I often put together articles that are indexes of all of my articles on a particular subject – I have ones on the cunning fraud Andrew Wakefield, the safety and effectiveness of HPV vaccines, GMO facts, and legal and public policy articles about vaccines from Dorit Rubinstein Reiss. I produce them as a one-stop resource on important topics that have been posted on this blog. After my recent article about the 4th retraction from the team of Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two “researchers’ who push pseudoscience and misinformation to support their anti-vaccine conclusions, it is time to give them their own index article.
I use these index articles to help the reader. If you link to this article, you can click on it to see the list of articles by the Skeptical Raptor that covers important topics. Now, one could argue that Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic aren’t exactly important – no their “research” fails to meet the minimum standards of quality scientific research, and that’s recognized by the frequency of retractions and the low quality of their research.
Of course, I use them personally because this feathered dinosaur is ancient, and sometimes forgets what was written in the past. Of course, I’ve written over 1100 articles over more than 6 years, so there are many times I say, “oh I wrote that?”
Anyway, let’s give you all the fun information about Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic.
All about Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic
Christopher shaw holds an academic appointment as a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Shaw does claim he’s a neuroscientist, but his research focus is on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the ALS-parkinsonism dementia complex. He appears to have done quality research in those areas.
Unfortunately, he used this research to move into the area of autism and vaccines (no real scientific evidence supporting a link). And that’s where he seemed to go off the rails.
On the other hand, Tomljenovic’s credentials and status at the University of British Columbia are somewhat unclear. She was a post-doctoral fellow (a position where a relatively new Ph.D. continues their research at an institution that allows them to continue their investigations) at UBC, but searches for staff members at UBC do not give any hits for her name.
It’s possible, as a postdoc, she isn’t paid or on staff with the university, but compensated by another source, so she wouldn’t show up on any staff directory. This is a rare, but not completely unfamiliar, method to keep postdocs working in a lab. In the latest, and ultimately retracted, article published by Shaw and Tomljenovic states that she is still at UBC.
Nevertheless, all of these credentials do not mean that they are experts in vaccines. They lack any background or training in any area of vaccine research, including immunology, epidemiology, microbiology, virology or anything else remotely related. Anyone trying to make a case that we should suspend vaccinating children and adults because of a serious concern about that vaccine needs to have superior credentials, superior research, and superior logic to force a change in public policy for vaccines.
But all we get from Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are bad research that falls below the most minimum standards of research quality. In fact, some of their research, like a recent retracted article in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, was poorly done, if not being outright chicanery. To be fair, Shaw and Tomljenovic have published 16 articles (plus three that were retracted). Almost all of them are opinion pieces, that it, not original research or systematic reviews. It was like some random anti-vaccine internet troll wrote articles that got published just pushing an anti-vaccine conclusion.
Much of Shaw’s anti-vaccine “research” has been paid by the Dwoskin Family Foundation, one of the most profoundly anti-vaccine sponsors of research in the world. Claire Dwoskin is a board member of the anti-vaccine group, the National Vaccination Information Center, a vile anti-vaccine group that passes on misinformation as if they are facts about vaccines.
In 2011, the Dwoskins also underwrote the anti-vaccine “safety” conference in Jamaica, which included as speakers, Shaw and Tomljenovic. In other words, these two researchers with zero credentials in vaccines, are supported by anti-vaccine funding. And this means they violate the primary principle of science – examine all of the evidence to come to a conclusion. Instead, these two have preconceived conclusions and try to produce evidence to support it.
But there’s more. Tomljenovic and Shaw are strongly supported financially by other key antivaccination donors, very wealthy ones. Maybe that support doesn’t mean anything for their scientific credibility, but when you closely read their articles, they have an a priori belief that vaccines are dangerous, and they only pursue
science pseudoscience to support that belief.
In addition, they have been hammered by respected scientific organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), who have categorically rejected their weak claims. WHO stated that Shaw and Tomljenovic provided no evidence for a causal relationship between aluminum in vaccines and autism.
I wonder what the University of British Columbia thinks about this. Oh, wait.
The University of British Columbia
Now, you’d think that the University of British Columbia would want to keep these two at arm’s length, or even terminate their association with them. If only that would happen. Basically, UBC believes that this is a matter of “academic freedom,” stating that Shaw and Tomljenovic have the “freedom” to explore research that may be in conflict with the established scientific consensus.
