Monday, June 27, 2005

Mercury and autism: More Huffington Post nonsense

A few days ago, I linked to a great article on the Huffington Post by Michael Shermer defending evolution and pointing out the weaknesses in "intelligent design" creationism. Unfortunately, I spoke too soon. Remember how much I bored you all with my broadsides against the antivaccine paranoia running rampant on the Huffington Post (1, 2, 3, 4)? Well, the paranoia is back with a vengeance (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I guess that's what I get for not looking for this stuff on the Huffington Post for a week or two and for writing my piece about the Michael Shermer article several days before actually posting it.

I should have expected this, though, after RFK Jr.'s one-sided deceptive screed against the pharmaceutical companies blaming mercury in vaccines for autism and crying coverup, the one that I've been pounding on for the last 10 days or so (1, 2, 3, 4). In fact, I was sort of wondering why our favorite conspiracy-mongering pediatrician from the Huffington Post, Dr. Jay Gordon, hadn't yet weighed in on this issue. I toyed with the idea that perhaps he had been so taken aback by the blog tag team slapdown administered to him by myself and Skeptico (1, 2) for his irritating tendencies to take the irrational position of ignoring out of hand any research funded by pharmaceutical companies simply because they were funded by pharmaceutical companies and to give backhanded "compliments" to the principle investigators of such studies by calling them "honest" while simultaneously insinuating that they're hoplessly biased because of their connections to big pharma without being able to point out any specific flaws in their studies.

No such luck. He's like the Energizer Bunny on this issue. He keeps going and going and going and going....

In his post, No Conflict of Interest, Dr. Gordon not surprisingly swallows whole all the distortions and conspiracy-mongering that RFK Jr. could lay down and completely buys into RFK Jr.'s complaint that ABC News changed a more positive segment to an attack piece at the behest of its pharmaceutical advertiser masters. Quoth he (with Orac's pithy comments):
Mercury in vaccines causes autism and other brain injury. [Orac says: There is no good evidence that mercury in vaccines cause autism. Indeed, the most recent experience from Canada and Denmark strongly supports the contention that it very likely does not. The jury's out on other brain injury, but, based on current evidence, the likelihood of a connection there is also probably low.] The IOM twisted the facts to suit the CDC and the vaccine industry. [Orac says: Care to provide evidence for that assertion that, Dr. Gordon? Certainly RFK Jr. failed to do so and was reduced to twisting facts and misrepresenting the Simpsonwood Conference to make his fallacious case.]
This week, ABC TV (my old employer) twisted the editing and commentary to weaken Mr. Kennedy's interview. [Orac says: Care to provide evidence that it was intentional "twisting" and "editing" designed to "weaken" his interview? Of course, Orac can't help but savor the utterly delicious irony of RFK Jr., who proved himself to be a master at selective quoting in the service of making the Simpsonwood Conference seem ominous and conspiratorial, now complaining about his supposedly being selectively quoted by ABC News!] For ABC TV, hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue are at stake and they were irresponsible with the lives and health of children at risk. They should be ashamed of themselves. [Orac says: I have two words for you, Dr. Gordon: Vioxx and Merck. Gee, the mighty pharmaceutical company didn't seem able to stop the barrage of negative publicity from the press on that story. Yep, the fear of losing advertising revenue really shut 'em up that time. Even in the absence of that example, perhaps you could show us some hard evidence, rather than speculation, that ABC News altered its story for fear of losing pharmaceutical company revenue. Just a little evidence? Even a tiny bit? You can do that for a fellow M.D., can't you?]
Yes, once again, Dr. Gordon insinuates conflicts of interest and dire conspiracies without showing the least bit of evidence. Of course, the funniest line in Dr. Gordon's post is this one: "David Kirby's book, Evidence of Harm is meticulously-researched and a great read." Just ask Autism Diva, Aubrey Noelle Simola, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, or Kevin Leitch (1, 2) about how "meticulously researched" it is. A lot of references and a nice index do not necessarily indicate "meticulous research," just voluminous research. It is quite possible to do a ton of research and come up with an utterly incorrect conclusion if you berry-pick the data and ignore data that does not support your thesis, as certain political pundits have proven time and time again.

