Sunday, February 04, 2007

Prometheus Rises

Sorry to have bugged out so suddenly and for so long. I hope that I still have a few readers left after all this time.

I unexpectedly received a grant (these days, almost nobody expects to get an NSF grant) and have been busy getting things underway. With only a year to show results, I decided it was better to scurry now than scramble later.

Anyway, life has returned to the usual degree of insanity, so I'm going to take a foray back into blogging. In the six months that the blog has been cooling, I have continued to monitor the blogosphere. And what I've seen has not been encouraging.


Mercury/Autism Madness:

Despite several goalpost moves, time is running out on the thimerosal-causes-autism hypothesis. Autism numbers from the USDE and Cal DDS continue to rise in blatant disregard of several predictions from prominent mercury/autism spokespeople that autism numbers will be falling "in 2005", "in 2007" and "sometime real soon".

Anticipating the inevitable demise of the thimerosal-in-vaccines-causes-autism hypothesis, the promoters of mercury/autism are branching out. Their strategies to date (and I may have missed a few) are:

[1] Trace amounts of thimerosal remain in the vaccines -

This tactic has an almost homeopathic ring to it. According to its advocates, the trace amounts (nanograms) of thimerosal in vaccines are as effective at causing autism as the larger amount (micrograms) previously in vaccines. This ignores the fact that the amount of thimerosal in current vaccines is orders of magnitude lower than the amount children received in the 1960's and 1970's - before the "autism epidemic" started.

[2] It's the aluminium, formaldehyde, or other additives in the vaccines.

This is the old "bait and switch" tactic. They have no data to support their proposed link between thimerosal and autism, but they have created a public uproar about it. This strategy is an attempt to transfer the "buzz" they created about mercury to some other vaccine component.

It took years to put a stake through the heart of mercury/autism and it would take just as long to accumulate the data to refute the aluminium/autism hypothesis. This would be a tremendous waste of time and money, since there is even less reason to suspect that aluminium in vaccines can cause autism.

[3] Mercury from other sources is causing autism.

Considering the numerous studies that have shown that terrestrial mercury deposition is lower now than any time since the early 1960's, this is an obvious desperation shot. It is clearly aimed at the general public, rather than anyone in the scientific community, where it was dead on arrival. Mercury from power plants, crematoria or China are not going to push exposure above where it was in the 1960's (or 1880's), so this has no real hope of success.

[4] Data from USDE and Cal DDS are not valid.

This one is almost embarrassing, since it's what their opponents have been saying all along. However, there are a few arguments in the blogosphere from mercury/autism proponents that are using this line of "reasoning". Having used the USDE and Cal DDS data to support their "autism epidemic", they now argue that the same data source cannot show the expected decline. In other words, the data can only show a rise in autism prevalence, not a decline.

Of course, more than a few people have argued for years that the USDE and Cal DDS don't show anything useful about real autism prevalence - up or down. Now, having (ab)used the data to come up with an "autism epidemic", they argue that the data is no good. Amazing!


Autism "Therapies"

The insanity continues unabated. Risperidone is an evil pharmaceutical and Lupron is a wonder drug. Amazing. There are numerous studies showing that the former is a useful treatment for some children with autism and nothing except some wild (and nonsensical) supposition to support the latter. Yet parents are told to fear and shun "drugs" and treat their children with Lupron (not a drug?) instead.

I eagerly await the news that the "alternative" autism treatment community has found a single therapy without merit and abandoned it. But it hasn't happened yet. And I suspect that it will never happen.

Real medicine periodically finds therapies lacking and discards them. "Alternative" medicine appears to make no mistakes and adopts nothing but effective therapies. This would be in keeping with the larger-than-life superhuman nature of its practitioners, no doubt.


Creationism ("Intelligent Design")

Having undergone several painful and public drubbings, the Creationists have returned to their holes to lick their wounds. But, they will be back - count on it. In fact, they are already sending out some tentative feelers to see how they can get their religion back into the science classes. The first of these may be an attempt to cast "Darwinism" as a religious faith. Another is the portrayal of the recent court cases as attempts to "suppress scientific dissent".

In either case, we will have to remain vigilent against the intrusions of the creationists into the science classrooms. I have my own ideas, which I will in due course trot out for evaluation right here.


For the meanwhile, it's good to be back in the blogosphere.


Prometheus

23 Comments:

Anonymous isles said...

Wondered where you were! Good to see you back in the game. There's more woo out there than ever.

04 February, 2007 20:15  
Anonymous Camille said...

Yaaaaay! Nice to see you blogging again.

04 February, 2007 21:03  
Anonymous hj said...

It's great to have you back Prom. I look forward to reading your blog on a regular basis again. Take Care.

04 February, 2007 21:50  
Blogger ParanoidMarvin said...

At least one reader is still here. Welcome back!

BTW, an NSF grant in what field, if I may ask?

04 February, 2007 23:18  
Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

Welcome back, Prometheus!

Your comments have been missed.

