There's a big measles outbreak happening right now, thanks to anti-vaxxers like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey and the people who listen to them. But Hollywood isn't the only place where people fall for junk science. There are anti-vaxxers in Silicon Valley, too. One of them is NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, who in 2011 was supporting the doctor whose bogus research helped give rise to the anti-vaxxer movement.
The doctor is British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, who produced research that linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Wakefield's research was debunked, and he was stripped of his license to practice medicine in the U.K. Nevertheless, a lot of people still believed his theories.
My experience in Silicon Valley has been when this many establishment players line up against you, you are on to something big. I think you need pioneers like Andy to break glass, and unfortunately he's broken the glass and been cut by it. So pioneers are always filled with arrows in their back, and Andy's that guy. But he can obviously take it and so we're backing him.
Which is maybe true, except Galileo and Copernicus didn't propose ideas that caused lots of kids to get sick with an easily preventable disease — one that kills one or two out of every 1,000 people who get it.
It's worth noting that Nelson and Horn have a daughter who was diagnosed with autism. In 2008, Horn produced and directed a documentary film, "Finding the Words: Recovering from Autism." She also has written moving essays, like this one, about the suffering of autistic children and their parents.
I don't mean to be an apologist for anti-vaxxers. But it is worth bearing in mind that these are parents who are watching their children suffer. Perhaps that makes them too willing to consider quack remedies. If I were in their shoes, I might be inclined to do the same.