You can watch the debate here

On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky, on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is that they do not. In my previous post on the subject, I noted that if you want to see the shoddy science promoted by those who believe that vaccines cause autism, you should watch the debate.

Well, despite the technical problems associated with the debate, I think it really did show how shoddy the science is on the anti-vaccination side. However, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can watch the debate yourself:

Click Here To Watch The Debate

Thanks to Matt Fig for converting it to Youtube format!

If you are having trouble viewing that file, here is a larger file that is not compressed. You shouldn’t need anything other than Windows Media Player to watch it.

Click here for the larger file


  1. josiah December 14, 2010 4:27 pm

    If you change the title to “You can listen to the debate here” I’ll agree with you. I’m not sure quite why this should be, but all three of the media players I have on my laptop gave some form of error message complaining that they didn’t have the codec for the video. So I’m sitting here listening.

    I don’t know if that’s just an issue with my machine or whether your copy is damaged in some way. Can you watch it?

    • jlwile December 14, 2010 4:31 pm

      Someone else has noted this as well. I will try to put it in a different codec. I assumed a wmv file would work for everyone. Sorry.

  2. CalvinE December 14, 2010 6:32 pm

    I couldn’t watch it until I downloaded the G2M3 codec from the GoToMeeting website (the web conferencing software that was used for the debate). The codec is available from their website at . The video is working just fine for me now.

    • jlwile December 14, 2010 8:37 pm

      Thanks for giving the link to the codec, CalvinE!

  3. josiah December 14, 2010 6:37 pm

    Dr Wile, I’ve finished listening to the debate. Due to the way it was structured it was rather less cut & thrust than I anticipated; I would expect much more regular interruptions to point out why a given piece of data was invalid or a given fallacy had been used. You certainly exploited that fact, though the ethical foundation of such an exploitation is untrustworthy. I would be mortified if somebody used the last five minutes of a debate to say “by the way your counter arguments are nothing but (a) unscientific nonsense or (b) the ad hominem fallacy”. But then perhaps I’d deserve it, if I used such a fallacy. I’d also be mortified if someone started speaking in the middle of my time, which was certainly accidental and not deserved.

    I did think that there were three weaknesses in your argument. Toxins are unequivocally more harmful when given in high dosages. You extended the “they found the incredibly rare side affect in the Rotavirus vaccine” to imply that even a small correlation would have been found in the vaccine-autism interplay. However while some of the researchers were and the rigour may have been the same, the studies were different and the samples were so much smaller for these studies that such a minor side effect could not have be identified if it were present. The deliberate implication of that association is therefore unwarranted. Lastly all of the studies you referred to apparently considered only the amount of Thiomersal and not when the vaccines were given; if your opponent is correct in resistance to metal-toxins rising quickly after birth then one injection for the newborn might have the same affect as a dozen for a 1 year old.

    However I agree that your case came across much stronger (while acknowledging that I’m that way biased anyway). In terms of confidence you were clearly in the better position. I was somewhat put off the opposition for suggesting that an American University is necessary for producing scientific research of any merit. He also didn’t seem to catch the word “continued”, you said that when California reduced Thiomersal Autism rates continued to rise (which agrees with the position that there is one or more other steadily increasing cause) but he tried to suggest that you thought Thiomersal is protective against Autism.

    Worst of all was his crazy assumption that a link between infant mortality or asthma and healthcare is in any way indicative of a link between Autism and healthcare. Even the link between Infant Mortality and healthcare was poorly done; it was based only on international comparisons which automatically dumps tons of confounding variables onto a result.

    Overall I was not impressed by his holding his position. His position however could be made more coherent. It is logical that a known neurotoxin would be bad for mental development, and from that simple thought experiment you could demand a massive amount of contradictory data before you surrender. I was wondering throughout the debate what effect such a toxin actually has. He indicated that it just killed of cells, but then there would be no way to explain the incredible islets of ability found among a lot of Autistics.

    • jlwile December 14, 2010 9:34 pm

      Thanks for your evaluation, Josiah. I agree that the rotavirus study had a larger group to look at, but actually not by much. The first study I mentioned had 120,000+ children, while the rotavirus study had 460,000+ children. That’s about 4 times more. Thus, the sample wasn’t “so much smaller.” In addition, there was only one rotavirus study, while there were several thimerosal studies. Thus, the sensitivities are quite comparable. Indeed, the studies on thimerosal would find even a tiny correlation. They did not. In addition, if you look at the studies, you will see that they do consider when the thimerosal was given. For example, the Price study looked at exposure from birth to 1 month, from birth to 7 months, and from birth to 20 months. I just didn’t mention it, because of the time available.

      Your point about toxins being “unequivocally more harmful when given in high doses” is quite wrong. Adverse effects occur in much lower-level doses if they are long term. If the exposure is short-term, the safe dose can be higher. For example, emedicine tells us this about the toxicity of ammonia:

      Permissible levels of exposure to toxic gases are defined by time-weighted average (TWA), short-term exposure limit (STEL), and concentration at which toxic gasses are immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). The TWA is defined as the concentration for an 8-hour workday of a 40-hour workweek that nearly all workers can be exposed to without adverse effects. Similarly, the STEL is the concentration to which an exposure of longer than 15 minutes is potentially dangerous and may produce immediate or chronic compromise to health. Anhydrous ammonia has a TWA of 25 ppm, an STEL of 35 ppm and an IDLH of 500 ppm.

      So the short-term exposure limit is HIGHER than the longer-term exposure limit. This is why the EPA safe dose of mercury is irrelevant to the vaccine issue. Vaccination is short-term exposure. The EPA limit is calculated for long-term exposure. As a result, the EPA limit is too low to be applicable to vaccination.

  4. Ben Gardner December 14, 2010 7:36 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I look forward to going back over it again. Listening to this debate live was great, but I think I’ll take notes the second time around. I really should be paying you tuition…

  5. josiah December 15, 2010 11:50 am

    I see what you mean about regular intake being worse than a single intake, though I would argue that giving ammonia as an example when mercury is under consideration isn’t valid. However the time over which a given set quantity is taken into the body will tend to improve results as it increases.

    For example if a 20 a day smoker inhaled 1 weeks worth of nicotine at once the affect would be far worse than inhaling it spread over 140 cigarettes at different times. I do now see what you meant however, RDA type values are the wrong data to use for a single dose.

    • jlwile December 15, 2010 11:58 am

      Josiah, the fact that the quote is about ammonia is secondary. It discusses the general principle – that there are multiple ways to measure safe dose: short-term, longer-term, and much longer-term. That applies to all chemicals. You must use the proper one when trying to evaluate the safety of a medical treatment.

      You are right that if a smoker inhaled “a week’s worth” of smoke all at once, it would be worse. But if that smoker inhaled three times what he normally smokes in a day and then doesn’t inhale any more smoke for the rest of the week, he is better off than if he inhaled his normal amount of smoke every day all week. A high “one time” dose is not as bad as a lower “every day” dose.

      Of course, in the case of a smoker, it is best that he doesn’t inhale any smoke, as he gains no health benefit from it, and he exposes himself to many health risks. The is the opposite of vaccines, for which the benefit is high and the risk is low, barring any contraindications.

  6. josiah December 15, 2010 2:09 pm

    Under the circumstances, you’d probably be a bad person to keep debating against right now. I don’t think I disagree with any of that anyway.