05 February, 2007 01:18  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

Welcome back! I thought you might have gained mental health.
I think you forgot to mention the flu shot being given to pregnant mothers. We have always noted the Rhogam shot as a problem since the mercury from it affects the brain of the fetus. Of course, the mercury in the flu shot is equally dangerous.
You probably also forgot that aluminum has been mentioned as a problem in Alzheimer's simce before the autism epidemic began. Alzheimer's isn't much different than autism so finding a problem with aluminum fits right in here.
Myself, I have thrown out Audio Integration Therapy and Dolphin Therapy as viable treatments. I'd be quick to do the same with others if I knew of them.

05 February, 2007 03:52  
Blogger Kathleen Seidel said...

Yo, Pro! Welcome back! I was just thinking of you yesterday, when I drove down to the UMass library and photocopied, among other items, Cooper et al's "The Crystal Structure and Absolute Configuration of the 2:1 Complex between Testosterone and Mercuric Chloride." Such a thrilling read, especially the bit about how the crystals formed "in a sealed container at a constant temperature of 50 degrees C." Real physiological (NOT).

Speaking of unabated insanity, do you realize that the Geiers have branched out into drugging ASD teenagers with Lupron, and that they're dosing their subjects to the max -- two daily subcutaneous shots, and two monthly intramuscular depots? Check out these posts by a Kansas mom, four of whose six children are "on the protocol." How convenient that her insurance (possibly including Medicaid) is willing to pay for it.

05 February, 2007 04:32  
Blogger Bartholomew Cubbins said...

Welcome back. We missed you. Congratulations on the grant, indeed it is tough these days.

05 February, 2007 05:16  
Blogger notmercury said...

WELCOME BACK! We've missed you.

"I eagerly await the news that the "alternative" autism treatment community has found a single therapy without merit and abandoned it. But it hasn't happened yet."

Well there have been a few that have simply faded away due to lack of interest but they always manage to make a reappearance in some new and approved/transdermal/microrencapsulated/nasal spray - formulation.

I'm aware of at least 4 different flavors of secretin still being dispensed by DAN! doctors.

On the subject of prescription drugs, Actos (diabetes drug) is the latest off-label autism med.

05 February, 2007 05:26  
Anonymous Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren said...

Good to see you back and that the reason for your absence was such a joyful one!

05 February, 2007 06:17  
Blogger Kev said...

Welcome back ;o)

05 February, 2007 06:43  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Thank you everyone for your warm welcome back.

Fore Sam - don't ever change, man; you are the best example of what I'm fighting against. I couldn't invent someone as consistently (Or is it persistently? As in perseveration.) on the woo side.

Once more into the breach, dear friends!


Prometheus

05 February, 2007 09:23  
Blogger Joseph said...

Having used the USDE and Cal DDS data to support their "autism epidemic", they now argue that the same data source cannot show the expected decline. In other words, the data can only show a rise in autism prevalence, not a decline.

I have argued that they are actually better at showing declines. They do give a good approximate lower bound on prevalence. In CDDS, for example, only a bit over 1% of children with an "autism" classification are completely off the spectrum. So if the prevalence of what is supposed to be "full syndrome" autism in Californian 3-5 year olds is not going below 40 in 10,000 according to CDDS, it's reasonable to conclude thimerosal removal did not achieve anything.

Another way to look at it is that if a substantial portion of the caseload increase in California is attributable to a thimerosal dose increase, which is a crucial part of the thimerosal hypothesis, then removal of thimerosal should cause a noticeable drop in the 3-5 CDDS caseload, independently of how accurate CDDS autism ascertainment is.

Kirby's excuses rely on impossible coincidences and precisely timed major events that did not happen that way.

Welcome back, BTW.

05 February, 2007 09:55  
Anonymous HCN said...

Welcome back! You have been missed.

05 February, 2007 10:49  
Blogger mcewen said...

Welcome back and thanks for the helpful summary. I think you're right that things do look a little bleak when you see the main issues being bashed around, but I find that I can keep a little more grounded from other blogsites where the reality of everyday autism is a little more humble.
Cheers

05 February, 2007 13:34  
Blogger Anne said...

Hey Prometheus, every time I see the phrase "46 chromosomes" on the top of your page, I think you're 46 years old. Just thought I'd share that with you. (Not that there's anything wrong with being 46. I was 46 once.)

Nice to see you back.

05 February, 2007 14:14  
Anonymous mike stanton said...

Hi there Prometheus
Welcome back into the blogosphere! We have grown a bit in your absence but we have not managed to replace you yet.

05 February, 2007 16:41  
Blogger bcpmoon said...

Welcome back, it would have been a shame if you had been gone for good.

05 February, 2007 21:56  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Nice seeing you back in business.

05 February, 2007 23:56  
Anonymous Amy Alkon said...

Glad you're back. Orac sent me before -- and now. You're much-needed...please stick around this time.

06 February, 2007 05:19  
Blogger llewelly said...

Welcome back.

06 February, 2007 07:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. Orac sent me. Welcome back--glad the hiatus was for a good cause.

06 February, 2007 09:17  
Anonymous Mark J. said...

Cool, Orac said you were back and here I see that you are!!! Welcome back and I look forward to reading you again.

06 February, 2007 10:45  

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