Holford and Wakefield both find Safe Harbor for bad vaccination science

2Guinea Pigs

222Shinga posted yesterday on “extraordinary…correspondences between Patrick Holford and Dr Andrew Wakefield”. The ‘science’ behind this story has already been torn to pieces all over the blogosphere – read a summary of posts here and here – so I’m not going to look at this again. Frankly, if copies of this newspaper are getting used for soaking up guinea pig crap, then I feel sorry for the guinea pigs – and I can’t really think of much more to say about this ‘science’.

However, when I was looking into the debate around Sunday’s awful Observer story on MMR, I found another surprising correspondence: both Holford and Wakefield appear to be linked to the Safe Harbor organisation. Safe Harbor is a controversial ‘alternative’ mental health organisation, which was established by “a very prominent Scientologist called Dan Stradford who apparently has reached the level of Operating Thetan – Level VIII” and which has had a history of substantial Scientologist involvement. As the quackometer shows, Holford is on Safe Harbor’s advisory board.

Wakefield, too, has been plugged by Safe Harbor: their newsletter advertised his presence at a ‘Defeat Autism Now’ conference. Safe Harbor also had someone who they rather chummily referred to as “Dr Andy Wakefield” speaking at their Miami conference, and even threw a dinner in Wakefield’s honour. I’d presume that ‘Andy’ is the same Dr Wakefield – I can’t think of any other Gastroenterologists with the same name who were also Research Director of the ICDRC. I can’t find any reference to Safe Harbor providing Holford with any dinners – which seems a bit unfair, given Holford’s status as a prominent nutritionist.

Anyway, so what does all this tell us? There does seem to be a surprising link between Safe Harbor (and thus certain prominent Scientologists) and two significant figures promoting bad science on autism and vaccination. The Observer, in its great wisdom, decided to provide safe harbour for this bad science; I hope they’re very proud.

If the Observer actually wants to research a story on MMR and autism properly, they might look to analyse Wakefield’s bad science. They might take the radical step of googling the name of some of those putting the anti-MMR case, too: Brian Deer, in particular, has made available a wealth of information on the competing interests of many of those involved. The involvement of Scientology and Scientologists might also be a good angle to investigate – but, then again, ‘investigate’ is much too generous a word for what the Observer did with their front page last weekend. For God’s Sake, won’t somebody think of all the poor guinea pigs that will be exposed to this junk.

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3 Comments

Filed under Andrew Wakefield, MMR, patrick holford, Scientology

3 responses to “Holford and Wakefield both find Safe Harbor for bad vaccination science

  1. The correspondences and coincidences are extraordinary. But, this is what happens when people inhabit the same scientific shallows:

    So these mavericks continue to circulate, paddling in the same scientific shallows, attending the same conferences and boasting connections with the same research institutes. They travel the world quoting each other in circular support, reinforcing a fringe belief in unproven interventions for autism and propagating the mistaken view that ordinary doctors are cowed by mysterious vested interests (pharmaceutical companies?) into not doing their best for children with autism.

    Their harmful agenda is, regrettably, assisted by newspapers with acres of space to fill, who delight in feeding the middle-class paranoia over perfect parenting…

  2. Tifosi

    I share your concern for the welfare of Guinea Pigs. This reminds me of a recent exhibition at the Tate Modern of works by Joseph Beuys which included a coyote in the creative process:

    fifty new copies of the Wall Street Journal were introduced each day, which the coyote acknowledged by urinating on them…
    For Native Americans, the coyote had been a powerful god, with the power to move between the physical and the spiritual world. After the coming of European settlers, it was seen merely as a pest, to be exterminated. Beuys saw the debasement of the coyote as a symbol of the damage done by white men to the American continent and its native cultures. His action was an attempt to heal some of those wounds. ‘You could say that a reckoning has to be made with the coyote, and only then can this trauma be lifted’, he said.

    It was also a biting comment on the state of contemporary journalism.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Tifosi- glad you share my concerns with guinea pigs. Now, if I could get hold of 50 copies of the Observer, I might be tempted to look for a coyote…

    Shinga- as you say, the same shallow waters. Shallow, murky waters spreading wider, too, as people advocate more radical ‘alternative’ interventions in people with more common conditions like dyslexia and dyspraxia. For example, Holford’s Brain Bio Centre apparently believes that dyslexia and dyspraxia are linked to heavy metal toxicities, and recommends heavy metal analysis (which would likely lead to the recommendation of a range of other ‘treatments’).

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