Posts Tagged 'Autism'

Enlightning Bolts – 01.28.2010

Dr. Rachael Dunlop of the Skeptic Zone podcast is up for a Shorty Award (a Twitter contest), in the category of health. She’s up against some alternative medicine pushers, so if you have a Twitter account vote!

If you’re in favour of English Libel Law reform (keeping libel laws out of science), check out this website and sign the petition if you agree:

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

Here‘s an account of PZ’s recent visit to Winnipeg by another local blogger who took notes. Smart!

Canada AM once again provides a platform to a kook: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spouts nonsense, including the ridiculous idea that “even a molecule of mercury could destroy brain cells and cause deformities in children.” What the what? Fail! It’s a morning show, so I don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism, but he was saying some horrible and blatantly wrong things, and there was almost no voice of skepticism. This piece even seemed to be propping him up as some kind of hero. Awful.

Steve over at Skeptic North has kindly responded to this, check it out here. Thanks Steve!

And last, but definitely not least, Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who started the whole vaccines cause autism myth, was investigated by the General Medical Council. They found that he “acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in his research and with ‘callous disregard’ for the children that were the subject of his research.”

I predicted on Twitter that the anti-vax response to this would be something like: “Wakefield being found guilty will prove that the courts are IN TEH POCKET of Big Pharma!!!111” It turns out I wasn’t even that far off.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – Why my iPod Didn’t Kill my Computer

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is Latin for “after this, therefore because of this,” or in other words, associating correlation with causation.

People are notorious for making this error in logic, because when something significant happens we want to be able to know & explain why it happened.

I was guilty of this error the other day when my laptop broke (I lost all of my files, I cried and learned my lesson – back them up!!!). I was going about my computer business as usual, and remembered that my iPod battery was nearly drained, so decided to plug it in. As soon as the cord hit the USB port, the screen went black, it crashed, and I couldn’t turn it back on.

I blamed this crash on the iPod, I even yelled at it and threw the cord against the wall! But when my husband took it in to get fixed, they said it wasn’t possible that the iPod was what caused the problem. Sorry iPod, it was just a coincidence that my computer happened to die at the exact moment that I plugged it in. I think this is a great example that helps to understand why many people buy into the anti-vaccine movement in spite of the complete lack of evidence correlating vaccines with autism.

Just like a certain amount of peoples’ computers will crash shortly after they plug their iPods into their USB ports, a certain number of children will be diagnosed with autism shortly after they are immunized. Just because it happens before, doesn’t mean it was the cause.

There’s a story that Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets, likes to tell that illustrates this beautifully:

My wife is a privately practicing pediatrician in the suburbs. And she was in the office one day and there was a four-month-old sitting on her mother’s lap. And my wife was drawing a vaccine into a syringe that she was about to give this child. Well, while she was drawing the vaccine into a syringe the child had a seizure, and actually went on to have a permanent seizure disorder—epilepsy. And there had been a family history of epilepsy, so she was certainly at risk for that. If my wife had given that vaccine five minutes earlier, I think there’s no amount of statistical data in the world that would have convinced that mother that anything other than the vaccine caused the seizure, because I think those sort of emotional events are very hard to argue against.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy “Your Shape” by Ubisoft

Ubisoft has a new game for the Wii, and it looks fun! I would actually probably have bought it (since I got a Wii for Christmas) if it weren’t for one very unfortunate detail…Jenny McCarthy is their spokesperson.

This should be a problem for anyone who cares about children, because Jenny McCarthy promotes dangerous anti-vaccine lunacy that kills children.

Among McCarthy’s many weird ideas about health, is her theory that her son’s autism was caused by vaccines. In spite of the fact that this idea has been repeatedly and very thoroughly proven wrong, McCarthy continues to spread her lies.

Please click on and read the links in this post, and decide for yourself whether you want to purchase a product that supports someone who has taken what is probably the single greatest medical advance in history, and turned it into something that scares parents into not immunizing their children.

Here is a post about why you shouldn’t buy any Ubisoft products, and here is one about Jenny McCarthy’s involvement with the game, and who you can contact to complain about this poor choice of spokesperson.

Help spread the word on your blog, or on Twitter (follow me while you’re there @EnlightningLinZ) and send an email to Ubisoft.

As of January 3, 2010

Homeopaths Curing Autism

Yeah, right. If a homeopathic preparation ever does anything more than quench someone’s thirst I’ll eat my foot.

Homeopathy is the ridiculous idea that the more you dilute something the more effective it becomes. It’s pure pre-scientific magical thinking, and it should have been laughed into distant memory decades ago. But clever marketing and the draw of making money selling water and sugar pills to an unsuspecting public has made homeopathy a booming industry.

Now, homeopaths are claiming to be able to cure autism. Assholes.

They currently have a film in production: “The first film about the potential of homeopathy to reverse autism is well under way and production is starting this summer on the second – the potential of homeopathy in epidemic diseases.” THERE IS NO POTENTIAL!!! IT’S WATER!!! The film looks to be about families with autistic children who have been treated by homeopaths.

It looks like a crap film though, you can watch the clip here, so hopefully nobody will see it.

But on the website they have a couple telling bits of information that make me think that they must know that they’re being deceitful.

Parents have been reluctant to film their children’s  struggle prior to treatment, so the film lacks good ‘before’ footage of the children filmed so far.

They’re asking you to just trust them. Because someone who peddles snake oil for a living is soooo trustworthy.

Complementary medicine and homeopathy in particular is under increasing pressure to ‘prove’ itself efficacious.

Making a film that tells the story from the homeopathic perspective means that we need to retain final editorial control and therefore we need to raise the funding to make the film.

In other words, “we need your money so we can say whatever we want without the constraints of evidence.”

Isn’t autism hard enough without kooks like Carol Boyce (the filmmaker & a homeopath) peddling false hope?

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