Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting to the bottom of it.

It's hard to get to it, the bottom, I mean. Science used to be the last bastion of truth. There was a certain amount of pride to defend the scientific truth even if your life depended on it. In the Middle Ages, the truth was still a valued entity. Today you'll get all the truth money can buy. As a matter of fact often scientific truths are only dispensed when it happens that this truth also coincides with what is profitable and expedient.

It is a rare scientist anymore who will sacrifice his livelihood for the truth. That's what Dr. Andrew Wakefield did. He was unwilling to voluntarily retract a paper he and others had written. There was a trial of sorts. There were no depositions. There was not any freely available evidence that could have been viewed by the "defendants." It was a sort of kangaroo-court with non-experts being given preference during testimony because the real experts (three of them) were the accused. One of those experts, John Walker Smith, a world-renown gastroenterologist recently was exonerated in a real court of law after having spent the last ten years under a cloud of having been convicted of fraudulent medical activity. The other expert was found not guilty because he did not apparently have enough input in what was written. The trial lasted an unprecedented three years. This was all about the MMR vaccine.

The paper Dr. Wakefield wrote was retracted by the Lancet. He lost his job and reputation. He was stripped of his licence to practice medicine in the United Kingdom, and he and his family had to move to the United States to find a new life. Dr. Wakefield was unable to appeal because he lacked the funds.

So why would a mild-mannered scientist be put into this position? Was it really for the "Greater Good?" Was justice done? Who is looking for the truth now? Is anybody out there getting to the bottom of it?