Below is a comment at BMJ's Editorial: Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent Fiona Godlee, Jane Smith, Harvey MarcovitchBMJ 342:doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452 (Published 5 January 2011)from University of British Columbia's Neuroscience Professor Christopher Shaw.
Link to the BMJ (HERE) The recent BMJ editorial, along with several recent publications, have made extremely serious allegations of scientific fraud against Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues in regard to the 1998 Lancet study that supposedly linked the MMR vaccine to gastrointestinal disorders and autism. Even assuming that such fraud was committed -and there is abundant countervailing evidence to suggest that such did not occur- does the use of the term 'fraud' invalidate a legitimate scientific question? The answer is that it does not.
The autism spectrum disorders incidence levels have grown explosively since 1992. Claims that such rising levels are due to changes in the gene pool have no scientific validity. Similar claims that changes in diagnostic criteria for ASD are to blame, while partially true, cannot account for the 2000 to 3000% change in ASD. This observation leads inevitably to one remaining conclusion, namely that something in the human environment is the culprit. There are many possible factors that may have increased leading to rising ASD levels. One of these is the significantly increased vaccine schedule for children. Any a priori exclusion of possible factors based on belief rather than evidence is not scientific, but rather reflects a disturbing trend to view anything associated with vaccines and vaccine policy as sacred and beyond scientific scrutiny.
Indeed, some who appear to take this view frame their arguments less as scientific critiques and more as ad hominem attacks on the credibility, expertise, or scientific training of any who do what scientists are trained to do: ask questions and seek answers. Assertions that those who do so in respect to any aspect of vaccine safety must therefore be "anti vaccine" and hence not to be taken seriously belies a belief system that is profoundly unscientific. As most readers will know, an ad hominem attack on an opponent's character or credibility is a tacit admission that the logical argument is lost.
Such comments have occurred in some letters to the editor on the issue of the Wakefield editorial and have attempted to portray those scientists who attended the recent Vaccine Safety Conference in Jamaica as unreliable because of some alleged bias against vaccines. As one of the organizers of the conference, let me state that an anti-vaccine bias was not the agenda of the meeting. Rather, a number of highly qualified scientists from different fields gathered for an open examination of the issue and in so doing simply fulfilled their fiduciary duties as scientists to seeking the truth.