Sunday, September 02, 2007

Moving Day

I've decided, based on expert advice from a number of people, to move my 'blog. It will from now be found at:

I'll keep the current 'blog in place for a while to allow time for everybody to notice that I've moved and update their bookmarks and links.

Come on over and see the new Photon in the Darkness 'blog!


Friday, August 24, 2007

Myths and Legends of Autism: Part 1

The Myth of the Poor Excretor:

Myths have traditionally been invented to provide explanations for phenomena that were beyond the understanding of the people who made them. Thus you have fiery chariots carrying the sun across the sky, serpents swallowing the sun during an eclipse, the world being created between fire and ice or the many myths of the Cargo Cult in New Guinea and Melanesia.

Another reason for people to invent myths is to deal with unpleasant truths that they wish to ignore. This impulse has given rise, in more modern times, to “irreducible complexity” and the Myth of the Poor Excretor.

The original impetus for the Myth of the Poor Excretor was the finding, by a number of practitioners involved in “alternative” autism therapies, that autistic children often had low hair mercury levels, which conflicted with their firmly held belief that autism was due – at least in part – to mercury poisoning.

When Holmes et al completed a study of 94 autistic children and 45 age- and sex-matched controls and found that autistic children had significantly lower hair mercury levels, there were only three conclusions they could reach:

[1] Mercury protected children from autism.

[2] The hair mercury tests were screwed up.

[3] Autistic children don’t excrete mercury into their hair.

Choice [1] is strongly counterintuitive, but should not be discounted out of hand solely for that reason, since much that is true in science goes against our best intuition. Choice [3] is contrary to decades of research data on mercury metabolism in mammals and so is clearly wrong. Choice [2] appears to be the most likely explanation.

Unfortunately for the authors, the only choice that doesn’t either nullify their hard effort (as [2] would) or contradict their immutable belief that mercury causes autism (as [1] would), is the only choice that is clearly wrong. Instead of abandoning their immutable belief that mercury causes autism - as their data would suggest - they invented the Myth of the Poor Excretor.

According to this myth, autistic children are unable to excrete the mercury they receive from the environment and – more importantly – their childhood vaccines. As a result – so goes the myth – they accumulate the toxic metal and become autistic. It’s a compelling tale, except that it’s complete rubbish.

If you read the study, you will find that this “hypothesis” of "poor excretion" arrives on the scene like a deus ex machina, without any data supporting “poor excretion” in autistic children – except for their low hair mercury levels, which can be better explained in other ways - and no data supporting the implied idea that mercury accumulation in hair can be impaired by any means - apart from cutting off the blood flow to the scalp.

There are also no citations of the scientific literature to show that this “hypothesis” is supported by the researches of other scientists. There is not even any mention of how this “hypothesis” flies squarely in the face of decades of research into mercury metabolism and how that might be reconciled.

In other words, it appears to have been made up out of thin air to keep the authors from having to abandon their cherished belief that mercury causes autism.

Now, it may be true that mercury causes autism in a small number of children – the currently available data is not able to eliminate that possibility. But that is a long way from saying that mercury does cause autism. And the Holmes et al study does nothing to support either the claim that mercury causes autism or that autistic children are “poor excretors” of mercury.

As it turns out, there has been a fair bit of research into the distribution of mercury – both organic and inorganic – into hair. Stuides by Yasutake and Hachiya (2006) and Wilhelm, Muller and Idel (1996) have clearly shown that hair mercury levels are proportional to blood mercury levels at the time the hair is growing. Shi, Lane and Clarkson (1990) showed that the uptake of mercury by hair was dependent on hair growth.

And 'way back in 1986, Mottet, Body, Wilkens and Burbacher showed that the amount of mercury in the hair depended primarily on the amount of mercury in the blood. They also found that the ratio between blood and hair mercury was constant over a wide range of doses and between animals.

But, even with all of this evidence available to them, the Holmes et al authors chose instead to create the Myth of the Poor Excretor. Like most denialist myths (myths invented to ignore unpleasant truths), the survival of the myth depends largely on the existence of a large number of people who also don’t want to face reality. For whatever reason, that pool of people exists and the Myth of the Poor Excretor has persisted to the present day, some four years after its invention.

Next: The Legend of the Maverick Doctor(s)


Monday, August 20, 2007

Another Nail in the Coffin...

Although I have begun to despair that the "mercury-causes-autism" hypothesis can ever be killed, a recent study by Zhao et al has driven another nail into its coffin.

