Respectful Insolence

One way that pseudoscience tries to maintain a patina of respectability to the outside world, a patina that sometimes even manages to take in researchers unacquainted with its methods, is through the “research conference” that has all the trappings of a research meeting but whose topics reveal the pseudoscience at the heart of it all. Such a conference is coming up this spring in Chicago from May 21-25.

Yes, I’m talking about the AutismOne conference, which, year after year, has managed to attract luminaries of the mercury militia and antivaccination movement, along with dubious practioners of “biomedical cures” of autism. This year, the mercury militia are all atwitter because the keynote speaker is going to be none other than that ex-Playboy Playmate and graduate of the University of Google on autism, who has claimed that she has cured her son Evan of autism and could make him autistic again if she stopped all the diet and biomedical interventions to which she’s been subjecting him, Jenny McCarthy, the same woman who is writing a book about “mother warriors” (warriors in the cause of stupidity is more like it, at least in McCarthy’s case).

Meanwhile, get a load of some of the speakers, which is loaded with members of the mercury militia, such as Boyd Haley, Mark and David Geier (who, remarkably, are still touting their Lupron protocol quackery), Mayer Eisenstein (whom we’ve met before), and a number of others, with talks of the like of Thimerosal – Over 50 years of known toxicity! (Unsafe at any Concentration) by Frank Engley, who says this: “NOT GRAM- NOT MILLIGRAM – NOT MICROGRAM- BUT NANOGRAM!”

I actually couldn’t stomach any more, but if you have any doubt that AutismOne is nothing more than a mutual self-congratulation conference for the mercury militia and autism pseudoscience, just peruse the abstract list. Any semblance of actual science is so completely drowned out by antivaccination posturing and biomedical claims that I wonder why anyone who wants to be taken seriously (Mady Hornig, for example) would be associated with it.

Too bad the ASCO Meeting in Chicago this year doesn’t overlap with this one; I’d be highly tempted to make an appearance at AutismOne, just for blog material.

Comments

  1. #1 Coin
    February 25, 2008

    Thimerosal – Over 50 years of known toxicity! (Unsafe at any Concentration) by Frank Engley, who says this: “NOT GRAM- NOT MILLIGRAM – NOT MICROGRAM- BUT NANOGRAM!”

    What if it were present in homeopathic concentrations, where no thimerosal molecules statistically remain?

  2. #2 Mr. Brown
    February 25, 2008

    Thimerosal – Over 50 years of known toxicity! (Unsafe at any Concentration) by Frank Engley, who says this: “NOT GRAM- NOT MILLIGRAM – NOT MICROGRAM- BUT NANOGRAM!”

    Seriously, if they are that paranoid over mercury in the vaccine, they should have been just as vigilant over the mercury in the florescent tubes and tuna.

  3. #3 Tlazolteotl
    February 25, 2008

    And they don’t seem concerned about their kids’ exposure to phthalates or flame retardants either (or list your favorite emerging environmental toxin here).

  4. #4 Rod Clark
    February 25, 2008

    They even have a homeopath speaking at the conference. I feel sorry for the unwitting parents who get duped by these quacks.

  5. #5 Uncle Dave
    February 25, 2008

    Maybe if her acting career really took off she would not have the time to join in with the pitch forks and torches group standing outside the walls of science. Someone keep her occupied!!

    BTW thats, Frankenschtien!!!

  6. #6 Uncle Dave
    February 25, 2008

    Note that this individual listed as a speaker at this event might actually present some material of practical interest, maybe not;

    Marion Blank, PhD
    “Reading Comprehension: Why This Skill Is So Elusive and How It Can Be Fostered”

    Some of the listed speakers appear to be in the behavorial sciences and teaching techniques area of expertise. Some of these topics might be beneficial to parents as far as developmental assistance.
    However, Andrew Wakefield MD is also listed with his topic as tba. He has not decided what he will talk about???
    Maybe he should present something like “When things go really bad”, or “How to defend oneself in a court of law”.

    The list seems to be quite an assortment of characters. If you were not familiar with some of these individuals in advance as I am not, you would assume based on the credentials and descriptions that many of these people are authorities. For those unfamiliar with some of this subject matter, things can be very very murky to say the least.

    Maybe Orac should post his own “Consumer Reports” explanation and description of some of the more dubious individuals listed.