Speaking of David Kirby, though, he's also now over at the Huffington Post blog bellicosely braying, Bring It On to his "naysayers," gloating, and taking credit for getting this whole media firestorm started in the first place:
We have just witnessed the biggest week ever in the history of reporting on this high-stakes debate and, naturally, I could not be happier. A nationwide discussion about thimerosal and autism was my primary goal in writing “Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic,” and at long last the conversation has begun.
At least Kirby finally admitted his bias openly.

In any case, Kirby also boasts of his media appearances on Don Imus' show, the Montel Williams Show, and MSNBC's Connected, bragging about how difficult it has been for him to find someone willing to "debate" him on the issue in a public forum. He's being disingenuous, of course, as this is a very old tactic frequently used by purveyors of dubious science. Although orders of magnitude more dubious than the science behind the mercury-autism link (which is why I make this comparison with a bit of trepidation), "intelligent design" creationism does provide some guidance here. Creationists have long "challenged" scientists to "debates" on evolution and then used the absence of takers as "proof" that scientists are "afraid" to debate them. Besides the fact that such debates are almost always held in venues sympathetic to the pseudoscience (which is very relevant to the case at hand, given that Don Imus, who has been pushing the mercury/autism link on his radio show, will likely host the proposed debate), creationists know that just standing on the same stage or sitting in the same TV or radio studio with a serious scientist automatically gives the impression that they have something scientifically valid to say and that there is a real controversy. Scientists have been arguing amongst themselves for years whether or not it helps or hurts the case for evolution and against ID in the public's mind if they formally "debate" creationists in public forums. Many of the same arguments for and against "debate" apply to David Kirby's challenge. Scientists have learned the hard way that advocates of dubious science like David Kirby and RFK Jr. are often quite good at media-friendly sound bites, whereas debunking those sound bites often requires lengthier (and therefore less glib) responses. As Lenny Flank puts it in reference to creationism:
For this reason, the "debate" is one of the ICR's [Institute for Creation Research] primary tools. . . Nearly all of their opponents make the fatal mistake of underestimating them. . . They [ICR debaters] are highly educated people who possess enormous personal appeal and charisma. They are also highly skilled orators and polished debaters. . . As master showmen, however, they are very capable of turning an unprepared scientific opponent into the equivalent of a blithering idiot.
I don't know if David Kirby falls into the above category as far as his public speaking and debating skills go, but any vaccine scientist who contemplates accepting his challenge to debate would do well to heed Lenny's warning, particularly since the proposed venue (Imus in the Morning) will be so hostile. (At least Imus is on vacation until July 11.) If I were the pharmaceutical executive who, according to Kirby, has accepted his challenge, I'd insist on a change of venue to a show with a more neutral host.

Finally, there was one useful link in Dr. Gordon's post to demonstrate yet again RFK Jr.'s disingenuousness, a fawning Scarborough Country interview. Check out this quote:
Thimerosal is a preservative that was put in vaccines back in the 1930s. Almost immediately after it was put in, autism cases began to appear. Autism had never been known before. It was unknown to science. Then the vaccines were increased in 1989 by the CDC and by a couple of other government agencies.
I've already dealt with this utterly idiotic "correlation does not necessarily indicate causation" canard before, as well as the myth that autism didn't exist before thimerosal-containing vaccines were introduced in the 1930's. Shall I repeat myself? Yes I shall:
No, the reason the disease was "unknown" until 1943 was because it was not described as a specific condition by Dr. Leo Kanner until 1943, after which Dr. Hans Asperger described a similar condition that now bears his name in 1944. Before that, although Dr. Eugen Bleuler had coined the term "autism" in 1911, no specific diagnostic criteria existed for the disease. Even for decades after 1943 autism was not infrequently confused with mental retardation or schizophrenia, and over the last two decades the diagnostic criteria for autism and autism spectum disorders have been widened.
To which I now shall add: It goes back way further than that. There are published accounts of behavior that resembles autism in the 18th century. In the 18th and 19th century, there were many accounts of idiot savants, many of whom were likely autistic or had Asperger's. There are even some who speculate that Sir Isaac Newton may have had Asperger's, although I'm not sure I entirely buy their argument. Does RFK Jr. really mean to argue that autism and ASDs just popped up almost overnight a few years after mercury was introduced into vaccines? These diseases most definitely did not. They've probably been around as long as humans have been around; it's just that before the mid 20th century sufferers of these diseases were relegated to insane asylums, lumped together with the mentally retarded and schizophrenics, used as entertainment in freak shows, or simply labeled as "odd" or even "mad." RFK Jr. only shoots himself in the foot and makes himself look a fool by constantly repeating such an easily debunked canard.

