Book: Bad Science
I chose to do a poster explaining the MMR hoax that stemmed from the publication of Andrew Wakefield’s publication of a case series linking the MMR vaccine to autism. I decided to do this topic because I think it’s relevant to the current rollout of the covid-19 vaccine. These papers were later retracted for lack of evidence and also falsification of evidence, but the anti-vaccination community is very large still and I think it’s important to understand that as a scientist you have the power to spread a false fact very far and wide with a lot of negative consequences.
I felt that this topic was a really good example of how damaging these consequences can be because so much money was taken away from research into autism and its causes and cures. It’s also a good topic to consider when talking about ethics in science, because it’s one thing to have your theory disproven and to admit to that, but it’s another thing to knowingly falsify your data, which is why Wakefield was struck off the UK Medical Register, and refuse to back down when you are called out for this.
My reading of Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad science’ inspired this exhibit because of his chapter on the MMR hoax. I’ve always been very mindful of the role the media plays in situations like this hoax with the way they can spread and exaggerate false stories. Goldacre covered this role of the media in a few different chapters and especially in the chapter about the MMR hoax. It’s definitely a topic that makes me very angry and I think Goldacre shares this, and he doesn’t try to hide his annoyance in his writing.
There were a lot of things that I didn’t know about the MMR hoax until I read this chapter. I didn’t know that Wakefield stood to gain financially from publishing his paper, and I had no idea he only used a sample size of 12 children. This oddly inspired me because it made me think that if I, a medicinal chemistry student and someone who’s always been interested in the development of medicine, didn’t know this then how many other people don’t know this? I felt almost an obligation to convey this information somehow because I do believe the anti-vaccination movement is very harmful and that the only way to change those opinions is to try and make information like this poster easily available and easy to read if you don’t have a science background.