fact necessary, for all the brilliant people to stop and rethink everything, and to be very worried about the "case closed" mindset.
Posted by: Randy | March 22, 2010 at 02:40 PM
Oh Michael, you mean this study?
Independent and dependent contributions of advanced maternal and paternal ages to autism risk.
Shelton JF, Tancredi DJ, Hertz-Picciotto I.
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA. [email protected]
Reports on autism and parental age have yielded conflicting results on whether mothers, fathers, or both, contribute to increased risk. We analyzed restricted strata of parental age in a 10-year California birth cohort to determine the independent or dependent effect from each parent. Autism cases from California Department of Developmental Services records were linked to State birth files (1990-1999). Only singleton births with complete data on parental age and education were included (n=4,947,935, cases=12,159). In multivariate logistic regression models, advancing maternal age increased risk for autism monotonically regardless of the paternal age. Compared with mothers 25-29 years of age, the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) for mothers 40+ years was 1.51 (95% CI: 1.35-1.70), or compared with mothers 30, the aOR was 1.13 (95% CI, 1.01-1.27) for fathers 40+ vs. 25-29 years of age, almost identical to the aOR for fathers <25 years. Based on the first examination of heterogeneity in parental age effects, it appears that women's risk for delivering a child who develops autism increases throughout their reproductive years whereas father's age confers increased risk for autism when mothers are <30, but has little effect when mothers are past age 30. We also calculated that the recent trend towards delayed childbearing contributed approximately a 4.6% increase in autism diagnoses in California over the decade.
Of course these "wonderful people" you speak of did not find any link to drugs, they never studied drugs in the first place!
Posted by: Jake Crosby | March 22, 2010 at 01:10 PM
Your comments would have more weight if you had supplied the citation to the article you are claiming sorts the whole thing out. Please, come back with the citation so we can discuss the facts!
Posted by: MinorityView | March 22, 2010 at 12:26 PM
Mr Anderson, Could we please have your FACTS !
Just who were these wonderful independent people appointed by the CDC ? You may also wish to tell us when this revered worked was carried out and provide Facts regarding their non involvement with vested interests.
As Mr Shakespear put it. "To Thine Own Self Be True"
Posted by: Dave Roberts | March 22, 2010 at 12:24 PM
PRICELESS!!!!!!! I just saw that your comments are moderated by who ever wrote this laughable article. Well I guess mine won't get posted, because you wouldn't want any opposing viewpoints on here. NO, no facts allowed. I don't respect anyone or any cause where the people posting this stuff won't allow people to freely post their thoughts. You are the people who screem freedom of speech, then limit it for other people. Well let me say this in closing, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are NOT ENTITLED TO YOUR OWN FACTS.
Posted by: MICHAEL ANDERSON | March 22, 2010 at 11:16 AM
Hey parents, I guess you never heard about the study done by scientist tasked by the CDC to study the affects of Vaccines and their link to autism. They worked independent and not one of the scientist had any type of interest in government or the drug companies. They reported no link existed. These brialliant people, who no doubtedly feel for the parents of autistic children, worked completey indepent with out financial motivation from either side and found nothing. Interestingly enough though an article written in the New York times highlighted Autism Research that looked at the age of parents of 5 million births and just over 12,000 instances of autism in those 5 million. The found strong evidence that AGE of both parents is associated with an increased risk in having an autistic child. Denying the link between autism and vaccines is not bold-face lie, its fact. If it were true, then why doesnt every child become autistic. When I was young I got 20 something shots and Im completely fine. Its unfortunate that your children have what can be a debilatating problem. Take ownership of your own DNA and know that if you were much younger or older than your spouse, your age and possibly something in your DNA caused this to happen to your child, not vaccines. Another person I find who isn't getting blamed is GOD, why did he do this to them. And if he was so powerful he could make them healthy. But I guess if he can't give legs back to the young men and women who are getting blown apart in Irag and Afganistan, he wouldn't think to bother with your children. Go away, you are annoying the rest of the country.
Posted by: MICHAEL ANDERSON | March 22, 2010 at 11:13 AM
thanks for the stats (IAN) phillymom. Wow, almost 50% in the autism category. So much for one of their favourite slights of hand, as you mentioned.
