I get e-mail, too

Yes, it’s true that PZ probably gets ten times the amount of crank e-mail that I do. It’s also true that, because he has the most popular ScienceBlog, his readers have a tendency to put extra effort into their “correspondence” with him. But I do occasionally get the long, rambling screed from an alternative medicine aficionado or a tirade from a Holocaust denier telling me that Hitler was actually a really great guy who couldn’t possibly have ordered the extermination of European Jewry. But, what am I to make of this e-mail? (Below the fold):

From: Adam Smith
To: oracknows@gmail.com
Date Oct 1, 2007 2:14 PM
Subject Autism increasing with ethnic diversity

Dear Sir/Madam

I write to you about the subject of autism and other genetic conditions which I hope you will find of as much interest as I do. I will explain why I believe there has been a ten fold increase in autism over the past decade according to research.

The rise in autism is happening in Britain and America but not other countries across Europe like Germany or France or Austria. I will explain the reason why.

The British and Americans are much more ethnically diverse than other nations,


The Germans are only part German.
The Austrians are only part Austrian.
The French are only part French.
The Dutch are only part Dutch.
The Irish are only part Irish.
The Russians are only part Russian.

The British and Americans however are part French, part German, part Dutch, part Irish or perhaps part Swiss, part Italian or part Russian, part Spanish. Etc ( i.e. multi ethnic)

Higher rates of genetic conditions in Britain and America are because the sub races or ethnic groups like the French, English, Germans , Austrians, Australians, Irish are mixing the most there.

If the mixing of the sub-race continues , Autism and other genetic conditions will grow and grow. With mass immigration into Britain hitting an all time high it will hit there the hardest. Evidence points to that it already has.

Autism is caused by the mixing of different ethnic groups.

Thank you

Get it? According to “Adam Smith,” the autism “epidemic” (which, by the way, is not really an epidemic) is due to race-mixing! You know, I may have to ask PZ for his style sheet that allows his blockquoting of wingnuts to be so distinctive. Let’s be clear here. What’s almost certainly bothering this “Adam Smith” is not the “mixing” of Russians with Dutch or Spanish with Irish or French with British. What is almost certainly really bothering “Adam Smith” is the influx of all those nasty dark-skinned races into Europe and the increasing acceptance of mixed race marriages (or “miscegenation,” as Smith no doubt would have preferred to phrase it if he weren’t trying ineffectively to mask his racism).

Of course, “Smith” has it all wrong, although it is true that evidence suggests that autism has a strong genetic component. In general, closed populations with little interbreeding with other populations, start to accumulate genetic disorders. Think old order Amish or Mennonite or Ashkenazi Jews. However, I will give him “credit” (such as it is) for having come up with the most bizarre “real” cause of autism that I’ve yet heard.


  1. #1 Ezekiel Buchheit
    October 3, 2007

    The real question is: does the mixing of races lead to a greater propensity for uptake of mercury from vaccines? If so, was multi-culturalism also a part of the Illuminati/Vaccination conspiracy? And how does cellural energy quantum affects change within sub-races of humans?

    I’ve heard that blue tinfoil is in this season for fall CIA brain-beam protection headwear.

  2. #2 John McKay
    October 3, 2007

    I love it. This is one of the best all purpose explanations I’ve seen in a long time. You can use it to explain any increasing negative phenomenon that alarms you. Increase in asthma? Miscegenation is to blame. Obesity? Miscegenation. Bad drivers? Miscegenation. Devaluation of the dollar? Miscegenation. Hershey bars are smaller than when I was a kid? Miscegenation. Kids have no respect these days? Miscegenation. Earthquakes, wars, and rumors of wars? Miscegenation. Nothing good to watch on teevee…

  3. #3 qetzal
    October 3, 2007

    John McKay,

    We might as well take that to its logical conclusion. If we assume some sort of positive feedback, we can even blame miscegenation for miscegenation!


  4. #4 Joseph Hertzlinger
    October 3, 2007

    They’re getting better at it. A common argument against racism is that yesterday’s racists turned out to be wrong when they predicted disaster. So… the new tactic is to insist that the disaster happened anyway. It’s easy enough to do. Pick a possibly-imaginary disaster that appears to be happening. Point out that it occurred in a period of race mixing.

    Of course, if the problem declines in a period of even more race mixing, find another problem.

    This type of tactic is not limited to racists.

  5. #5 IanR
    October 3, 2007

    I think that, like global warming, the autism “epidemic” is caused by the lack of pirates

  6. #6 Warren
    October 3, 2007

    I will give him “credit” (such as it is) for having come up with the most bizarre “real” cause of autism that I’ve yet heard.

    Bah. Research shows that autism is really caused by acupuncture.

  7. #7 Monty
    October 3, 2007

    Hey Ezekiel- you forgot the Freemasons, the Bilderberg, the Trilateral Comission, the Reptilians…

  8. #8 Aaron M
    October 3, 2007

    If only this guy had some sort of final solution to this problem…

  9. #9 Martín Pereyra
    October 3, 2007

    If racial mixing is the cause of autism, and this Adam dude says a steady ethnic interbreeding will make autism rates increase with time, we should expect that regions with most ethnic interbreeding will have the highest autism rates. There must be millions of autists in Brazil, where descendants of Amerindians, Portuguese colonists, their Black African slaves, and lately Germanic and Asian peoples have happily interbred during 500 years. Someone less cranky should have noted that by now, right? Where are the statistics, the tons of evidence for Brazilian autists accumulated for almost five centuries?

