Good News Week

Following on from the excellent TV broadcast featuring Amanda Baggs earlier this week, two more reports have emerged that offer some counterweight to the usual litany of vaccine-damaged-autism-epidemic scare stories.

On the mercury lists parents are complaining about John Stossel’s piece on vaccines on ABC. This is a refreshing piece of journalism that has looked at the evidence and reported that vaccines are safer than the diseases they prevent and that there is no evidence that they cause autism.Fo this he is being roundly condemned on his message board. Readers may wish to go there and restore some balance.

Last week my attention was drawn to a review of Richard Lathe’s book  Autism, Brains and Environment,  in the Lancet Neurology. This book argues that we have an epidemic of ‘new phase’ autism caused by environmental toxins. I have criticized the book in an earlier blog. So has Kev Leitch. It was also roundly condemned by Mike Fitzpatrick in the British Medical Journal. So you can imagine my surprize when I discovered that the Lancet review was by Mark Geier!

The Lancet seemed just as surprized. When I emailed them I received this prompt reply.    

 Dear Mike

Many thanks for your email. The review was commissioned by a junior member of the editorial team who was unaware of Geier’s history. We are planning to publish a counterbalancing view in the next issue of the journal and have taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

With best wishes


Helen Frankish, PhD

Editor, The Lancet Neurology

I was not the only one who noticed. Ben Goldacre in the Guardian has written a withering account of Geier’s credentials and his quackery. It is published in the Guardian Online and in the badscience blog with the wonderful title, The transgressive medical genius that is Mark Geier. I believe this is the first time that the Geiers’activities have attracted serious newspaper attention. Let us hope that the next time it will not be a science writer, but a crime writer reporting on their transgressions.


14 thoughts on “Good News Week

  1. “Let us hope that the next time it will not be a science writer, but a crime writer reporting on their transgressions.”

    Hear, hear! The sooner the better.

    Also, there was more good news this week: autism mom Jeanette O’Donnell, who calls herself Mom26children on the neurodiversity blogs, got a new house for her family on ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition. It was one of the most-watched shows in the United States last week and got plenty of visibility for the autism acceptance point of view. Kudos to Jeanette!

  2. What if we didn’t focus on the HOW these people became austistic but WHY? What if they are here to help in the evolutionary process humans are currently undergoing, in order to guide us to new ways to communicate with one another? What if the “bigger picture” required this type of human behavior to help ease us into a new way of thinking about humans altogether? What if they are exactly how they are supposed to be (as we all are)? What if we actually appreciate their contributions to the world in the manner they deliver them, instead of trying to “fix” them to be how we think they should be to fit in with the “norm”, (which, by the way, is not going to be the “norm” for very long…)?
    What if…?

  3. Ms. Collins raises an interesting point. Of course, as a firmly secular biologist, I would say that there is no point, no “bigger picture” to evolution apart from enhanced survival.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to pick out how a trait enhances survival.

    For example, the eminent expert on autism genetics, Jeff Bradstreet, has gone on record as stating that autism could not be a genetic disorder because natural selection would have eliminated it long ago. To refute that, I have to say but three words:

    Sickle Cell Anemia

    Sickle cell anemia has been with us for tens of thousands of years, probably since the mosquitos thawed out from the last Ice Age. People who have a single copy of the gene have a degree of protection from malaria. People who have two copies, on the other hand, are severely ill and – prior to invasive, unnatural, reductionist modern medicine – used to die in early childhood.

    The same thing may be happening with autism. The same genes that in a certain combination cause autism (however one might define it) might also be responsible for creativity, genius, problem-solving abilities or who knows what aspect of human thought and consciousness. Certainly, enough truly talented and brilliant individuals – both now and throughout history – have had some of the features of the disorder we call autism.

    Thus we come to the heart of the matter. If we wish to rid humanity of the “scourge of autism”, then we may also rid humanity of much that makes it rich and innovative.