But that’s a strawman argument because the whole point of scientific progress is to frequently answer questions about the current scientific paradigm. But the data that might be in “conflict” with the consensus needs to be high quality. And it needs to be published in high-quality journals. Christopher Shaw fails on both of those levels. Shaw has a conclusion, “vaccines are dangerous,” and appears to create evidence that supports his conclusion. That’s not science, that’s pushing an agenda, and UBC should realize this.
The point of this criticism is that Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, under the veil of an academic center, are pushing a dangerous anti-vaccine narrative that eventually leads to harm to children and adults. And that’s why UBC should reconsider its support of them. But that’s another story.
Articles about Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic
The feathery dinosaur has written numerous articles about one or both of these pseudoscientists. Like I mentioned, they are the darlings of the anti-vaccine religion, so it’s important to keep track of what I’ve written about them. Below, I’ve organized my articles in groupings that could help anyone coming here to do their own “research” on these guys.
- Retracted HPV vaccine article – Shaw and Tomljenovic are back. The very first of their retractions, where they murdered a bunch of mice to test an implausible hypothesis, which is on the border of unethical.
- Anti-vaccine scientists (cough, cough) republish a retracted article.
- Anti-vaccine paper retracted – Shaw and Tomljenovic lose again.
- Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist Christopher Shaw retracted – shocking news. Tomljenovic didn’t participate in this retracted article, but still a retraction.
- Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED. It was quickly retracted.
University of British Columbia
- UBC responded to retraction of Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper. And they said it’s all about “academic freedom.”
In case you didn’t know, those of us who are on the science side of the fake debate about vaccines consider Shaw and Tomljenovic are the anti-vaccine aluminum obsessed.
- Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking.
- Another anti-vaccine article – bad journal, bad data.
- Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED. I know this was mentiioned above (and retracted), but it’s about aluminum.
- Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum.
- Aluminum toxicity in vaccines – here we go again with bad science.
- Man the barricades against the anti HPV vaccine barbarians. My first article (at least here) about Shaw and/or Tomljenovic. This resulted from an intense discussion where anti-vaccine troll were trying to add bad research from Shaw and Tomljenovic into the HPV vaccine article on Wikipedia. And during the ensuing four years, no article from Shaw or Tomljenovic have been included in the article. Science wins sometimes on Wikipedia.
- Gardasil causes behavioral issues – more myth debunking.
- Anti-vaccine doctors – naming names and listing lists.
- Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group. Christopher Shaw is a board member for this loathsome right-wing anti-vaccine group.
- Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope.
- Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – Shaw, Tomljenovic, and tetanus vaccine. Although Shaw and Tomljenovic mostly attack the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine, they have this crackpot idea that the World Health Organization used the tetanus vaccine to sterilize women in Kenya. This is moronic on so many levels.
- Gardasil killed Colton Berrett? The evidence does not support this claim.
Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic probably started out as decent scientists. But somehow they got off the rails and decided that vaccines are evil – and then using the pseudoscientific method, they tried to provide evidence that vaccines are actually unsafe.
They focus on aluminum, but they’ve also done these lame population studies trying to take public health data and link it to vaccination status. That’s not epidemiology – it’s scientific nonsense.
Anti-vaxxers who reference Shaw and Tomljenovic should be mocked relentlessly. These two are some of the worst “researchers” by any standard, but they’re perfect for the anti-science world of the anti-vaccine religion. They misuse data, they invent data (yes, it’s clear that they did recently), and they get their published articles retracted regularly.
This goes back to my arguments about false authorities like Tetyana Obukhanych – their credentials look sterling, but all that matters is scientific evidence published in real journals. And they all lack robust evidence to support their claims.
By the way, that’s why I don’t mention my credentials except to people who actually know me – I could be a janitor. I could be a Nobel Prize winner. It doesn’t matter, it only matters that I rely upon robust evidence support any claim that I accept. Now back to cleaning toilets.
- Li D, Tomljenovic L, Li Y, Shaw C. Subcutaneous injections of aluminum at vaccine adjuvant levels activate innate immune genes in mouse brain that are homologous with biomarkers of autism. J Inorg Biochem. 2017 Dec;177:39-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2017.08.035.
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