RFK Jr. even repeated his misrepresentation of the Simpsonwood Meeting:
And we now have the transcripts of the secret meeting that they did in Simpsonwood, Georgia, in the year 2000.

And it's the most horrifying thing that you can read, Joe. There are scientists there from the government who are saying — who are reading the reports and saying, this is undeniable. There's no way we can ever deny this. I am not going to give this to my children, but now let's hide this from the American people. And it's that clear. And this is what I write about. It's this language that I write about in the "Rolling Stone" and the "Salon" piece that is so shocking, where we have the guys who are supposed to be protecting Americans` health who are actually conspiring to keep this stuff in the vaccines.

RFK Jr., meet Skeptico and Majikthise. Majikthise and Skeptico, meet RFK, Jr. You should all have a lot to talk about, such as what really happened at Simpsonwood, rather than RFK Jr.'s paranoid account. Finally, RFK Jr. stated that he was going to write an article that would go through "all the science" around the thimerosal/autism issue. I assume it's this article (which I haven't had time to read yet, given that it's 66 pages long). Fortunately, Skeptico and Autism Diva have had time to look at it and begin the necessary deconstruction. It looks as though RFK Jr.'s probably going to be the gift to skeptical bloggers that keeps on giving, requiring periodic debunkings.

Unfortunately, I'm becoming more concerned than ever that we are entering a time when good science is too easily cast aside and ignored. As a a surprisingly good recent New York Times article about thimerosal/autism controversy stated:
Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, the number of parents who blame thimerosal for their children's autism has only increased. And in recent months, these parents have used their numbers, their passion and their organizing skills to become a potent national force. The issue has become one of the most fractious and divisive in pediatric medicine.

"This is like nothing I've ever seen before," Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the National Immunization Program, told a gathering of immunization officials in Washington in March. "It's an era where it appears that science isn't enough."
Indeed it is, and, sadly, not just for the issue of whether thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. This dubious and excessive focus on mercury as a cause of autism frightens parents unnecessarily about the safety of vaccination and drops a load of guilt parents with autistic children who did vaccinate their children, making them wonder if they caused their children's condition. Worse, it wastes scientists' and legislators' time and effort and diverts money from research that might actually get us closer to understanding the pathogenesis of this disease and offering real hope to parents with ASDs.

26 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 6/27/2005 10:11 AM, Anonymous RSM said...

Unfortunately, I don't think most people will really care about the data until the eventual outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella and diphtheria occur. This reminds me of the DDT issue, and the tragic recurrence of malaria in Africa.

 

At 6/27/2005 1:56 PM, Anonymous Skeptico said...

Great post. Your site doesn't take trackbacks so click here: http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/06/orac_thunders.html

 

At 6/27/2005 6:06 PM, Blogger hollywoodjaded said...

This is what I agree with most of all:
_______________

Orac:
"Worse, it wastes scientists' and legislators' time and effort and diverts money from research that might actually get us closer to understanding the pathogenesis of this disease and offering real hope to parents with ASDs."
________________

I'm really afraid it's true: Years have been wasted on this "theory" and Divine Providence only knows what's been lost in the meantime.

 

At 6/27/2005 8:31 PM, Blogger decrepitoldfool said...

Thimerosol is the perfect urban legend - no wonder it is so hard to kill.

First, it makes intuitive sense. Mercury is a well-known neurotoxin, and no one doubts that drug companies are not jumping up to reveal negative information about their products. Nor have governments proven themselves to be unfailingly trustworthy.

Second, anecdotes should be easy to find, given the number of vaccinations. It would be very strange if some kids did not show signs of autism right after being vaccinated.

Third, statistical thinking is a public joke. It all goes back to that book by Darrell Huff, which was intended to educate both statisticians and consumers of statistics but many people only absorbed the title: How to lie with statistics.

