Friday, August 26, 2005

The Future is Now?

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I ran across an amazing exchange on Kevin Leitch's Left Brain/Right Brain blog. Asked to say what would change his mind, a member of the autism-mercury movement answered with the following [typos in the orginal]:


"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:

[1] Discovery of a mechanism by which mercury can cause autism without causing the other neurological sequelae known to occur with mercury poisoning

- or -

[2] A significant epidemiological study that shows a dose-dependent increase in autism prevalence with increasing mercury exposure.

- or -

[3] 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.


Prometheus.

9 Comments:

Anonymous HCN said...

I'm sorry I tried, but I had to look... yuck, I feel icky now:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/autism-and-chelation-whe_b_6286.html

26 August, 2005 20:40  
Blogger Kev said...

Here's an even better quote from the guy who runs www.autismmedia.com

"My daughter’s brain is not done growing and developing. She has a chance to be the person GOD meant her to be....[snip]....There is nothing you can do or say that will stay me from the course I am meant to take(.)"

Chilling.

26 August, 2005 23:47  
Blogger bonni said...

On closer examination, however, these always turn out to be religion masquerading as science.

Yes, it's a little cult. The believe in the Great God Chealtion, and the Devil Mercury. Only by exorcising the Devil (which must be achieved by God) can there being salvation.

I've always said that faith is a fine thing when applied to matters spiritual and religious, and potentially deadly when applied to matters scientific and medical. I believe it more than ever now.

29 August, 2005 05:16  
Blogger JP said...

Generation Rescue's "official" statement - as opposed to the unofficial statement made on the EOH board by Handley a few days ago:

http://www.generationrescue.org/tariq.html

Nice to see everyone's getting in lockstep with the "nobody's funding our research" mantra. Took them a few days, but they found their soundbite.

Oh, and notice the delicious irony of Generation Rescue saying that 10,000 children have been treated by over 400 doctors using chelation therapy, yet at the same time lamenting the lack of governmental interest in the subject.

10,000 children would make a pretty powerful clinical study, wouldn't it? Yet all GR has to promote is their testimonials? After all this time?

Did you know Cave, Holmes, and Bradstreet have been treating kids with chelation for a decade now?

10,000 kids. And they couldn't be bothered to do put out one peer-reviewed paper on the use of chelation for autism.

29 August, 2005 15:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where are those ten thousand now? after a decade shouldn't there be thousands of recovered autistics running around? out of ten thousand you would think they could produce more than a handful of "recovered" kids for the DVD exclaiming autism is treatable? even if 10% of them recovered it would be difficult to ignore but where are they? Hidden horde?

30 August, 2005 07:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might like to look at the polls section of the EofHarm yahoogroup and see what the members of that group believe will happen when mercury is out of vaccines.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EOHarm/surveys?id=1274297

30 August, 2005 08:47  
Blogger JP said...

The number one answer to date:

If rates don't fall, it would mean that big pharma is lying about the mercury content of vaccines.

That tells you just about all you need to know.

30 August, 2005 11:22  
Anonymous Just passing by said...

Hi. I came across your blog by a websearch for Prometheus. I never thought it would take me here. I have read from your first post in June to this post I'm commenting on. I've been on this blog for about an hour (or more!)

I don't know anything about the "science" behind autism or anything like that. I do know 3 autistic children, though. I just wanted to say that your coming across to me as trying to hard to disprove a theory/hypothesis (whatever) and it makes me suspect as to your motives. Even the commenters on your blog are the same people every time and they also seem very much wanting to deny any link (not to mention some have been downright mean/hostile).

I am trying to keep an open mind - but this blog seems to be an obsession or a "job" and it makes me even more leery of vaccines/thimerosal and what this blog's intent is. You (and your commenters) are trashing parents of autistic children. That is despicable.

17 September, 2005 23:56  
Anonymous María Luján said...

Mr Prometeus
I am the mom of an PDDNOS child and I am also a scientist (PhD in Chemistry) but not a doctor.
If you are so prone to an intelligent discussion, I will happy to discuss my vission of this with you, with mutual respect. My email is ferreiramaralujn@yahoo.com
When you say
Oh, and just for the record - to convince me of the validity of the mercury-causes-autism-hypothesis would take:

[1] Discovery of a mechanism by which mercury can cause autism without causing the other neurological sequelae known to occur with mercury poisoning

There are a lot of scientific studies about mercury effects. It is not only mercury the problem, also the combination with Al, formaldehyde, , multiple viruses, antibiotic overuse, environmental insult, genetic polymorphisms etc.
- or -

[2] A significant epidemiological study that shows a dose-dependent increase in autism prevalence with increasing mercury exposure.

Epidemiology here is not useful because not all are similarly affected by mercury/Al/toxins due to genetics. There are several epidemiological studies that have shown the correlation.Epidemiological studies only quantify a risk at a population level and are subject to manipulation. They cant discard or support causality.
- or -

[3] The discovery of the metabolic/anatomic/developmental cause of autism and clear-cut data showing that mercury can cause it.

There are clear studies about this and clear explanation of the processes that produces the symptoms.

Did you read the DAN! conferences? Did you read the Mc Candless book?
Did you read the Dr YAzbak work?
Did you read the Dr Boyd Haley work?

Please let me know if you are interested. If not, sorry if I disturbed you
MAría Luján Ferreira-Argentina

01 October, 2005 22:45  

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