  10. #10 Kristina
    October 3, 2007

    And who is this Adam Smith—what invisible hand does he think he sees in operation…..

    I received this email too. My son being half Irish American and half Chinese American, it was rather chilling to read. More ways to blame parents.

  11. #11 Alex, FCD
    October 3, 2007

    Hey, that’s kind of like how genetics works! Only backwards!

  12. #12 uknesvuinng
    October 3, 2007

    I’m reminded of something a friend of mine heard at a KKK rally (she was reporting it for a local paper). In response to someone calling the KKK a bunch of inbred rednecks, one of the racists replied “Better inbred than crossbred.” When told of this, all I could think is “someone doesn’t understand that a limited gene pool is a bad thing…”

  13. #13 Freddy the Pig
    October 4, 2007

    “Better inbred than crossbred”

    Average life expectancy for purebred dogs – 8 years.

    Average life expectancy for mixed breed dogs – 13 years.

  14. #14 Coin
    October 4, 2007

    *sigh* I am unhappy to report that I’ve actually run across this one before. In fact, it was my introduction to autism crankery in the first place.

    A blog site I used to be a regular user on was for a long time plagued with this particular crazy white supremacist “Christian libertarian” who had several bugbears in which direction he would constantly try to steer any conversation in which he was let loose– most of which seemed innocuous on the surface, but which once he was able to latch onto them, invariably turned out to be ways of steering the conversation toward blaming Jews or “racial mixing” for something evil in the world.

    One of his really big bugbears was autism. He brought that one up a LOT, and if allowed to speak on the subject would spew out quite a lot of information– but all of it was basically designed to eventually allow him to insert his pet theory, which was that autism was caused by nonwhites. Specifically he thought that autism was caused by some kind of unidentified virus, which he claimed came over from India. The sole basis I ever saw provided for this suggestion was some extremely dubious bunch of numbers showing that immigration from east asia into Britain (I don’t know why Britain) had been going up over the same period that reported cases of autism had been going up (in other words the last 30 years).

    (I’m not even going to bother going into the myriad problems with this idea, except to note that the dubious numbers, incidentally, came from a single “study”, collected by what appeared to be a private individual with no credentials whatsoever and no verifiable existence; I mention this because I can only conclude that this was some pseudoscholarship source internal to the white supremacy community, and that this was in fact the exact same source or one of the sources “Adam Smith” was getting his strange ideas from, given the bizarrely specific reference to “mass immigration into Britain hitting an all time high” in the email Orac received.)

    Anyway, the tricky thing about this guy’s technique was that he wouldn’t usually come right forward with his “the immigrants are coming to infect us with autism” thing. No, what he’d do is try to lay out the entire range of suggested causes for the autism “epidemic”, from vaccines on down, and then insert his theory at the end as simply one of a series of options. This served a couple of purposes. First off, by throwing in the “legitimate” content represented by the various autism theories, he was basically able to circumvent the site’s moderation mechanisms, which tended to knock out his overtly racist posts. Second off, by gradually easing in to his idea he likely softened the “oh, bullshit” reaction most people would have upon hitting the idea raw. He allowed the mercury groups to make his arguments for him along the lines that the autism epidemic exists and a cause needs to be found, and then once minor crankery had been accepted or at least worked past he introduced the major crankery.

    It was, in retrospect, a really good example of how the kind of environment of factual relativism cultivated by most forms of denialism and crankery– don’t worry too much about the details, consider all possibilities equally and think outside the box, even if the box in question is “standards of rationality and evidence”– can allow some really odious and ridiculous ideas to thrive. Extremists can introduce Intelligent Design ideas so as to soften the blow when young-earth creationist ideas are introduced shortly after, or introduce AIDS-denialist ideas so as to soften the blow when the argument shifts to “germ theory is wrong!” or something. In a lot of these cases the trick isn’t even that the second idea is a more-extreme version of the first one; the point is just to eliminate the idea that anything is true or false, and then once that’s out of the way the sky’s the limit.

    (This just happened to be a rather extreme example, where a pitch was made for “consider all arguments on this list fairly”, specifically for purposes of including an item with literally no justification offered for support except for the fact it’s on the list…)

  15. #15 Dunc
    October 4, 2007

    Wow. Somebody really needs to learn something about the history of migration in Europe. To assert that “French”, “German” or “Dutch” are distinct ethnic groups is remarkably stupid.

  16. #16 Michael
    October 4, 2007

    Clearly his conclusions are incorrect. It is obvious that the cause is language. The English, Americans, Australians are all having an “epidemic”. They all speak English. Other races don’t, and they are not having an epidemic. Proof positive, surely: the English language causes the epidemic. Probably the new words (like iPod, Blog, and Internet).

  17. #17 PaulT
    October 4, 2007

    Blimey, Michael, I think you’re onto something. What does autism affect? The brain. Where are words stored? The brain! It’s obvious, really.

    There’s got to be a research grant for this one.

  18. #18 littlespacegirl
    October 5, 2007

    Michael, for shame! You forgot us Canadians!

    Has no one heard of ‘hybrid vigour’?

    Or read ‘Children With Green Eyes’?

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