McCain Talks Nonsense about Vaccinations

Sean Carrol in Cosmic Variance:

2mccainNever let it be said that we ignore the Republicans! Seeking to further highlight distinctions between the parties, presumptive nominee John McCain has been on something of an anti-science tear lately. First, he dined and spoke with the Discovery Institute in Seattle — not a huge red flag by itself (there were many co-presenters, and one can’t always choose one’s lunch companions), but telling in light of his many flip-flops on teaching intelligent design in schools. (Like any good postmodern conservative, he has staked out firm positions on both sides of a wide variety of issues.)

But the latest news is much worse, as McCain panders to crackpots who believe that vaccination causes autism.

At a town hall meeting Friday in Texas, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that “there’s strong evidence” that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was once in many childhood vaccines, is responsible for the increased diagnoses of autism in the U.S. — a position in stark contrast with the view of the medical establishment.

The main problem with such a claim is not that just it’s untrue — it’s complete rubbish, of course, but politicians say untrue things all the time. The problem is that, unlike unfortunate choices about NASA spending priorities, in this case the stupidity can cause people to die.

More here.