For example, a typical exchange on this blog and many other venues might go like this:
Mercury-Causes-Autism (MCA): "Our kids aren't autistic, they're mercury-poisoned!"
Skeptic (S): "How do you know this?"
MCA: "Because my kid is getting better on chelation!"
S: "Isn't it possible that he's getting better because of the normal progression of the disorder?"
MCA: "Are you calling me a liar?!?"
S: "No, I'm just suggesting that you might be wrong. How do you know that it's the chelation that's making him better?"
MCA: "Because he's mercury-poisoned, that's why!"
The sad fact is that most (if not all) of the people arguing that mercury causes autism haven't got a clue what they're talking (shouting? spraying spittle?) about. Even among the "leading lights" of the mercury-causes-autism, there are few who could cogently explain how mercury disrupts protein function, let alone how it could cause autism without also causing the other hallmark signs of mercury poisoning. Of course, nobody can explain the latter - which is why the mercury-causes-autism crowd is now trying to "prove" their case in the courts, including the "court of public opinion".
In his latest newsletter, Uber-Parrot Lenny Schafer admits that the scientific merits of his pet hypothesis is utterly bankrupt. From Kev Leitch's weblog:
"Myself and other autism activists believe there is enough evidence to support a causative relationship between mercury and autism in a court of law, in front of a jury, where standards of evidence are different than that of the narrow focus of scientific findings. And if you can convince a jury, you can convince the public." (italics mine)So, there you have it: Uber-Parrot Schafer publicly admits that the mercury-causes-autism hypothesis is dead and their only hope is try to win through propaganda and subterfuge what they couldn't prove by data.
Unfortunately, the cause of autism won't be determined by some sort of popularity contest or even an election. Unlike the worlds of business, public relations and venture capital, there are objective truths in science (Paul Feyerabend notwithstanding). If Schafer and Co. manage to "convince" the public that they are right, that mercury causes autism, will that change the facts of the matter? No.
In fact, this attempted end-run by Schafer, Blaxill, Handley and the rest of that sorry crew is likely to have a catastrophic effect on autism research, postponing any real discoveries by decades. After all, once the courts (or the legislatures) have ruled that autism is caused by mercury, then it's a simple matter: pay damages to the families, remove mercury from vaccines and other medications and then file it away under "closed cases".
But, of course, real autism isn't that simple. Only the mercury-causes-autism proponents are that simple.
So, what happens when ten or twenty years go by and there are still autistic children in the 3 - 5 year age range? And this is a certainty, mind you, not just a "what if". Well, it is possible that the mercury-causes-autism people will manage to convince the courts or public opinion or the legislatures that the sky is still falling and that the trace amounts of mercury in the air, food and water are the cause. And, given the abysmally short attention span of the public, this might just work.
However, we would still be no closer to finding out what actually causes autism than we are at this moment - in fact, we would be worse off. After all, having "definitively proven" (in the courts, legislatures and public opinion polls) that mercury causes autism, nobody (except those few real scientists involved in autism research) would care to look any further.
And once we've reduced mercury exposure to the background level (after all, mercury has been in the environment for 4.6 billion years or more), what then? Do we move everybody into orbit - or the moon? And what do we do when autism continues to occur even on our Mars colonies?
Clearly, long before any of this comes to pass, even "the public" will awaken to the fact that they've been bamboozled by the mercury-causes-autism crowd. And then the whole parrot-driven mercury-causes-autism hypothesis will be given a proper burial.
Or we can bury it now. It already smells dead.