Or maybe it's that old saying; "Lies, damn lies, and statistics." In any case the only analytical tool that can cut through a fog of anecdotes has been undermined in the popular imagination.

Is anyone sitting on a gripping action-movie script where a statistician is the hero? Maybe something based on Heinlein's Silly Season?

 

At 6/27/2005 9:27 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth Reid said...

Orac, I am such an enormous fan, so I can't believe the first thing I'm ever saying to you is a criticism, but you keep using it and I just can't help myself apparently. The expression is "cherry-pick", not "berry-pick".

Your eloquent series on why the vaccine-thimerosal connection doesn't hold water is an inspiration to those of us who just take pot-shots at it from the sidelines occasionally. Thank you!

 

At 6/27/2005 10:13 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

I was going to post this on JREF forum, but the Kennedy article seemed to be the focus of the week. So I think I'll post it here instead. It has his response in a manner that I feel shows his true colors, especially the all CAPS (and I really hope he does use the DTaP in his practice and not the DTP... which I understand is not even available in the USA):

> From: HN
> Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 10:29:00 -0700
> To: jaygordan
> Subject: RE: vaccines
>
>
>
>> From: Jay Gordon
>> To: hn
>> Subject: vaccines
>> Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 01:09:18 -0700
>>
>> Thanks for your comments.
>>
>> I will be more rigorous in constructing and publishing my posts.
>>
>> Most vaccines protect against illnesses American children can no longer
>> contract
>
> Like measles and mumps?

WELL, YES, AS YOU KNOW, MEASLES CASES NOW NUMBER 35 OR SO IN THE USA EACH
YEAR. MUMPS SOMEWHAT MORE AT 200-300. BOTH DISEASES CAN PRODUCE SERIOUS
COMPLICATIONS BUT RARELY DO. WHEN THE INCIDENCE OF A DISEASE DROPS TO THESE
LOW LEVELS, THE RISK/BENEFIT ANALYSIS CHANGES.
>
> Pertussis? Chicken Pox?
THE DPT IS A REASONABLE SHOT AND I GIVE IT TO THE MAJORITY OF KIDS IN MY
PRACTICE. VARICELLA IS AN INNOCENT CHILDHOOD DISEASE WHICH WE HAVE NOW
TRANSFERRED INTO ADULTHOOD. I TELL ALL FAMILIES TO EITHER GET THE DISEASE
OR THE SHOT BY AGE TEN YEARS.
>
> Haemophilis influenza b?
ALMOST GONE, AS YOU KNOW. I STARTED PRACTICE WHEN HIB WAS AROUND A LOT.
NOW, AGAIN, THE RISK/BENEFIT ANALYSIS FAVORS LOOKING HARDER. I DO GIVE LOTS
OF THESE SHOTS, THOUGH.

> Tetanus?
AGAIN, UNDER 50 CASES/YEAR INTO HE USA--PROBABLY OWED IN LARGE MEASURE TO
VACCINATION BUT NOT COMPLETELY>
> Kids in the US still get those... and they are only an airplane ride away.
XENOPHOBIA DOES NOT SERVE THIS ARGUMENT WELL
> Diptheria? (see what happened in Russia)
GONE
> Polio... So you don't think anyone will fly in from Yemen or Indonesia to
> the USA ever again?
NO, I DO NOT THINK SO. AS YOU FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE HISTORY OF
POLIO, YOU CAN SEE THAT THERE HAS NOT BEEN WILD POLIO IN THE USA FOR OVER 25
YEARS AND THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN IMPORTED CASE BEING ACTIVE AND SPREADING IS
NIL
> The drop in hepatitis B was only after infants started to be vaccinated
> against it.
TRUE. BUT EACH PARENT HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE. THIS SHOT MAY BE OF GREAT
BENEFIT TO PUBLIC HEALTH BUT OFFERS NO BENEFIT TO EACH INFANT
>
> This is a county in the USA, it lists the incidences of disease:
> http://www.metrokc.gov/health/epilog/vol4505.htm ... the only thing that is
> missing from the present vaccine schedule is polio, diptheria and mumps ---
> all three of those are still occuring only an airplane ride away. Chicken
> Pox is also not listed, but it is still occuring -- and it does maim and
> kill every year in the USA:
> http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5223a3.htm
>
>
> and must therefore be subject to different risk/benefit analyses
>> that in other times or in other countries where these diseases are still
>> endemic.
>>
>
> Should this be done by lawyers or by health professionals? You should
> perhaps speak to the public health folks in Indiana about that.