  7. #7 Fran Rolph
    February 25, 2008

    Why so much hate? I don’t know what side of the debate I stand right now. My child was diagnosed with autism and I feel that I need to explore all scenario’s. Posts like this with so much hate lead me to believe you could really care less about the kids and their parents that deal with this. What is your motivation? I am desperate to find true results of real tests on things like thimerosal and a possible link between anitbiotics and autism. Could you point me in the right direction?

  8. #8 DanioPhD
    February 25, 2008

    This abstract title stood out as exceptionally clunky and bush-league (which, if you’ve perused the whole list, is saying something):

    “101 Things I wish I had known and understood about A.U.T.I.S.M. when I started my journey over 6 years ago&especially Total Body Burden & Energy Techniques!”

    who knew “Autism” was an acronym? Perhaps, “An unholy trafficking in sham medicine”? or “Appallingly unctuous, twisted incompetence in scientific method?” The acronym fun doesn’t end there, though. The first line of this abstract states:

    “Dana will be defining A.U.T.I.S.M. as Neurotoxin Induced Chronic Encephalopathy (NICE). “

    How…nice.

  9. #9 DanioPhD
    February 25, 2008

    Fran,
    Orac has been blogging on the alleged ‘link’ between vaccines and autism for a number of years now. If you plug “Autism” into the ‘search this blog’ feature at the top of the screen, you will find a number of posts on this topic, and there are also several links to reputable autism blogs under “Non-Orac Insolence”.

    The ‘hate’ that you perceive is born of frustration at the monumental liberties the anti-vaccination proponents have persistently taken with evidence medicine and scientific rationalism, despite the impressive–and still mounting–weight of scientific studies that do NOT support a link between mercury (or more generalized “toxins”) in vaccines and autism.

    I know that having a child diagnosed with autism can feel very overwhelming, and presents you with ongoing challenges that most parents could never comprehend. I have several friends with autistic children, and I know that several other regular readers/participants on this forum are parents of ASD children, so please believe that we are sympathetic to the difficulties faced by parents and children with autism.

    Good luck with your information search.

  10. #10 notmercury
    February 25, 2008

    A.U.T.I.S.M.

    Alternative, Unproven, Treatments & Incantations Selling Millions

  11. #11 HCN
    February 25, 2008

    Fran said “Why so much hate? …What is your motivation? I am desperate to find true results of real tests on things like thimerosal and a possible link between anitbiotics and autism. Could you point me in the right direction?”

    For a hint on some of the motivations, check out these musings by Orac:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/fastsearch?order=date&IncludeBlogs=17&search=roy+kerry

    Much energy has been diverted from real science by some folks out to make a buck off of desperate parents. They have made monsters out of pediatricians and others, all the time trying to sell chelators, hyperbaric chambers, questionable tests and assorted therapies (one of those involves chemically castrating children with Lupron).

    Why should we like those opportunists?

    For a direction to look at for some decent blogging by parents, people who work with autistics and autistics themselves checkout:
    http://www.autism-hub.co.uk/

    Good luck on your journey, but please be aware not everyone with “information” is looking out for the well being of your child, versus the well being of their bank balance.

  12. #12 andrea
    February 25, 2008

    The sad part is that when such conferences come to town, the presenters sell their “research news” to unwitting newspaper and magazine writers to disseminate as “science” or “medical” or “education” information. Unfortunately, the average news presenter confuses big sciency-sounding words with real science, and assumes that because a few people have degrees that they actually know what they’re talking about.

    I was in town when a similar conference came to Denver (different hosting organisation, same speakers selling the same bunk), and not only was there a huge newspaper advert and the typical news stories, but what I found sad was that (earnest but unwitting) professionals in the education realm wound up there, in all likelihood believing all the nonsense that the Autism Experts were selling them.

  13. #13 Hey Zeus is my homeboy
    February 25, 2008

    Seriously, did a bunch of these homely loser homeopaths get together and decide to cultivate the most plastic ho with the biggest rack they could find into being a spokeswhore? You know they’re all sporting wood as they sit in their booths and sell their wares. Let’s hope Handley will take the red pill for chelation rather than the little blue one as he patrols the pseudoscience landscape at Autism One.

    Maybe the cold fusion guys would have got somewhere if Tawney Kitaen would have stumped for them.

  14. #14 TheProbe
    February 25, 2008

    HCN said: “They have made monsters out of pediatricians and others…”

    Worse, they made a monster out of Autism. They made it the sine qua non of evil. And then we have McCarron.

  15. #15 Patrick Caldon
    February 25, 2008

    Why the hate? Or perhaps it would be less loaded to ask: why the passion?