In their study - "A unified genetic theory for sporadic and inherited autism." - the authors describe exactly how spontaneous mutations could cause both sporadic autism (autism in families without a family history of autism) and familial or inherited autism.

You see, this has been the real mystery in autism (not the faux myteries of "poor excretion" and "mercury poisoning") - how families with inherited autism can show the same mutation in all affected members yet not have the same mutation as other families with inherited autism (for example, see here, here, here, here and here).

The answer, it appears, is that females with mutations associated with autism may be resistant to developing autism. Why this is so is not yet clear, but it has been shown pretty conclusively. These women may have one of the many mutations that cause autism but they do not develop the disorder themselves.

However, even those who don't develop autism are still carriers of that genetic mutation and (on average) 50% of their sons will receive that the mutation. Of the sons receiving the mutation, a high percentage of will develop autism. Additionally, about 50% of their daughters will also get the mutation, although only a few will develop autism (all who receive the mutation will be carriers).

This, of course, is not the entire story, but it is a reasonable lay summary of the article.

For those people who will immediately say, "Aha! It's those nasty chemicals/viruses/cell phones that are causing mutations in our children!", let me point out one thing:

The mutations are in the germ cells (i.e. sperm and eggs) of the parents of the autistic children. For these mutations to happen in a child and cause autism, it would have to happen at the single-cell stage (immediately after fertilization).

I encourage people to read the article for themselves - it's available free online. Don't just take my word for it. It's not an easy read, but even if you can't understand it all, you should come away with the idea that [a] this looks less and less like a simple case of "environmental toxicity" and [b] it is a much more complex issue than many of the autism "advocates" would have you believe.

Happy reading!


Monday, July 30, 2007

How Science Works

From reading what many of the vaccines/mercury/”toxins”/whatever-causes-autism promoters have written about the science of autism, it is clear that most of them have only the vaguest idea of what science is and how it works. Here is what I hope will be a clear and concise “debunking” of some of the more pervasive “myths” about how science works.

Vox populi:

One of the most commonly repeated misconceptions is that scientific “facts” (what scientists refer to as “generally accepted theories of reality”) are determined by popular vote. Thus you see many of the so-call autism advocates crowing about how many people “believe” their particular line of nonsense.

Unfortunately for them, reality has shown itself supremely indifferent to majority rule. For thousands of years, the majority of people were convinced that the world was flat, but that had no effect on the spherical nature of the world. For hundreds of years, the majority of people thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth – which had no effect on celestial mechanics.

So, even if seven thousand people think that Andy Wakefield’s thoroughly disproven hypothesis about measles vaccine causing autism is true, that will have no impact on the ability of the vaccine strain of measles to cause autism.

The sad fact is that the purpose of science is to discover the underlying realities of nature, not to confirm our most cherished hypotheses. When people (even people calling themselves “scientists”) set out to prove themselves right, they often overlook the data that show they are wrong. That’s why it’s so important to have independent confirmation of results.

In the end, it not the “voice of the people” that determine whether a hypothesis lives or dies, it is the “voice of the data”.

Authority figures:

As the Autism Omnibus Proceedings have shown, there are experts and there are “experts”. The plaintiffs, so far, have had the latter. It is passing strange that the people who are generally so dismissive of the findings of doctors and scientists are so willing to blindly accept whatever their doctors and their scientists say without question.

The Omnibus Proceedings should have been a golden opportunity for the parents following the advice of these “experts” (the ones who have “…found the truth…” about autism) to see how their knowledge compared to that of “mainstream” scientists (you know, the ones who are too hidebound to see the plain truth of how measles vaccine/mercury/”toxins”/immune disorders/gut problems/etc. clearly causes autism). It should have been, but for the vocal minority, it wasn’t.

Part of the problem with authority figures in autism is that the majority of parents – the grand majority, in all liklihood – have no idea what these experts are talking about. Here’s a little quiz to find out which camp you are in:

[1] If a child has a “damaged” immune system that is unable to “fight off” a viral infection (e.g. the attenuated vaccine strain of measles), what would be the effect of giving that child corticosteroids?

(a) The child will improve.
(b) The viral infection will worsen, making the child more ill or even dead.
(c) No effect

[2] When using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the genetic material of a measles virus strain, what is the purpose of the reverse transcriptase (RT) step?

(a) It is an optional step, used in “mainstream” science only.
(b) It creates more false negative results.
(c) It copies RNA into DNA

[3] To which of the following does ethylenediamine tetraacetate (EDTA) bind with the least strength?