DOCTORS AND PATIENTS TOGETHER

AGAIN, THANKS FOR MAKING ME THINK HARDER.

BEST,

JAY GORDON

 

At 6/27/2005 10:55 PM, Anonymous omniconspiratorial thinking said...

"THANKS FOR MAKING ME THINK HARDER"? - Dr. Jay Gordon.

That's very strange. His accusation of xenophobia was very strange, too.

Germs don't care about nationality. It was a Dutch person who seems to have carried rubella from the Netherlands to a community of commonly unvaxed kids in Canada a couple of months ago. Some pregnant moms were exposed to rubella, but the news reports didn't say how far along the moms were. There must have been some that were exposed who didn't know they were pregnant when the news stories were done, it's those babies that are the most at risk.

I want to know who is paying Arianna Huffington to post this stuff?

Seems like a fair question since the EoHarm group seem to delight in accusing everyone in being in the pocket of someone. They never seem to get around to arguing the facts, they just insist that the person stating facts must be being paid by big pharma or some other evil force.

There are a bunch of anti-mercury trial lawyers who are probably squirming and trying to do their best to keep this alive, so they probably all got together and sent Arianna a fat check to keep this going... there are probably secret memos on this somewhere. No doubt we could find things in her writings to spin in such a way to prove that she got a new Mercedes or something out of this.

Actually, I don't think so, but Arianna could stand a few questions directed at her little self.

 

At 6/27/2005 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac, have you considered writing a guest blog for Huffington? That might do some real good. They have had other skeptics write for them, such as Michael Shermer.

-Phil Plait
http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog

 

At 6/28/2005 12:14 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

omniconspiratorial thinking said...
"That's very strange. His accusation of xenophobia was very strange, too.

Germs don't care about nationality. It was a Dutch person who seems to have carried rubella from the Netherlands to a community of commonly unvaxed kids in Canada a couple of months ago."

Exactly... I replied back about there only being 35 cases of measles in the USA, that during the previous week there were 31 cases of measles in Indiana because of a person going to Romania. His reply was that if you were going to Romania to get vaccinated. Which does nothing for the cases that come in every year from other places (like children adopted from China or college students from Iowa who disregard requests for them to NOT return from India until they have fully recovered from measles).

I also thought the bit about tetanus was interesting... Does he even know where the spores are found?

 

At 6/28/2005 2:21 AM, Anonymous sisysphusian tax said...

What would be great is if they could get several of the big names in the autism mercury biz and put them on a stage and ask them to answer some questions directly.

They contradict each other so it would be very hard for them to maintain a unified "truth".

On the one hand you have Dr Buttar and Mark Sircus who is some kind of front man for him, at least he helps to push Buttar's snake oil. Then there is Andrew Hall Cutler who is a DAN! supporter and doesn't think that Dr. Buttar's regime is worth anything, and thinks it's dangerous.

Mark Sircus and Andrew Hall Cutler can scarcely hide their disdain for each other. Dr. Bradstreet is more of a DAN! guy but sells every conceivable alt med kind of cure for autism, though hasn't managed to cure his own kid, like Buttar claims to have.

Someone like Sircus who is actually anti-all-vaccines would be good to pit against those who insist they are only against mercury and for vaccines, like Lujene Clark and her husband. Lenny Schafer is just cranky but thinks he's funny. Mark Blaxill is an agnostic and is made nervous by any talk of god or Jesus, which there is plenty of among the Evidence of Harm bunch. Sircus is big on some kind of new age religion thing, all we now is a good example of one of their "born-again" antivaxers.

The mercury lawyer guy, Bob Krakow would be good, too. Probably should have an original Mercury Mom, too, so maybe Lyn Redwood.

Blaxill, Schafer, Sircus, Cutler, Kirby, Clark, Redwood and a born-again antivaxer.