    Most health/medical professionals got into the game at least in part on account of hating to see human suffering, particularly preventable human suffering. Vaccine preventable illness has been and is a terrible source of human suffering.

    Let’s just consider polio. It’s very easily transmitted, so pretty much the entire (unvaccinated) population will get the disease once it starts spreading. About 1 in 100 people will have the virus infect their nervous systems, and get some form of paralysis, from the very mild to completely crippling. In the 1950s when the disease hit the US, there were ward upon ward of people in iron lungs, who would need assistance breathing for the rest of their lives. Thousands upon thousands of children were crippled, incapable of walking, standing, or often even breathing for themselves. Thousands of parents were left standing by the gravesite of their buried children.

    Vaccines are what stop this from happening today, not just with polio, but with many diseases.

    It is unreasonable to hate someone who wants to bring this back?

    On a different tack, I forget who made this comment, but the “vaccine causes autism” idea comes from the following observation: pretty much all children who have autism have had vaccines, so there must be something wrong with the vaccines. In the 1950s and 60s, someone made another observation: pretty much all children who had autism had mothers, many of whom were upset from time to time. This led to the theory: because all autistic children have mothers, there must be something wrong with the mothers. This gave us the “refrigerator mother” syndrome, which apparently still has a great deal of currency in some parts of the world.

    I suspect some of the passion is the horror of the phenomenon of parents blaming themselves (for permitting vaccines, or being “cold mothers”) when it appears that the disease is largely genetic in origin.

  16. #16 Azkyroth
    February 25, 2008

    Why so much hate?

    Can you think of a better reason to hate people than the willingness to sacrifice the lives of other people’s children (due to quack therapies and/or proliferation of vaccine-preventable diseases) rather than admit they were wrong?

    I don’t know what side of the debate I stand right now.

    There is no “debate.” The entire weight of scientific opinion stands against a handful of fanatics who have already made up their minds and are unwilling to be confused by the facts.

    My child was diagnosed with autism and I feel that I need to explore all scenario’s. Posts like this with so much hate lead me to believe you could really care less about the kids and their parents that deal with this.

    First, is it wrong to be angry with people who willfully ignore and distort facts that contradict their claims, mislead parents as to the present state of the science on causes and approaches to treating autism, suck money and energy away from promising genuinely scientific approaches to treating it, and in many cases peddle quack cures that have never been shown to be effective and have on occasion cost children their lives?

    Second, my daughter is diagnosed with autism, and I felt then as now that I need to do what’s best for her, not what’s personally gratifying to me. The fact that blaming autism on vaccines (where the hell did antibiotics come in?) makes parents feel better by giving them “an enemy they can see” is irrelevant. Choosing to believe lies because they are appealing at an emotional level, and pursuing them at the expense of a child’s welfare, is inexcusable. The emotional desperation parents feel dealing with autism is no excuse for this, just as “emotional desperation” is no excuse for hitting a child that just won’t stop crying.

    What is your motivation?

    A respect for truth and integrity, a genuine commitment to children’s welfare, and the recognition that actions must be judged by their actual, not their hoped-for, outcomes.

    I am desperate to find true results of real tests on things like thimerosal and a possible link between anitbiotics and autism. Could you point me in the right direction?

    The true results is that study after study after study shows no link. Orac has blogged on this repeatedly and you have already been directed to the results.

  17. #17 anonimouse
    February 26, 2008

    If “Fran” comes back, I will suggest the next post will be along the lines of “I think vaccines cause autism you’re all a bunch of meanies how can I get in touch with the Geiers they’re heroes.”

    I hate to be cynical or premature in my assessment, but I’ve seen WAY too many initial posts that start out like that and end up sliding quickly to the anti-vax position.

  18. #18 bastion
    February 26, 2008

    This isn’t the only autism conference where the traveling biomedicine show will be performing this year. Autism Today http://www.autismtoday.com/
    just had a conference in Orlando this month with some of the same cast of characters. http://www.autismorlando.com/
    When I first saw the relatively low price of that conference, I had thoughts of going, but then I saw the agenda, and decided to put my money to better use.

  19. #19 HCN
    February 26, 2008

    anonimouse wrote “If “Fran” comes back, I will suggest the next post will be along the lines of “I think vaccines cause autism you’re all a bunch of meanies how can I get in touch with the Geiers they’re heroes.””