(a) mercury
(b) calcium
(c) magnesium

(Answers: b, c, a)

I bring this up because a number of parents I have spoken with about the Omnibus Proceedings have no idea why it was so important that the O’Leary lab had failed to do the RT (reverse transcriptase) step when they were testing for measles virus. To them, it was just another piddling technical detail that was essentially meaningless. To me, on the other hand, it was proof positive that the O’Leary results were baloney – nothing more than contamination and poor technique.

You see, the measles virus doesn’t use DNA for its genetic material, it uses RNA (single strand, negative sense) and does not go through a DNA intermediate (unlike the retroviruses). And the PCR process doesn’t amplify RNA, only DNA. So, the only way to amplify measles genetic material is to first copy it into DNA (via reverse transcriptase) and then amplify the DNA copy (cDNA).

In fact, one of the checks routinely done to rule out the possibility of contamination (or poor primer selection) is to do the test without the RT step. If you get a positive result, you know that you have a problem.

The O’Leary lab clearly had a problem.

So, what are parents to do if they lack the specialized knowledge to judge for themselves if the “experts” know what they’re talking about? Unfortunately, relying on your “gut feeling” is probably not the way to go. My experience has been that true experts in a scientific field are often not the most personable, easy to like people in the world. Some, in fact, are not good with people.

Salesmen, charlatans and confidence men, on the other hand, are marvelous with people. They have to be – it’s their livelihood. Now, this isn’t to say that a reliable expert can’t be personable and easy to trust – that’s not true. But you can’t rely on an person's charm and charisma to inform you about their accuracy.

What it often comes down to is going with the crowd. The more people who are well-informed about the field that agree with the “expert” in question, the more likely that “expert” is to be accurate. Sad to say, but the maverick who turns his back on the majority of his scientific peers is usually wrong. The very few who have turned out to be right tend to overshadow – in the public’s eye – the thousands who were wrong and simply faded into well-deserved obscurity.

One sporting gentleman on the mercury-causes-autism side has said that betting on the maverick is a long-shot with a tremendous payoff. How I wish it were so. In fact, most of the “mavericks” bucking the “mainstream” in the “alternative” autism world have already been shown to be wrong. Andy Wakefield is just one of many in that category. A more accurate analogy would be betting on a horse that has already been taken to the knacker’s and rendered into dog food, glue and baseball covers.

Science by fiat:

Another popular concept is that scientific reality can be legislated. This has been tried a number of times previously and has a dismal history. One of the most famous was the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei, where he was forced, by threat of death, to recant his heliocentric hypothesis of the Solar system. A more recent one is the attempt by the Dover, Pa. school board to render Intelligent Design a viable hypothesis. It failed, as well.

“Science by decree” appeals to those who are absolutely convinced that there is no possibility that they might be wrong. It was supremely ironic that Andy Wakefield, facing possible censure in the UK, quoted Vaclav Havel’s famous statement: “Seek the company of those who seek the truth and run from those who have found it.” Wakefield is so clearly one of those who have “…found it…” but is unable to see that.

Science is not well suited to legislation because it needs the flexibility to change when confronted with new information. Laws must be repealed – a long and tedious process. Scientific theories and hypotheses are altered or discarded in a moment. If science needed to move at the pace of law, we would still be “texting” on parchment.

A more practical problem is when incorrect science is enshrined in law (and what other kind would need to be legislated?). We all know that the true point of the effort to make a law out of bad science is so that somebody (maybe many somebodies) will get some money. This is not inherently bad – sometimes people need and deserve governmental assistance.

But what happens when it becomes apparent that the legislated “science” is in error? What will the legislators say to those who entreated them to make the law in the first place? How receptive will they be to another group of parents who come to them, saying “Well, it turns out that vaccines weren’t the cause of autism and we need a bunch of money to research the real cause.” Do you think that any law maker is going to want to bring that before their peers?

I think that everybody knows that if the various autism “advocacy” groups had the data, they wouldn’t need to do an “end run” around science (and, curiously, the courts) to the legislature. What they are saying, in essence, is: “We can’t convince scientists, we can’t convince the courts and we can’t even convince a majority of parents with our data, so we’re asking you to force everybody to say that we’re right.”

And that’s what it really comes down to, folks - force. They’ve given up trying to prove their point; they’ve even given up trying to persuade the parents who haven’t already jumped on their bandwagon. Now they’re going to enlist the coercive power of the government to force you to pay them to do what they (the autism "advocates") think is right.

