When Discover Magazine was launched by Time in 1980, graced by columnists such as Stephen Jay Gould, it was a marvel to behold. That era of excellence in its illumination of science is no more. Over the years Discover was sold and resold several times, dumbed down, and now it runs pieces by blogger Keith Kloor such as The Robert Kennedy Jr. Anti-Vaccine Tour— about as far from the ennobling Discover of old as one can get
Kloor’s mean-spirited attack on Kennedy cites newspapers such as the New Jersey Star Ledger for its science, quoting it on Kennedy’s “crazy-talk … that a vaccine ingredient called thimerosal causes childhood autism.”
Kloor reports: “The Star Ledger goes on to correctly note: Every major scientific and medical organization in the country agrees that [Kennedy] is wrong. Here’s all you need to know about thimerosal: There is no link between it and any brain disorders, including autism. To assuage fears, the government removed it from pediatric vaccines nearly 15 years ago, with the exception of a specific flu vaccine.”
Kloor, or any fact checker that Discover employs, might have checked his facts with bodies such as the CDC and the FDA, which many would include in the club of “major scientific and medical organizations.” If he did, he would discover that the process of removing thimerosal merely began 15 years ago and that it remains in several vaccines given to children, to the government’s chagrin. Had they looked, he or his fact checker might have discovered this on the FDA website: “the Food and Drug Administration has worked with, and continues to work with, vaccine manufacturers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines.”
As for the flu vaccine, children not only receive an annual dose of thimerosal with their shot, their mothers during pregnancy can also receive one. According to Senior CDC Scientist William Thompson, vaccinating pregnant women can lead to tics in their children and “there is biologic plausibility to say right now that thimerosal causes autism-like features.”
To claim, as Kloor does, that the science is settled on thimerosal, and that there is “no link” between it and childhood disease is mere bluster. Kloor not once in his blog established that Kennedy made any errors. His many accusations were, ironically, the empty rhetoric that was his accusation of Kennedy.
Discover Magazine(@DiscoverMag) and Keith Kloor (@keithkloor) receive two Band-Aids for factual errors, and a third for mean-spiritedly attacking the messenger instead of examining his message.