ENRON-Style Accounting by the Autism-Mercury Cult
It's a pity that government agencies can't sue for libel, because this sure meets the criteria - the authors know, or should have known, that what they were writing was false and defamatory. Mind you, this hasn't stopped them before.
"Put Children First", in the context of SafeMinds and Generation Rescue, brings to mind images of innocent children being used as human shields.
Comparing Apples and Orangutans
The "6,000% increase" is nicely demolished by Mike Stanton in his blog, Action for Autism, to which I commend the reader.
What's in a Number?
I would like to take aim at another persistent "mistake" the autism ghouls are pushing - the "1.5 million children with autism" in the US.
According to the US Census Bureau - which I'm sure Generation Rescue sees as just another cog in the giant Conspiracy-to-Hide-the-True-Cause-of-Autism - there were 73,949,950 "children" (defined as persons 17 years of age and younger) as of March, 2006. Even if we take the current worst-case estimate of autism as 1 in 166, that would only yield 445,482 (rounding up) "children" with autism. To get to 1.5 million "children with autism" would require that one child in 50 have autism. Not even the mercury ghouls have tried to push that figure.
So how would they get 1.5 million autistic people in the US?
Again, data from the US Census Bureau reveals that the US population (as of March 2006) was 292,947,437 (I don't know how they get such precision - ask them). An autistic population of 1.5 million would require a prevalence of "only" one in 195 persons - well within the numbers estimated for true autism prevalence.
However, that would also require that the mercury ghouls give up their premise that autism has dramatically risen in recent years. In fact, to keep to their claim that autism "exploded" since the1990's, the bulk of their claimed 1.5 million autistic children would have to be in the age range of 0 to 15 years, which is clearly impossible, as demonstrated above.
Building a Cult on Shifting Paradigms
Thomas Kuhn, a physicist turned philosopher, wrote a great deal on the philosophy of the scientific method. He, you may recall, was the one who coined the ever-popular phrase "paradigm shift". In his writings - which take a rather simplistic view of scientific progress, to be sure - he describes three phases of a scientific "paradigm":
 Pre-science, when the theories of the emerging paradigm are in flux and hotly debated.
 Normal science, when the theories are taken as a matter-of-fact and most work is on fine-tuning the way the paradigm represents the real world. This is also the time when the "anomalies" of the paradigm - the ways in which it fails to conform to reality - are discovered and accumulate.
 Crisis/revolution - where the limitations of the old paradigm result in a relatively small number of scientists in the field adopting a new paradigm, which rapidly becomes the dominant paradigm (after a period of "pre-science" for the new paradigm, while it is being formulated).
According to Kuhn - and the history of science - a steadily decreasing number of scientists will cling to the old paradigm, often using irrational reasoning to support it and/or to refute the new paradigm.
I bring this up because it occurs to me that the mercury-causes-autism groups are entering the crisis/revolution phase of their paradigm. In fact, the mercury-causes-autism paradigm has been a marvelous model for Kuhn's hypotheses - even though there was never much support for the paradigm in the scientific community.
Despite the fact that the mercury-causes-autism hypothesis never made it to "normal science" in the larger scientific community, it still is a useful model of Kuhn's postulates - in much the way that "Sim City" is a model for urban planning. Think of it as an experiment to see if pseudoscience (as modeled by the mercury-causes-autism hypothesis) will follow the same pattern as real science.
In the late 1990's, there was a "pre-scientific" (pre-pseudoscientific?) period in the mercury-causes-autism paradigm, following which a group of largely non-scientists (the few scientists showing little scientific method) published the "normative" article associating the symptoms of mercury poisoning with the almost completely dissimilar symptoms of autism. Of course, since none of the authors had ever seen mercury poisoning, their minds were unencumbered by the data that typically clutters most real scientific thinking.
For a period of time - at least within the pseudoscientific and "alternative medicine" communities - the mercury-causes-autism paradigm was "normal pseudoscience" and "researchers" (pseudoresearchers?) sought - rather than trying to test the hypothesis - to find ways to reconcile it with reality (to the extent they were able to perceive reality beyond their preconceptions).
Now, with a growing body of data refuting the hypothesis (which the pseudoscientists steadfastly try to ignore or marginalize) and with a growing number of self-evident contradictions in the hypothesis (see above) which require more and more elaborate "fixes" to resolve, the paradigm is in crisis. All that remains to be seen is if the pseudoscientific community will act anything like the scientific community would. This is the truly fascinating part of the "experiment".
At this time, it is unclear which path the mercury-causes-autism paradigm will take. It could take the scientific path and be rejected infavor of a new pseudoscientific paradigm or it could even - although this is very unlikely - be replaced by a scientific paradigm. Or it could go down the cult path (e.g. Cold Fusion) and morph into a full-blown faith, where ignorance is enshrined and any data aginst the canon is seen as "the work of the Devil".
Clearly, a number of the Generation Rescue types will head down the "cult" path. Many of them are already at the end of that path, waiting for the rest of their group. The few real scientists who have been sucked into this maelstrom will either have to swallow their pride (for some, it will be too much to swallow) or ride out this paradigm in an eerie imitation of Slim Pickens' final scene in "Dr Strangelove".
We now enter the final phase of the "experiment".
It's a pity Thomas Kuhn isn't alive to see it happen. Or perhaps it's a pity that we are.