Does that seem right to you?


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let's do a study!

A reader wrote in with concerns that I was overlooking a key point of the abysmal telephonic autism "survey" - namely, showing how many unvaccinated children were available to study the interaction of vaccines and autism... or "neurological disorders" (AKA autism spectrum and ADD/ADHD).

Actually, I think that the folks at the CDC and university medical centers all over the country (and in other countries) are acutely (even painfully) aware of the number of people who aren't vaccinated.

What GR and other advocacy groups have been agitating for is a study comparing groups that don't vaccinate their children (e.g. the Amish, although they actually do vaccinate their children) with vaccinated children. The folks at GR are pushing for this despite the fact that their baloney "survey" showed no connection between autism and vaccination.

Here are a few reasons why that study wouldn't work, followed by my own "modest proposal" for a study that would work.

[1] The unvaccinated population is not necessarily the same as the vaccinated population: People who don't vaccinate their children may not be the same as those who do. In fact, studies have shown that those who don't vaccinate their children tend to be at either end of the socioeconomic and educational spectrum. It would not be valid to draw any conclusions about the impact of vaccines on autism (or ADD/ADHD) with such marked differences between the groups (apples and oranges).

[2] Selection biases: Recruiting people for a study is one of the biggest sources of error, especially when looking for something that is a public controversy. You will tend to attract more people who believe in a connection than those who do not.

[3] Inadequate power: If the GR survey is correct, about 3% of the overall population in the 4 - 17 year age range is completely unvaccinated. On the other hand, the prevalence of autism is only 0.65% in the same age range. It will be easier to detect a statistically significant difference in unvaccinated children between autistic and non-autistic groups than it will be to detect a difference in autism prevalence between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

[4] Loss of useful information: It would be a shame to spend the time and money to do a study and only be able to answer a single question. After all, if there is no connection between autism and vaccination - as the GR "survey" suggests - wouldn't it be nice to be able to "mine" the data for other possible connections? By looking for subjects based on their vaccination status, the only question that can be answered is whether there is a correlation between the two.

My Modest Proposal:

This is a study that could be done rather quickly and with a minimum of expense. It would eliminate many of the sources of bias and would fairly easily generate balanced study populations that would be a good match to most of the general population.

[a] Contact a large HMO with actual facilities (e.g. Humana or Kaiser) and arrange to get access to their patient medical records. This is routinely done, although the HMO will want assurances that patient confidentiality will be maintained.

[b] Obtain a list of patients with autism diagnosis in the proper age range (I would suggest 6 - 12 years).

[c] Select one thousand of these patients at random. This would allow you to detect a difference if the prevalence of unvaccinated children is less than 1/3 that in the general population (alpha error level 5%, beta error level 5%). If the difference is less than that, you'll need to select more subjects.

[d] Confirm the diagnosis by having a child psychiatrist or psychologist review the records.

[e] For each of the remaining children, select a non-autistic control child from the HMO database that is of the same age, sex, geographical region, etc.

[f] Determine how many of the children in each group have received all, none or some of their vaccinations (keep track of which vaccines, when, etc.). If the GR "survey" was right (a very big "if") about the number of children unvaccinated, each group should have around 30 unvaccinated children, unless there is a correlation between vaccination and autism.

[g] If the autism and non-autism groups have statistically significant differences in their vaccination rates, then a correlation can be claimed. If the study shows no correlation, then the relative risk is less than 3. You'd have to have twice as many subjects to bring the minimal relative risk to below 2.

Using HMO patients eliminates any issues of affordability (which is minimal) or access to health care. Although the population of people who have HMO coverage is not necessarily the same as the overal US population, using the case control design ensures that the two groups are as similar as possible.

This study could have been done in the time - and for the reported cost - of the GR "survey". If they had done a real study - like the one I've outlined above - the answer would already be here.

If anybody would like to fund such a study, please contact me. If I can't find anyone else to do it, I'd be willing to coordinate it myself.

I doubt that any of the federal funding agencies will be interested in funding this study - not because of any conspiracy, but because the only people who want the study will probably not believe the likely outcome (i.e. no association - just as in the GR "survey").

So, this is my challenge to those who want this study: if you want it, do it. The advocacy groups have the money - all they need to do is find the will to take a chance. And make no mistake - this is a risk. There is a better than even chance that the study - if it isn't "fudged" - will show no correlation.

If they really want to know, they can find out for less than the cost of a full-page ad.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Survey says..... Nothing!!!