    Exactly. Those of us who oppose experimenting on children with chelators, or murdering them because they were not the children the parent wanted (McCarron), and who oppose the quacks selling the latest “cure” are called haters and meanies.

    And yet folks like Wakefield (who took money from a lawyer to find certain test results, testing that caused one child permanent and lasting damage, http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/12/an_autistic_child_pays_the_price_of_andr.php ) and the Geiers who have a protocol that involves chemically castrating children ( http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/109/lupron-geier-index )… are considered “heroes”. Even Rashid Buttar with his “Buttar Cream”, a topical method of chelation is a hero despite being the subject of a medical review board for questionable billing practices. Oh, then there are financial wizards like Blaxill who used the expertize gained while getting a Masters in Business Administration on how autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning. Uh, yeah… they are completely different, and Mr. Blaxill seems to have had to change jobs. Oh, then there is another financial wizard who was so sincere in his depiction of autism as mercury poisoning he decided to be a cybersquatter and bought up the webpages with similar names of those who opposed him. A true mental midget in ethics. (Just put the term “cybersquatter” in the search bar on the upper left to see who this guy is!)

    And those of us who question these antics are the “haters.” Yeah, right.

  20. #20 Mr. Terry Arranga
    February 26, 2008

    A.U.T.I.S.M. One

    Another Unctuous Tendentious Idiotic Snakeoil-selling Meeting

    One

  21. #21 Graculus
    February 26, 2008

    Looks like a homeboy escaped from the youtube comments section.

    Hate, Fran? How do you think we should feel about snake oil salesman who exploit parents and hurt children? They are the ones that couldn’t care less.

  22. #22 Joseph
    February 26, 2008

    One nanogram of thimerosal is toxic? I bet it would be entertaining to see what kind of supporting material is presented to justify this assertion.

    Some of the listed speakers appear to be in the behavorial sciences and teaching techniques area of expertise. Some of these topics might be beneficial to parents as far as developmental assistance.

    Well, speakers who intend to retain some respectability in the autism field should simply not play a part in Autism One. Period.

  23. #23 Prometheus
    February 26, 2008

    “NOT GRAM- NOT MILLIGRAM – NOT MICROGRAM- BUT NANOGRAM!”

    Anyone who believes that mercury is toxic in nanogram quantities has to explain why they aren’t already dead.

    Even rainwater has up to a nanogram of mercury per liter.

    Prometheus

  24. #24 not telling
    February 26, 2008

    Anyone who believes that mercury is toxic in nanogram quantities has to explain why they aren’t already dead.

    You mean Frank Engley? He almost is already.

  25. #25 Laser Potato
    February 26, 2008

    DEATH FROM ABOVE!!! :D

  26. #26 Bronze Dog
    February 26, 2008

    Reminds me of a commercial I’m sick of seeing when I record something late at night on my DVR: “Are you suffering from the effects of UNAVOIDABLE toxins in food, water, and even the air we breathe? Try Kinoki Footpads!”

    Always have to generate an environment of fear.

    Off-topic: Laser, if you want on my Game Development Limbo blog, I’ll need your email.

  27. #27 Laser Potato
    February 27, 2008

    Hotmail’s going nuts at the moment, so you’ll have to wait a bit. T.T

  28. #28 Uncle Dave
    February 27, 2008

    I was wondering when someone was going to mention that freakin commercial for the footpads that remove toxins.

    Drives me nuts too.

  29. #29 Lucas McCarty
    February 27, 2008

    What if they don’t remove the toxins, but just drag them all down into your feet?

    You could end up with mutant ninja turtle feet or something. It’s fact. There’s no evidence for it. But it’s scientific fact.

  30. #30 Patience
    February 28, 2008

    Fran, not only do many of the people here have autistic children but, and this might surprise you, some of us ARE autistic. I’m not; I exist in the grey area between NT and the austism spectrum, and have never recieved a diagnosis. However, a number of my friends are, and we’re all functioning adults, capable of relationships and especially online communication. Don’t write off your kid just because she’s been DXed.

  31. #31 Patience
    February 28, 2008

    Oh, and I would LOVE an Orac smack-down of the Kinoki foot pads, if we’re making requests. I hate those damned things.

  32. #32 HCN
    February 29, 2008

    Kinoki pads mentioned here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/12/speaking_of_woo.php

    So much woo, so little time.

  33. #33 Winawer
    May 28, 2008

    Uh, I guess I’m a little late to the party on this one, but your “mother warriors” link is badly borked…

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