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Best of Age of Autism: Paul Offit, Social Control and the Deadly Choices of Yale's Milgram Experiment

Obedience We first ran this post in May of 2010.

By John Stone
Question: "How many vaccines is it safe for a pediatrician to give a two month old infant?" 

Answer: "It depends how much they are getting paid."
 An old joke.

The Milgram experiment has long passed into modern folklore. In 1961 a 28 year-old psychologist at Yale, Stanley Milgram, devised an experiment to test the preparedness of ordinary citizens to co-operate in performing inhuman acts.
In the experiment volunteers were induced (as they believed at the time) into subjecting another party to ever larger doses of electricity:

“The subjects believed they were part of an experiment supposedly dealing with the relationship between punishment and learning. An experimenter—who used no coercive powers beyond a stern aura of mechanical and vacant-eyed efficiency—instructed participants to shock a learner by pressing a lever on a machine each time the learner made a mistake on a word-matching task. Each subsequent error led to an increase in the intensity of the shock in 15-volt increments, from 15 to 450 volts.

“In actuality, the shock box was a well-crafted prop and the learner an actor who did not actually get shocked. The result: A majority of the subjects continued to obey to the end—believing they were delivering 450 volt shocks—simply because the experimenter commanded them to. Although subjects were told about the deception afterward, the experience was a very real and powerful one for them during the laboratory hour itself
.” (See Psychology Today HERE)

65% of participants complied with the experiment to the bitter end. Milgram subsequently explained the experiment:

“The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.

The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.” (HERE)

Without commenting directly on vaccine science I believe it is possible to recognize the elements of social control here. The authoritarian construction is far more certain than the safety of the products. Offit gives us to understand that even if our children were to receive 10,000 vaccines in one go it would still be safe: therefore there can be no issue over 5 or 10 in one go, or dozens over the course of a childhood. In fact, in most cases the practitioners will know only slightly more about the products than the assenting parents. Moreover, everyone has to be persuaded that there are no real long-term adverse consequences, and even where they are apparent they are coincidental.

But it is interesting to note that Offit provides a theoretical proposition which does not even depend upon the product: never mind how many there are (and how different they are) they are all safe and perfectly manufactured – it is as if they do not even have to be tested. Indeed, however dramatic the adverse effect they know in advance it wasn’t the vaccine.

Arguing with authority in the middle of the past decade in the UK it was alarming how frequently the fall-back position was Offit’s vacuous claim (See BMJ letters HERE). Even the UK’s vaccine supremo Prof David Salisbury could appear on television declaring it was safe to give an infant  1000 vaccines. Meanwhile, he admitted to me:

"Turning to my comments on Newsnight - I suggest you read Paul Offit's paper - as I have done. On page 126, he states: "Current data suggest that the theoretical capacity determined by diversity of antibody variable gene regions would allow for as many as 109 (1,000,000,000) to 1011(100,000,000,000) different antibody specificities". And "... then each infant would have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time" - not antigens. I was speaking very specifically about the infant immune system's ability to respond, in the context of the ridiculous suggestion that the new vaccine combination, containing far fewer antigens than the one it will replace, would overload the immune system. My words were "The immune system of a baby has got huge spare capacity to deal with challenge. If we didn't, the human race wouldn't survive. But let's look specifically at vaccine. This has been studied carefully. A baby's immune system could actually tolerate perfectly well 1,000 vaccines". At no point did I suggest that 1,000 vaccines would not increase the probability of adverse reactions - a quite different matter." (Email August 26, 2004 10.03 am)

We are, of course, not talking about theoretical vaccines or theoretical infants, nor is there any experimental base that he can cite. We, unfortunately, have the experimental base which is our own children and we are not being listened to - like the imaginary victim in Stanley Milgram’s experiment except that we are not imaginary and neither are our children. Nor, as the present Rotateq vaccine scandal demonstrates do we have remotest idea what is really in the vaccines.  
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism


John Stone

Autism Grandma

Quite. Milgram knew his experiment wasn't for real. However, I wouldn't underestimate the capacity for self-delusion which may effect people at the highest level as they twist everybodies arms to keep them ideologically on course. You see people willing to lie and distort, with the conviction that it is all somehow for the best and done with a total sense of rectitude.

You even have "bio-ethicists" who perhaps really wouldn't be necessary if scientists and their patrons were happy to remain within normal moral constraints. There was the example a few years ago in BMJ of an Oxford philosopher and "medical ethicist" who cited without irony one of Shakepeare's most villainous characters, Richard III, as authority for medical totalitarianism.


Autism Grandma

Re: “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.” (HERE)

OK, this explains the psychology behind those who "unintentionally" comply with injuring others, but there is still that component of high ranking pharmaceutical and government officials who utilize their authority to deceive others into compliance, all the while having full awareness of their own decision to engage in corruption, primarily in relationship to financial benefits. This is actually the result of conscious choice to pursue evil, as in "Selling one's soul to the Devil".

And sadly there are too many people who obey their authority without questioning the possibility of evil motivations.

John Stone


I don't believe it has been taken out of context at all - it was from a paper which had the expressed intention of persuading parents that multiple vaccines were safe.

It has been used as propaganda. It's not much use Salisbury saying he didn't really mean it. He was using it to explain just how safe multiple vaccine exposure is.


To be fair, scientists often discuss the abstract, and the 10000 vaccines comment seems to have been taken out of context.

Nonetheless the simultaneous introduction of diverse antigens, which Salisbury dismisses as irrelevant, could wreak havoc with intestinal biofilms, as just one example of the factors he has never considered.

John Stone


But of course their entire ability to expand the schedule on an unlimited basis is based on this ideological claim and has often been cited by UK health officials.

For instance:




Heidi N

The Milgram experiment is probably the most widely known scientific experiment. It is a great example on human nature - how we do things just because we are told rather than what is correct. The reflection is: if you have a job, and you have to do things that are questionable in order to keep your job, many will likely do so since in the Milgram experiment, not even their job was on the line for them to be immoral.

Martin Hewitt

Such a massive scientific conceit to talk about a baby's 'theoretical' capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines. Not one scientist in his or her right mind - including Salisbury and Offit - would offer such a concoction to their children. Not only a conceit, this proposition is downright irresponsible.


"Rotateq vaccine scandal demonstrates do we not have the remotest idea what is really in the vaccines".

Good Golly a'int that the truth!
----AND still two viruses were found in the roteteq vaccine the first decade of a brand new century - a little after Tom Insel head of the big, important interagency of IACC says in an opening statement that we have reduced the proteins and antigens in vaccines a whole big bunch!

As I remember the details of this experiment in my college education and psy classes; As a loose general rule the older the people got the more prone they were ---NOT to follow orders to the bitter end - they become more humane because the frontal lobe of the brain (heart of the soul) matured and developed. so maybe James Cherry and Murray and all of evil doers of the last century will have a change of heart someday. ----- Isn't Murray dead and James Cherry really, really old???

SO, they must have had a brain injury, or more likely as --- some preacher said one time that you can hurt the soul so much that you just damage it for all time.


"65% of participants complied with the experiment to the bitter end."

And imagine the rate of compliance under the notion that the action was actually "BENEFICIAL" for the recipient of the procedure...


And of course this coincides with the UK Department of Health's latest experiment of super vaccination day with MMR + Meningitis C, HiB, pneumococcal infection.

If it goes wrong and your child screams will Paul Offit, Prof David Salisbury or Dame Sally Davies be listening?

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