Generation Rescue just published their long-awaited telephone survey results that showed - surprise! - that vaccinations cause autism.

Well, actually, it doesn't really show that vaccines cause autism, what it shows is that vaccines cause "neurological disorders", loosely defined as autism (or autistic spectrum disorder) and/or ADD/ADHD.

Except that it really doesn't show that, either.

So what does the survey show? Well, let's just take a look.

Not surprisingly, they did not publish the questions they asked, which would have given us the opportunity to analyze their survey for systematic bias. What they did do was publish the raw data, which allows us to analyze their results.

Assessing the survey:

When looking at a survey, the first step is to examine the survey structure - particularly the questions, but also the area covered and population contacted - for any flaws or biases. This survey was conducted in nine counties of California and Oregon - generally the more populous counties - which gives it a West Coast bias. Since autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma and diabetes do not show a coastal preference, this bias should not create a serious problem for the survey.

Next, looking at the data, we need to see if there are age or sex biases. Since the data do not include a detailed breakout of the ages year-by-year, it is impossible to analyze for age biases, but the sex ratio (52% male, 48% female) - although it is close to the US Census Bureau data for that age range - shows a statistically significant difference from the US population.

Looking at the sex ratios of the unvaccinated and vaccinated (both fully and partially) groups, the differences are not statistically significant, so the imbalance in the sex ratio is equal in both groups.

It would be helpful to know how many people they had to call to get the number of responses they did - this gives a good measure of how skewed the responses might be. The higher the percentage of people refusing to take the survey, the more likely that the people who do answer are not a representative sample of the population.

Unfortunately, we are not provided this information, so we have no way of knowing how many of the people who were called hung up or otherwise refused to participate, which makes it impossible to know the degree of participation bias. We'll just have to soldier on.

Assessing the data:

Looking at the data, one thing that pops up as an immediate red flag is that the prevalence of autism is greater than the prevalence of PDD-NOS. This is an inversion of the usual finding, which is that autism (with stricter diagnostic criteria) is less common than PDD-NOS (which is essentially some of the criteria for autism but not enough to diagnose autism). This suggests that the people involved in the survey may not be asking the right questions.

Looking a bit closer, the prevalence of the autistic spectrum disorders is way out of line with the most recent data. In February of this year, the CDC published a report on the prevalence of autism in six states. This prevalence was widely reported and was frequently cited as more evidence of the "autism epidemic" by the chelationistas, so it should be familiar.

This CDC report found that the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders ranged from 4.5 to 6.5 per 1000 children, which would be 0.45 - 0.65%.

The GR survey found that the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders was 4.7% in their overall sample and ranged from 1.3% (female, fully vaccinated) to 8.4% (male, partially vaccinated). This is nearly ten times the CDC prevalence.

To put the number into perspective, the CDC data say that somewhere between 1 in 222 to 1 in 154 children have an autistic spectrum disorder. The GR survey would suggest that 1 in 21 children have an autistic spectrum disorder. Ridiculous!

Clearly, there is a serious problem with this survey.

This is reminiscent of the infamous Holmes et al study, which found that their control subjects had over ten times the amount of mercury in their hair than the NHANES study found in children of similar ages less than a year later.

Now, the people who ordered this survey may argue that it's the difference between the two groups - not the absolute number - that is important. This sounds reasonable, but it isn't. There is no way to know if the degree of error is the same in all the groups.

If the "over-reporting factor" is only 5% less in the "unvaccinated" group than in the other groups, the difference between the groups disappears. This completely invalidates the "results".

So, with this glaring evidence of error, is there any point in looking any further?

No, not really. But we should examine the major claim being made about the survey results, just to be thorough.

"Vaccinated boys have a 155% greater chance of having a neurological disorder like ADHD or autism..."

Let me start off by saying that - even if the survey was accurate, which it clearly is not - an increase in autism and ADD/ADHD would not constitute an increase in "neurological disorders", which their conclusion implies. There may, in fact, be neurological disorders (e.g. measles inclusion-body encephalitis) that are reduced by vaccination. So, even without looking at the data, this assertion is pure nonsense.

But, back to the survey data.

To get a statistically significant difference between the unvaccinated and vaccinated boys, they had to lump the partially vaccinated and the fully vaccinated boys together and they also had to lump autism, PDD-NOS, Asperger's syndrome, ADD and ADHD together.roups, with the partially and fully vaccinated boys having - as a group - 55% more reported "neurological disorders".