And a couple of scientists on the other side. It wouldn't take long to see them dissolve into weirdness.

 

At 6/28/2005 6:53 AM, Blogger AnthroPax said...

What do you think about the Autistic-rights groups? If autism is just a part of human diversity, it does seem dreadful to try to find a 'cure' doesn't it? The groups style themselves on homosexual rights groups who campained for their sexuality to be dropped from the disorder register.

 

At 6/28/2005 7:29 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Just a note: The "more hits than ever" is ending. My hit count has come back down to more or less what it was before I made that infamous post, maybe a little higher. I knew the spike would be transient. In fact, I was surprised when it lasted over a week. That's unprecedented for me.

As for autism rights groups, I'm not entirely sure what to think of them. Many adult autistics can function pretty well and some are high achievers. (Some of them have excellent blogs, by the way.) I can understand why they would react the way they do to some of the things that are said about them, particularly by some of the mercury/autism activists.

 

At 6/28/2005 9:34 AM, Anonymous paul said...

Jay Gordon's comments also belie the notion that the anti-thimerosal crowd is not anti-vax. They seem to get very defensive about this subject - "we only oppose mercury etc.". This may be true for the "rank and file", but their leaders have a different agenda. They know that when it is proven that thimerosal does not cause autism, they will need to have a fallback.

 

At 6/28/2005 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>BUT EACH PARENT HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE. THIS SHOT MAY BE OF GREAT
BENEFIT TO PUBLIC HEALTH BUT OFFERS NO BENEFIT TO EACH INFANT

Rarely see such direct advocacy of freeloading.

 

At 6/28/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Orac might need to be prepared to shut down a discussion on autistic rights, or ask it to be moved elsewhere. it's almost as emotional and can get as irrational as the thimerosal hysteria .

That said, here goes Autism Diva with her take on autistic rights, etc.

The first thing an autistic adult who is informed in this will probably tell you is that there is no central organization fighting for autistic rights and there likely will never be one. The standing joke is, "organizing autistics is like herding cats". Given that, we aren't likely to be a threat to anyone's status quo any time soon.

As a group, we are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed and really disenfranchised. We all have trouble communicating in some area, though in certain arenas and on certain topics we can do well. These things make it hard to get anything like "Act up" or even like "SPCA", though we need a society for the prevention of cruelty to autistics.

Much of what is defined as disease in autism is a cultural bias. This is not to say that Szasz was right, that all mental illness is a symptom of the culture, or whatever his schtick is.

Things like making eye contact are cultural. Japanese children have vastly less pressure to make eye contact, for instance. Some of the worst issues with parenting an autistic child come from cultural pressures and the condition of modern life, it's harder to go to a store now if your kid is sensitive to fluorescent lights, humming noises from refridgerator compressors, large noisy spaces like Wal-Mart, restaurants that are all tile, glass and metal and feature things like espresso machines. Clothing stores will play loud music on the PA system, stuff that just wasn't common 60 years ago, and really not common 90 years ago.

Autistics usually don't fit in with high pressure urban and sub-urban life styles, though they might not be that impaired on a farm, especially, if the school they go to is really small. So some of our problems can be blamed on the society we live in, unlike cancer which is pretty much bad news to whoever gets it wherever they live.

"Low functioning" autistics (LFA) can not be neatly separated from "high functioning" autistics (HFA or Asperger's syndrome) and, in fact, some "lower functioning" autistics are less impaired socially that "high functioning" ones. This might be partly due to the fact that people will cut a LFAs slack and be nice to them sometimes, but basically most people dislike or avoid an HFA/AS person.

We are "eminently hateable" people. We put off the worst social vibe. It's that we look like we could do better if we tried. A plain old sociopath type is scary, and social climbers are tolerable to other social climbers and maybe even to normal people, though they give Autism Diva the "heeby jeebies". Autistics are just out in the cold for the most part, sometimes we think others autistics are REALLY great, but that's not always the case. We get on each other's nerves, too.

Some HFA/AS folks are getting weird on a supposed superiority they have. This is stupid. Some want to style themselves as another race. This is really stupid.

