Monday, December 28, 2009

A ScienceBlogs Blogger Who Discusses Autism Rationally!

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.

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farmwifetwo said...

Did you read Stanton's Xmas post... Do as I say, not as I do... Just b/c we worked hard to "cure" our son....

Therefore autism isn't really that glorious.... if it was they wouldn't have attempted to turn him into a 'normal' adult.

Just like Estee who says she's not doing therapy and then changes her mind. Truth is I can't find those posts anymore. About how they are going back into speech therapy. How she has him signed up for a worker to work on the ACD. I find she writes them and either hides or deletes them. I read one on her divorce and the next day it was gone.

Although, the one that has her private EA come and pick her kid up and take him to school... makes me realize how not part of "reality" their world truly is, unlike the other thousands of parents who have autistic kids in this province. Then to say "I want him to get a device paid for by the gov't" above link... Unreal. The rest would just like to be able to afford a little private speech therapy.....

Why the cover-up??

Anonymous said...

Not to be insulting or dismissive but it does seem that your judgment is clouted by hope and false pretences bothering on wanting to believe charlatans.

I can understand taking a subject to heart when it affects one personally but when one tries to strive for the truth and causes who would you trust more: a layman with not scientific training or someone that is actually versed in his subject?

Even your preface of :
anyone who questions the possible role played by vaccines in causing autism in some children
has of a lot of "ifs" and "buts"...
I could state that maybe purple unicorns cause autism in certain children and it would have about the same validity.

I've seen people eschew modern science for "natural", "holistic" and "organic" methods that often end up being more detrimental to your health...
Those natural supplements are often contaminated to a degree never found in pharmaceuticals...

And yes, quackery should belong in a truly scientific lexicon.

Unknown said...


No offense but your argument makes no sense. My position is that research is required to explore the environmental aspects of autism causation, all the environmental aspects. Charlatans? Dr Healey and Dr Gerberding are both ex senior public health officials. Gerberding is now the director of Merck vaccines division.

Anonymous said...

Greetings, I share in your frustration.
One of the worst culprits of this non science is a site called leftbrainrightbrain.
It is full of knuckle draggers who have all read the same pamphlet and drank some kind of pharma koolaid.
No one knows what causes Autism... end of that story far.

Anonymous said...

How ironic that before I read Cherniak's comment, the nightly TV news reported a story about yet another contaminated pharmaceutical product.

Generalizations about "holistic" medicine are useless. Every individual's health situation differs.

I wonder whether any of "Dr." Gorski's patients have read his sick writings before allowing him to operate on them. Ugh.

Also, I had heard somewhere that he may be trying to develop a breast cancer vaccine and may have a grant from the Department of Defense. I can't verify this, however, but it would explain the loud protestations.