The Future is Now?
"I could easily change my mind If:Our US government health agencies were not so evasiveabout answering direct questions. If they mandated the parents of ASD kids be given the details on the vaccines and what exactly was injected into them. The CDC, FDA, IOM and AAP admitted “We Screwed Up Big Time” We gave these kids vaccines/neurotoxins at levels far above our own thresholds."
This is a quote from just one person, but it echoes sentiments I have seen written and posted by several people who are avid supporters of the mercury-causes-autism-hypothesis. While howling that those of us who simply want to see some data that supports their hypothesis are either closed minded or "pharma shills", they maintain the most impenetrable barrier to new information that I can imagine.
This does not come as a surprise to me - it shouldn't surprise any of you, either. My experience has been that people who plead for "open-mindedness" are usually so fixated on their beliefs that they are incapable of even imagining that they might be wrong. What they actually want is for us all to permanently suspend reason and disbelief.
Usually, when I run across this sort of rabid dogmatism, it is in the context of a religion. Occasionally, though, this sort of dogmatic inflexibility is seen in what appears on the surface to be a scientific concept. On closer examination, however, these always turn out to be religion masquerading as science.
For example - Pons and Fleischmann were so convinced that they had discovered cold fusion that they elevated it to a religious dogma. And as often happens when scientists start to worship their hypotheses, they ended up humiliating themselves.
Yet, that dogma has continued, with a group of devoted souls who still - at some level - believe that they are doing science. What they are doing is religion - a fixed belief in concepts that are not or cannot be supported by data.
Like Pons and Fleischmann (and their deluded followers), the autism-mercury movement is clinging to the shreds of "early results" - the most dangerous type of data there is. I can't begin to tell you how many times I (and my colleagues) have been fooled by "early results". The pilot study shows a promising or interesting result that the larger study doesn't bear out.
Sort of like the "early results" in the VSD study that didn't pan out when the study was completed.But the dogma is so compelling that the autism-mercury movement can't see what is happening to them. They are veering farther and farther off the "beam" of the data, chasing ephemera and ghost data. They are putting more and more distance between themselves and reality.
Eventually, they will be reduced to publishing their own pitiful journal and writing angry letters to "the government" insisting that "someone" investigate ther claims one more time - because all the other studies didn't do it right.
They'll get someone to write a book about the "vast conspiracy" that is covering up the "real data" and some journalist will try to breathe some life back into the "controversy" because they're out of ideas for a story. Finally, they'll set up a bunch of websites to try to keep their "truth" in public view.
Wait - it looks like that future is already here for the autism-mercury movement!I won't try to "convert" the "true believers", because that is precisely what it would be - conversion. The "true believers" will continue on their path, blinded to any new information by their conviction that they cannot be wrong. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will go on about its merry way, leaving the "true believers" to become ever more angry and resentful at the world's indifference to their "truth".
What I am trying to do is reach those people who have not yet become indoctrinated into the "true faith" - whether that is the mercury-causes-autism-faith or the I-didn't-evolve-from-no-monkey faith or the nature-has-cures-for-all-human-diseases faith.
Oh, and just for the record - to convince me of the validity of the mercury-causes-autism-hypothesis would take:
 Discovery of a mechanism by which mercury can cause autism without causing the other neurological sequelae known to occur with mercury poisoning
- or -
 A significant epidemiological study that shows a dose-dependent increase in autism prevalence with increasing mercury exposure.
- or -
 The discovery of the metabolic/anatomic/developmental cause of autism and clear-cut data showing that mercury can cause it.
So, it's not impossible to convince me. It may be impossible to provide the necessary data, but that would indicate that the hypothesis is not valid, not that I am impossible to convince.
You'll notice that none of my three options included public confession of guilt or malfeasance by any party. That's because I don't see that conspiracy theories have any place in science unless you have solid data of a conspiracy (more than just quotes taken out of context from a 286-page transcript). I also don't see that placing blame is necessary to support (or refute) this hypothesis.
Blame, guilt, confession and retribution are appropriate in religion - not science.
So, I hope that the autism-mercury movement will understand (I know they won't forgive) if I don't want to join their religion. If they come up with some real data, I would be happy to participate in their science.