However, if you look at the "autistic spectrum disorders" by themselves, there is no statistically significant difference between unvaccinated and vaccinated (partially plus fully) boys.

Curiously, there is a statistically significant difference between the partially vaccinated boys and both the unvaccinated and fully vaccinated boys. Partially vaccinated boys have a higher prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders than either the unvaccinated or fully vaccinated boys.

Now, if you want to show that an exposure causes a disorder, it is generally a good idea to show a dose-response relationship. In the case of this survey, a little vaccination is worse than none or a lot. This doesn't sound like a dose-response relationship to me.

Well, so the autism-vaccine connection doesn't work - how about ADD/ADHD?

Out of 17,674 children in the survey, 1,875 had either ADD or ADHD. That works out to a prevalence of 106 per thousand or 10.6%.

That seems a bit high.

If you look at the USDE data from 2005, the percentage of children ages 4 - 17 years with "other health impairment" (the catch basin for ADD/ADHD and many other disorders) was 9.5 per thousand or 0.95%. This is over ten times lower than reported in the GR survey. And remember - the USDE "other health impairment" category includes a variety of diagnoses other than ADD/ADHD.

So, it seems that there are some serious problems with the GR survey data. I don't know what the cause of the problem is (although I have my suspicions), but one thing is painfully clear:

The survey data is garbage.

So, what does the GR survey show?

Absolutely nothing.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Next Revolution?

As the chelationistas rediscover/redefine/remarket themselves, surely there are parents who are feeling a little misled, deceived or perhaps even exploited. Maybe it's time for another "revolution" in autism? And this time, it's the chelationistas who need to be overthrown.

For years, the various organizations representing the chelationistas have been telling parents that they are their advocates, that they respect parents, listen to parents and learn from parents. It's the "other side" - the doctors, "the government" and, worst of all, Big Pharma (cue spooky music) that lies to parents, disrespects parents, ignores parents.

Now, it turns out, the chelationistas are admitting that they don't respect parents - they don't even trust the parents' intelligence enough to tell them the whole truth. And telling less than the whole truth is....that's right; lying.

The chelationistas are now claiming that they knew all along that autism wasn't just mercury poisoning - despite earlier claims to the contrary (see here, also). The fact that they didn't tell parents is explained as "not wanting to confuse the issue". Or, it could be argued, not wanting to risk losing parents' support on a complicated and complex issue.

So, the chelationistas respect parents, but not enough to tell them the truth.

And the chelationistas listen to parents, but don't hear them when they say, "we want the facts".

And the chelationistas learn from parents, but only in order to better market their product.

Many people may now find themselves unsure when the chelationistas are telling the truth (hint: only when their lips aren't moving).

After all, if it is true - as the chelationista revisionistic propaganda says - that the chelationistas hid the full scope of possible causes of autism from the parents, then those parent have the right - no, the duty - to ask a simple question:


Ironically, it appears - again, from the chelationistas' own "clarifications" - that the chelationistas didn't trust the parents' ability to understand a more complex issue. The chelationistas didn't want to muddy the water with facts.

In other words, they are claiming that they lied to parents in order to further the chelationista movement.

Funny - that's pretty much what the chelationistas accuse the government and "mainstream medicine" of doing.

Of course, another possibility is that the chelationistas really did believe that mercury caused autism (and may still believe so) but are afraid that parents will start to doubt them as the mountain of data refuting the mercury-causes-autism hypothesis bears down. So, in order to keep from looking like uninformed dolts, they lie about having known "all along" that autism was "more complex than just mercury poisoning".

Either way, the chelationistas have been caught in a lie.

Now, the majority of parents caught up in the chelationista's web will buy the "clarification" and will not be offended by the blatant condescension that it contains. A few will have their eyes opened and will leave. Most will leave quietly, burning in silent resentment, but we can only hope that a couple of parents are angry enough at this travesty to lead a revolt.

After all, the only way to bring down a cult is from the inside.

I have a theme song in mind for this revolt:

Devo, Jerkin' back 'n' forth
(from the album "New Traditionalists")

I know I let you tell me what to do
You were confident, you knew best
Now things aren't working like you want them to
Your confidence is what I detest

You got me lookin' up high
You got me searchin' down low
You got me - I know you know
You got me jerkin' back 'n' forth

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

It's time for parents of autistic children to stand up and say they won't be manipulated, deceived or dismissed - not even by organizations that claim to represent them. It's time for parents of autistic children to demand the truth - especially from organizations that claim to represent them.

It's time for a new revolution.