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Autism Quackery

Prometheus on “armchair science”

A couple of weeks ago, I lambasted Mark and David Geier for their irresponsible proposal to treat autism by using Lupron to lower testosterone levels, in essence chemically castrating autistic children, because, they claimed, it would make the mercury that supposedly caused the autism in the first place “easier to excrete.”

Naturally, Prometheus couldn’t resist piling on too in an article entitled Armchair Science vs. Real Science, which complements my previous analysis by looking at an infamous video the Geiers made, in which they explain the “revelation” that led them to the concept that lowering testosterone would supposedly “increase the efficacy” of chleation therapy for autism (never mind that chelation therapy doesn’t do anything to reverse the symptoms and behaviors of autism):

An Armchair Scientist gets to sit and speculate about what might be without ever having to do the hard work of actually doing any research to find out what is. The average Armchair Scientist doesn’t even bother to review the published literature – they just make it up from what people have told them, what they’ve read on the Internet and what comes to them in their dreams.

However, the more pernicious of the Armchair Scientists have a pasing familiarity with the literature and cite it to their benefit. Several good examples of Armchair Scientists can be found on the FAIR Autism Media website. My personal favorites from this site are the dynamic (definitely sarcasm – see the video) duo of Geier and Geier (pere et fils).

In their video clip from the FAIR site, Geier and Geier expound at length (in a performance that can only be described as “petrified” – it’s too stiff to be “wooden”) about how they “discovered” that testosterone is the linchpin to explaining:

[1] How thimerosal invaccines causes autism (their bread and butter – literally).
[2] How the myriad of disparate and illogical autism treatments “work”.
[3] Why more boys than girls are autistic.

It’s a masterful piece of work, to be sure, and it would be a magnificent addition to the corpus of medical knowledge except for one small problem…

They don’t have any data.

No, they don’t, didn’t, and probably won’t. But that’s beside the point. Data doesn’t matter to them, except when it supports their preconceived idea that mercury from vaccinations causes autism.

And that’s the mark of a pseudoscientist.

Unfortunately, like the Hitler Zombie, bad science like this and the shoddy study of mercury in mercury in the hair of babies by Holmes, Blaxill, and Haley is undead, as Prometheus points out. It’s almost impossible to kill; it always comes back.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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