The last point is that "low functioning" autistics can really surprise you with how smart and aware they are, even if they can't talk or won't talk (sometimes they know it's pointless to talk because people won't understand them anyway). It's easy to say, "Oh, that Jones kid, he's a loss, put him in an institution", but you have no idea what is going on in that Jone's kid head.

The film recently done on Sue Rubin (Autism is a World) is illustrative of that. Amanda Baggs is just as extremely autistic as Sue Rubin, but I think more socially aware and a better role model for autistic kids. Michelle Dawson was a "classically autistic" kid, and is a classically autistic adult, who happens to be a brilliant scientist with seriously obvious traits of autism that cause many people to treat her like garbage in real life.

One more last point, even truly profoundly retarded people, autistic are not, contribute to their societies, they aren't junk or culls.

Autism Diva has an Asperger's syndrome diagnosis. Which means she gains credibility in some people's minds and loses it in other people's minds, immediately, just by labelling herself with that. Autism Diva also is the parent of an autism spectrum person (middle functioning) and a has a normal adult child, too, and has an extended family of odd people with big heads other signifying autism traits.

Autism spectrum people really are everywhere, though they might tend to be out of the public eye since we tend to avoid people.

Dan Akroyd and Stephen Spielberg both have "come out" as Asperger's. Of course, there's the Bill Gates question.

A pretty slam-dunk case can be made for Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol. A nearly as tidy case can be made for Isaac Newton and Einstein, there are tons of other inventors, creators and scientists who fit the bill.

Dr. Laidler has met lots of parents of autistic kids, he says that in some of them the autistic traits they have are really obvious. It's well known that a pretty far-out-there autistic kid can grow up to be normal enough to have kids. It's easy for a young woman who is on the spectrum to get pregnant, and that has become easier since the 1960's. Similar things can be said for ASD men becoming fathers.

Social changes are a big part of the autism increase that don't get a lot of mention.
---
"The internet is for autistics what sign language is for the deaf." - Martijn Dekker" :-)

AD

 

At 6/29/2005 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this new piece of research:

http://www.mcgill.ca/newswire/?ItemID=15747

The study shows that although autism is more common than previously believed, it is not on the rise.

 

At 6/29/2005 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://209.81.10.18/data/20050628-Tue1700.mp3

Kennedy on a Berkeley radio station, interviewed by a woman who totally believes the conspiracy idea. Grab your tinfoil hats. There is a paper by someone named Magos in 2001. He gives a good overview of real ethyl mercury toxicity.

Magos shows that amounts of ethyl mercury needed to cause even slightly noticable damage is so much higher than what kids ever got in vaccines.

He says that the Europeans use far less thimerosal, but says that their numbers haven't risen like they have here. He says that they have manipulated the numbers to try to prove an autism increase.

But the parents over there are saying that the numbers _have_ risen. Like in England they say they _have_ had an autism epidemic, but they have blamed it on MMR, not thimerosal. Mark Blaxill's paper on autism rates says that England's rates are the same as here, and Kennedy holds up that very paper as a good source. Blaxill is a big player in the mercury=autism issue.

 

At 6/29/2005 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My post (just previous) wasn't very clear. I mentioned that Magos wrote a paper in 2001, but in the next paragraph, the "he said" refers to Kennedy.

 

At 6/30/2005 2:44 PM, Anonymous kaspit said...

Hi. Couldn't do a trackback, so here's an excerpt from my post, which again cites your fine blog: With articles by the New York Times, CNN, and RF Kennedy Jr. [1], people keep asking whether autism is triggered by vaccines with mercury-based thimerosal. Here's a partial reading of the debate from a Jewish standpoint. The debate about vaccines and autism requires us to judge correlations. For instance, does the onset of autism correlate to thimerosal vaccinations? More importantly, does the incidence of autism rise and fall with the level of mercury-based vaccinations in a population? Maybe there's data to support these correlations. Read more about the autism debate here.

 

At 7/03/2005 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case it's of interest to anyone, one of the 18th-century cases has been beautifully-documented by Rab Houston and Uta Frith (a historian and an autism expert respectively) in "Autism in History: The Case of Hugh Blair of Borgue" (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000).

I would defy anyone to look at that and say that Hugh Blair was not obviously autistic.