Posted by: jen | March 21, 2010 at 04:32 PM
Re Post by Tim Kasemodel:
"Hey, Mooney is no fool; greed is a powerful incentive, and he knows where the money is at."
Well it's time to give this guy an appropriate nickname that accurately describes him, such as the way "Dr. All Profit" so accurately describes "millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit".
How 'bout "Chris Money"
Re: "After all, greed and ego HAVE to be the driving factor in denialism - the only other option would be to show support for the INTENTIONAL poisoning of the world's children - pure evil."
Denialism IS showing support for the INTENTIONAL poisoning of the world's children". And that IS pure evil.
Posted by: Autism Grandma | March 20, 2010 at 09:56 PM
Oh good, another person to hate. GEEZ! I can make a quilt of sorrow from these creeps, Dr Proffit, this guy, Snyderman, Sebilius, Dean Edell, Brian Deer, Dr Besser, the list goes on. How are our children, becoming the huge massive fall guys for an industry gone wrong (not just with vaccines even their highly proported safe drugs and interventions)? An industry that has no interest in the cure or etiologies to diseases (as this would implicate their lies), and then to flat deny the science and call US foollish and our kids "just genetic garbage" and easily forgotten acceptible losses. Excuse me to think, that they are so losing their stance of being "trusted". They are losing their ability to calmly and rationally (just get your damn vaccines), extend their message? There is no calm in their tone, because they are being FOUND OUT, OOPPPS...parents are on to you...we are awakening the sheeple, another OOOPPSSS...we know your agenda, OOOPS...you are so BUSTED!
Posted by: kathy blanco | March 20, 2010 at 09:52 PM
URGENT: Impeach HHS Secretary Sebelius!
Posted by: Angelique | March 20, 2010 at 08:57 PM
That's exactly what I thought too Twyla. He resembles that kid Tyler a lot! Weird.
Jake, another great piece. I don't know how you find the time to keep banging out all this fantastic stuff!
Posted by: rileysmom | March 20, 2010 at 08:05 PM
He is sort of a Paul Offit who probably knows how to twitter.
Another "nit-twitwit" we will have to deal with...
Posted by: cmo | March 20, 2010 at 05:23 PM
Sheesh, I've got socks older than this guy. Another inexperienced generalist scribbler who thinks his opinion passes for reportage.
Apropos of bioethicist for hire Arthur Caplan, you'll want to read this 2001 article: "Pharma Buys A Conscience" by Carl Elliott.
Posted by: nhokkanen | March 20, 2010 at 04:01 PM
Not snarky at all, and she did look - Tired, sick, or something.
Posted by: Benedetta | March 20, 2010 at 03:51 PM
Is that his picture?
If so he is really young!
I was an innocent when I was young too.
I believed what ever the ones in power said.
I thought I could trust them.
Youth is fleeting and so is trust.
Chris may still have both of the above.
He really does not know about truth.
Because trust is too much in his way.
Posted by: Benedetta | March 20, 2010 at 03:45 PM
Pro-McCarthyism was a big career maker for the mediocre as well.
Posted by: Gatogorra | March 20, 2010 at 03:21 PM
Publishers Weekly was not too fond of his pseudo-intellectual prattle that passed for a "science" book, and called him out for his smug hypocracy and journalistic laziness:
"Mooney showed his ideological colors in The Republican War on Science, and with their attacks on President Bush, he and his coauthor can't be accused of being nonpartisan here, despite their call for less partisan, nonideological debate. Some readers may also balk at paying $25 for a book nearly a third of which consists of notes and documentation."
Many Amazon readers, who gave the book a dismal average of 3 stars, felt the same. Wrote one commenter: "There simply isn't much substance here. Even the description of the problems in American society, the only redeeming quality of the book, is muddled together with so many half-baked accusations as to distract the reader from any point they might have been attempting. At 132 pages, the book is too short to develop a substantive plan of action, even ignoring the ubiquitous redundancy and self-indulgent personal tangents."
So why are we listening to this pitiable lightweight, again?
Posted by: WarnerC | March 20, 2010 at 02:44 PM
Pretty boy Mooney reminds me of Amanda Peet, another young and attractive face just *perfect* for reassuring those nervous new parents. Just what the PR firms are looking for.
