I am only a layperson, a humble parent, and small town lawyer, who makes no pretense to being a scientist. But I have a hard time reading blogs like Respectful Insolence by Orac (Dr. David Gorski) and believing that his blog is anything remotely resembling scientific discourse. His cheap and repetitive insults about Jenny McCarthy, David Kirby, the Geirs, Dr. Wakefield, biomed autism parents and professionals, etc do not resemble the science classes I attended in High School. "Woo", "quackery" and "lunacy" and other such terms that litter his every post do not seem to belong in a truly scientific lexicon, as this humble observer understands science.
Apart from Dr. Gorski and his ranting I have looked for other alleged science bloggers at ScienceBlogs who have commented rationally about autism. I haven't found too many that deal with autism at all, other than to deride the persons listed above, and anyone who questions the possible role played by vaccines in causing autism in some children. I have found one exception though at Greg Laden's Blog.
In Autism Study Examines Cause of Apparent Rise in Rate Mr. Laden, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology, published a comment, on January 12, 2009, on the subject of the study by Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche of the M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis, which examined the apparent (Dr. Laden's adjective) rise in the frequency of diagnosed autism in California. That study noted that diagnostic definition changes, increased awareness and other social factors did not appear to explain the increases in autism noted in the study and suggested the need for more even funding of autism research to include possible environmental causes for autism.
Dr. Laden's remarks were fair, balanced and objective. He noted the limitations of the study as well as some of the possible implications. Dr. Laden addressed the fear that the study in question might have been overly influenced by anti-vax groups with an expanded 'environmental' focus but acknowledged that the study could, and should, stand or fall on its own merits in the long run. To this layperson Dr. Laden's approach smacked of .... well, of science ... as I was led to believe it existed in my school science classes:
The fact that a careful look at reporting and diagnostic effects does not readily explain the level of magnitude of the change we see here suggests that more explanation is needed.
In the absence of a correlation between these data and a list of causal effects (which could then lead to some effective hypothesis testing) it important to keep an open mind about what causes autism. I can think of no reason that this study's validity or lack thereof informs us in this regard. Those who wish to insist that no matter what there is no increase in autism rates are no less a failure at explaining autism as those who see a real increase in graphs like this one.
Meanwhile, the authors of this study and others are looking into the data further to test for environmental links.
I don't know if Dr. Laden has since retreated from his reasonable response to he UC Davis Mind study under pressure from alleged science bloggers and Neurodiversity ideologues or not. The comment section following his commentary contains diatribes from the usual Neurodiversity ideologues like Kev Leitch and Mike Stanton and of course "science" blogger Orac\Gorski who throws personal insults at Dr. Laden about his knowledge of the autism spectrum. (I am not sure what expertise, if any, Dr. Gorski has concerning autism disorders, I understand he is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery).
I was unable to find any commentary at Greg Laden's blog about the recent CDC figures on autism prevalence now estimating that 1 in 110 children are affected by an autism disorder. The study results were released just prior to Christmas with the obviously forseeable consequence that people would be occupied with other matters and not paying attention to the announcement. Perhaps he would rather just not wade again into the dirty waters inhabited by the Insolent Dr. David H. Gorski and Neurodiversity ideologues Kev Leitch and Mike Stanton.
Perhaps Greg Laden will offer commentary on the new CDC autism figures in the New Year. Whatever the situation I hope that actual science bloggers and commentators are not scared off by the likes of Gorski, Stanton and Leitch. Autism disorders, particularly Autistic Disorder, are very serious disorders that impair the lives of many. Autistic children and adults can use good scientific analysis and discussion about autism research and not the trash talk which is offered by so many alleged "science" bloggers listed at ScienceBlogs.