 

At 7/25/2005 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hep B is more dangerous the earlier you get it. An adult is much less likely to progress to full blown liver failure than a child.

I hate when people state there's no benefit to infants when we vaccinate them against Hepatitus B.

 

At 7/26/2005 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac- do you have any thoughts on why the CDC has been reluctant to allow independent researchers to access the VSD database? Is this standard protocol for data of this type?

Your thoughts on the matter are greatly appreciated.

Jim

 

At 8/13/2005 2:30 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Here is a partial explanation:
http://www.supportvaccination.org/2005/08/why-disdain-for-epidemiology.html

It has been mentioned in some blogs (including this one) that the Geiers got into trouble by trying to merge databases in such a way to damage the privacy of those reporting to the VAERS database. I cannot find anything on that... but I did find this statement that catagorically states that Geier's data is not admissable in court:
http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/Unpublished%20Decisions/Millman.jeffries.redactedremand.pdf

Anyway, the Geirs are notorious for mis-using the data:
http://www.aap.org/profed/thimaut-may03.htm ... so if the access is now restricted, blaim them.
You will note that these guys used a health maintenance organization for data:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/112/5/1039

So there are other ways to get information. You just have to remember to not abuse the privilege.

 

At 8/29/2005 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one don't give much credence to the Geier's work with the VAERS data. There basis and methodology were deeply flawed.

But that doesn't change the fact that the CDC has steadfastly refused to release the Vaerstratten (sp?) datasets (now they're conveniently lost as a result of "bad archiving"), and have made researcher access to the VSD database itself near impossible. Again, I ask why? I don't buy the privacy argument. Anyone who has ever worked with data knows that there are simple steps that can be taken to protect a patient's privacy. The IOM has repeatedly urged the CDC to make this data more readily available to researchers, to no avail.

What are they hiding?

 

At 9/05/2005 11:42 PM, Anonymous Ed said...

When you listen to the debate, remember that the autism parents have their alterior motives for wanting a link between autism and thimerosal. You should also remember that the medical community has their reasons for wanting no link between autism and thimerosal.

So when I see a study by the medical community that was peer reviewed by the medical community I have to ask if this is Kosher. When I see the medical community questioning whether there really is an autism epidemic, I have to say they are ignoring what is happening in the schools. When I see the medical community say it is just a matter of better diagnosis, I have to say that they have never experienced life with an autistic child. When I see the medical community say that the changes in children after vaccination are just "anecdotal", I have to say that they have not seen the video records that some of the parents kept. There is other linkage between autism and thimerosal such as what happened with thimerosal and teething powder. Of course, none of this ever gets into the medical literature because the medical studies were written to prove that there is no link between thimerosal and autism, not to determine if there really is one. Like all such studies, they achieve their purpose at the sacrifice of science.

I know what an autism epidemic means. It means that the nature or nurture question has to have nurture in its answer. Something happened that brought this epidemic and it has to cover the geography of the epidemic and it has to cover the time of the epidemic. I see this as the reason for questioning whether there is an epidemic and the statement that the epidemic can be attributed to diagnostics.

There is a saying "Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to ignorance." At this time, I ascribe this attitude to ignorance on the medical community's part. Many of my fellow parents do not. I believe that is because the blindness to anything that might impugn vaccines seems so deliberate.

I am a parent of an autistic son. I am not hysterical. I have personally seen the regression that other parents have written about. I have seen my son join another autistic child in an elementary school of 250. My son is HIGH FUNCTIONING, yet his symptoms were so profound that I could never leave them undiagnosed. Maybe you can find the autistics between 40 and 60. I can't. I am not part of the lawsuit crowd, because I do not believe it is in the autism community's best interest to sue the medical community into oblivion. I have to laugh albeit bitterly at the "Junk Science" label having seen the sham that the medical community has made with their studies.

There is a lot to be said on the other side. It is too bad that our spokesmen are Kirby and Kennedy. Neither carries the credentials and both carry the baggage of alterior motives.

 

At 9/07/2005 12:54 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

So what kind of motives to find in people who claim mercury is the cause and chelation is the cure? Say, someone like Bradstreet who offers cures... or Buttar who will sell you his cream to "chelate" your child?

 

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