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.
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:
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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!
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.