I also like the term "vaccine industrialist Offit" nice turn of words.
Posted by: genesis | March 20, 2010 at 02:20 PM
Twyla, I think that's the same guy.
Posted by: Kristina | March 20, 2010 at 01:47 PM
Hey, Mooney is no fool; greed is a powerful incentive, and he knows where the money is at.
Just think about how much money is going to flow this fall, due to the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend willy nilly on political issues. Any initiatives aiming to fund the studies we want done will be vilified. Any politicians who support them are going to be viciously attacked. Anyone, anywhere who questions vaccination in any way will be a target. It will take tremendous courage and integrity for politicians to stick with us, and I know there are a great many that will.
What Mooney sees is a big payday - if he is chosen as "the drug industry’s newer, trendier go-to guy in the media", I am sure he knows more than a few of those dollar$ will fall into his pocket.
After all, greed and ego HAVE to be the driving factor in denialism - the only other option would be to show support for the INTENTIONAL poisoning of the world's children - pure evil.
Posted by: Tim Kasemodel | March 20, 2010 at 12:21 PM
Mooney seems to know all the right people. Notice these guys have to keep saying it over and over in ever-increasing numbers: VACCINES DON'T CAUSE AUTISM.
IT DOESN'T WORK HOWEVER! There is more controversy now than ever. And everytime the issue is brought up--we're right all there challenging the denials.
They can't ignore us. They have to keep saying we're wrong and it only makes matters worse!
Posted by: Anne McElroy Dachel | March 20, 2010 at 12:00 PM
Jake .. someone should inform Chris Mooney there is a clear distinction between "denial" and "rejection".
Julie Obradovic researched the studies that claim there is no link between vaccines and autism .. and .. she "REJECTED" those studies .. having found them to be "manipulated or biased".
Chris and his "scientific community" on the other hand .. KNOW there are many studies providing a link between vaccines and autism .. but .. they DENY such studies exist.
So .. who is the "denialist"? Julie or Chris?
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | March 20, 2010 at 11:45 AM
Is it just a coincidence that his name is "Mooney" and he looks a bit like the actor who plays a werewoolf in "New Moon"?
Posted by: Twyla | March 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM
Interactive Autism Network (IAN) just released findings on current diagnosis. The research found 47% Autism, 22% PDD-NOS, 18% Aspergers, 13% Other/non-specified ASD. This debunks the BS that the increase is all in "mild" cases that would have gone "unnoticed" years ago. 47% are in classical autism category which is the most severe category.
Posted by: PhillyMom | March 20, 2010 at 10:51 AM
We should all start using Jake’s description of Offit, millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit, every time we use his name. It emphasizes not only his ties to the vaccine industry but his millionaire status of total disconnect from most of us. Great job, Jake.
Posted by: Judy Brasher | March 20, 2010 at 10:32 AM
Another great article, Jake!
Posted by: Cathy Jameson | March 20, 2010 at 09:43 AM
Thanks Jake for these insights into the newest "go-to guy in the media."
Hopefully his propaganda will continue to shed a light on itself with ongoing rejection by major newsmedia.
Posted by: Jim Thompson | March 20, 2010 at 09:36 AM
"Talking points" aptly describes the scientific weight to be given the numerous studies offered as "evidence" there is no link between vaccines and autism.
I feel a little sorry for these people .. because it must be terribly frustrating to have nothing more to offer in defense of your pro-vaccine position than regurgitating the same unconvincing studies over and over again.
What is the definition of Madness? Something about doing the same thing over and over again and again .. ?
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | March 20, 2010 at 09:34 AM
Jake...great job digging this up!
Posted by: htbenz | March 20, 2010 at 09:27 AM
The main stream media always used to run to Autism Speaks to get their talking points. I've noticed that now that Alison Singer has left Autism Speaks, they're following after her. Now they run to Autism Science Foundation for their talking points. Where Alison is on the Board of Directors, along with Paul Offit.
(I know this is snarky but I have to say it did my heart good to see her looking as exhausted and miserable as she did in the most recent video I saw of her.)
Posted by: bad apple | March 20, 2010 at 09:17 AM
Disappointing, but not surprised.
Posted by: kathleen | March 20, 2010 at 07:51 AM