  4. Okay…I just read that but I dont’ get why they are so down on the article? Why do they say it is bad science? Genes are weird….DNA even more random…why is there such a resitance to link Autism to enviromental factors? I am really just asking….what is the deal? Maybe I am gulible? The article sounded very compelling to me?

  5. Hi Cole,
    first, Dan Olmsted is not a scientist. He is a journalist chasing a story that autism is linked to mercury. For a while now the story he has been plugging is that we are in the midst of an autism epidemic that began in the 1990s when the vaccine progamme in the USA was expanded and young children were exposed to increased amounts of mercury via the vaccine preservative thimerosal, which contains ethyl mercury.

    There are a number of flaws to this hypothesis.
    1. The symptoms of mercury poisoning and autism are not the same.
    2. Prevalence rates of autism in countries with different vaccination schedules, some of them containing negligble amounts of thimerosal, have all been rising.
    3. Numbers continued to rise in the USA after thimerosal was largely removed from childhood vaccines.

    All this suggests that if there is an environmental factor it is not thimerosal. Proponents of the autism/mercury connection have responded by suggesting that other environmental sources of mercury are equally culpable. But environmental sources of mercury, typically methyl mercury entering the foodchain, are so widespread that they dwarf the contribution made by the ethyl mercury in vaccines. If mercury was to blame we should have seen an autism epidemic way before the 1990s.

    Olmsted is asking us to believe that the much more widespread exposure to environmental mercury in the past was responsible for the appearance of autism in the cases studied by Kanner. Nowadays exposure to mercury is much reduced and awareness of the dangers of mercury is so much higher. But autism is on the increase.

    If Olmsted is right we should have had an epidemic in the bad old days and be seeing a decrease right now. I think that what we have here is a plausible hypothesis – mercury in vaccines causing autism – not working out. But the fall-out message that links mercury to autism lingers on.

    So, when Olmsted finds another potential mercury link, most of us register the link but do not notice that this link actually contradicts his previous link with vaccines.

    I do not think you are gullible. You ask interesting questions. Perhaps you should ask Olmsted why there was not an autism epidemic when mercury was all over the place.

  6. I am curious about one point though….while I know that thimersol was widely removed from vaccines there are huge stock piles still in cirulation and they were not recalled. My physcians office still has Flu shots, DDPT and HiB with it still in there. The vials are still not out of date and were not recalled so she is not throwing them out. I do not believe that is an uncommon occurance. AND I thought (as Dan Olmstead said) that the Flu shot (routinely given to pregnant mothers and babies….I do know a correlation between mothers that get the flu while pregnant and schizophrenia) still is made with the ethyl mercury preservative. As are some nasal saline sprays that are OTC.

    I guess what confuses me the most in this whole issue (and I have not done much research) is why is it that thousands of parents say that their child was fine, their kid gets sick, then regresses horribly? If there is NO connection to vaccinations and thimersol, what is up with that? I also read somewhere (and I admit it may not be true) that live measels virus was found in stomachs of some autisic children? So, if it is NOT the vaccines, then what is it? Why do they say that it happens, really, just coicedence?

  7. Hi Cole
    according to the minutes of this meeting stocks of thimerosal containing vaccines were less than 2 per cent of the total back in 2002. Hardly a stockpile.

    The thimerosal exposure today is less than it was before the autism epidemic supposedly began. Parents are right that autistic symptoms appear after vaccinations. But correlation is not the same as causation. Regressive autism accounts for about a quarter of all autistic disorder. It becomes obvious around he time that children start to talk because impairment of language is one of the key components of autism in childhood.

    If it is the flu virus given to pregnant women that causes autism why would they develop normally and then regress at the same time as if they had received the old thimerosal containing vaccines?

    Regarding measles virus, this is a separate issue. MMR has never contained thimerosal and the research that purports to have evidence of measles in the gut has been hotly disputed by other scientists.

  8. Thanks Mike…..there is so much to know in this subject.

    I have never heard that the flu causes autism, but I have heard in my psych class that their is a correlation between flu and schizophrenia.


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