I feel your pain, Phil.
Phil Plait has an article at Slate today that should cause every rational persons head to smack off their desk at least once while reading. The resulting headache is not the fault of everyone’s favorite bad astronomer, however, rather the blame lies with one Republican Rep. Dan Burton, who represents Indiana and the lunatic fringe.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing trying to look into the cause and prevention of autism. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) launched into a several-minute diatribe (beginning at 12:58 in the video above) that starts off in an Orwellian statement: He claims he’s not antivax. Then he launches into a five-minute speech that promotes long-debunked and clearly incorrect antivax claims, targeting mercury for the most part. Burton has long been an advocate for quackery; for at least a decade he has used Congressional situations like this to promote antiscience.
In the latest hearing, Burton sounds like a crackpot conspiracy theorist, to be honest, saying he knows—better than thousands of scientists who have spent their careers investigating these topics—that thimerosal causes neurological disorders (including autism). He goes on for some time about mercury (as does Rep. Dennis Kucinitch (D-Ohio) starting at 21:44 in the video), making it clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. For example, very few vaccines still use mercury, and the ones that do use it in tiny amounts and in a form that does not accumulate in the body.
Talking about the danger of mercury in vaccines is like talking about the danger of having hydrogen—an explosive element!—in water. It’s nonsense.
I won’t go further into details, because this shameful travesty of truth and medical health goes on for an hour.
Sorry, no snark here. Like Phil, this just pisses me off.