Read the most advanced science of autism causes here. Bypass the commenterati and go direct to the science. Don't waste your time at the sites which pretend "no-one" knows what causes (or what sometimes cures) autism.
This is a website relating to the unchallenged theory of autism, IQ and genius, Personality and Individual Differences 14:459-482 (1993) by Robin P Clarke (the antiinnatia theory). An update review paper is being prepared for publication. Meanwhile you can download the original 1993 publication (presentationally revised) here, and the original 1993 publication (author's reprint) here . (the journal site version is here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(93)90316-U, but without added charts of social class and you may have to pay Elsevier $31.)

The politics of autism research

"...gene is mythical part of living structure which in reactionary theories like Mendelism-Veysmanism-Morganism determines heredity. Soviet scientists under leadership of Academician Lysenko proved scientifically that genes don't exist in the nature."
From Soviet Encyclopedia circa 1950

Huge numbers of words, including several books, have been written about allegedly unworthy deeds and motives of various people and groups involved in autism research. Depending on which side you prefer to believe, those involved in Defeat Autism Now, SafeMinds, Age of Autism, etc, are either evil profiteering quackery-merchants or else great heroes standing up to an evil profiteering medical establishment.

In my view, such conspiracy theorising does little to resolve any of the scientific questions. In my experience as a theorist, researchers almost never actually falsify their raw data (though in respect of commercially-criticial trials of therapies it may be less rare). I wouldn't have been able to so easily formulate coherent theories time and time again if that data were not founded in reality.

But I do think that anyone coming to look at autism research, and the forthcoming (non-/)reaction to my update review, would be well advised to be aware of some of the potential political factors that could be intruding to distort the science from its unbiased path. So I will just put these few thoughts here on the subject.

Some elements of the political context could be that:
  1. Some people wish(ed) to blame vaccine manufacturers, or other medical institutions, for causing the autism of their children (and associated alleged increase). (the "heretics")
  2. Some of those accused by the above wish(ed) to prove that there was no such causation, and or increase. (the "establishment")
  3. Some professional researchers might conceivably wish to spin out the progress of science into false trails, so as to prolong their own professional research careers rather than resolve questions as promptly as possible. And some may fear losing their jobs if they raise the 'wrong' questions or publish the 'wrong' results. (the "careerists")
  4. Some others may wish to falsely declare a crisis, and or falsely proclaim treatments, in order to profit from gullible customers. (the "quacks")
  5. Yet others (the "establishment" again) may wish to falsely discredit valuable treatments as supposed quack remedies, because they undermine their own plans to market licenced pharmaceuticals for the same condition.
Malign motives can be attributed to all sides. And false claims can be shown on all sides, naturally enough given the human talent for making mistakes. And so little or nothing of the science is proven by any of the associated slime-throwing.

I'll just put below here my own impressions of how the science has been distorted in recent years, by way of enabling some anticipation of how my own update review will be misrepresented in due course. Please note that none of this is my certified testimony as to the truth of anything; please verify for yourself if you wish to take a firm view of any of it.

Firstly (see disclaimer above), autism had a most unhelpful tendency to become noticeable at just about the same age as some vaccinations are injected. And some of the heretics were noticing an increase in prevalence which aligned with increased vaccinations. Their reasonable suspicion was reinforced by the lack of any other obvious causal change, because the dental profession continues to assert that they're still using those same old amalgams tried and tested over 150 years, and so approximately no-one has noticed the huge unannounced changeover to non-gamma-2 amalgams.

The heretics of necessity tended to be rather amateurish, undertrained, underqualified and underfunded people. They naturally made plenty of mistakes, especially in the early years.

The establishment could have responded to the MMR and thimerosal theories with some sound science. Instead, some absolutely stupendously abysmal papers were published, such as Madsen in respect of Denmark. Such rubbish could be excused if it were coming from the amateur heretics, but coming from supposed leading expert scientists and published in supposedly top-rating journals any notion of good faith bungling was much harder to find credible.

The result of these abysmal publications (and the associated persecution of Andrew Wakefield) was a huge increase of distrust of the establishment. In reality there was soon enough sufficient sound science to radically marginalise the vaccine theories anyway. But now that the establishment has gained an image of untrustworthiness, that sound science is very much harder for the heretics and the general public to believe. Everything can now be rationalised away as lies and propaganda.

Associated claims from the establishment have been that the increase was not real, and that autism was almost entirely of genetic causation. Again the establishment used abysmal papers to justify its denialism. Again they unnecessarily undermined their own credibility.

It appears that those claims of no increase and no environmental cause thereof are now floundering in the face of a reality that is simply too big to be pretended away (though the NHS as recently as 2009 has published yet more rubbish in defence of that flat earth).

Which brings us to the present stage of this parade of denialisms. This is exemplified by a number of the highest-ranking research professionals touting blood levels of mercury as a supposedly useful means of showing that mercury has not been involved in autism. Any even slightly competent researcher should be well aware that using blood (or urine) measures of mercury is a great way to get the false negative that they want so as to put everyone off the trail to the real cause of the increase. Even my common-or-garden mere general practitioner (family doctor) was able to tell me back in 2004 that blood mercury is a useless test for chronic mercury poisoning. So how come these spectacularly-qualified supposedly leading expert researchers don't know even this most basic fact of what they are publishing about?
Reference for blood mercury: Mutter, Naumann, Guethlin. Comments on the Article "The toxicology of mercury and its chemical compounds". Crit Rev Toxicol 2007 37:537-549.

Meanwhile the other two papers (by Ip, and Soden) which are deployed as supposedly showing no mercury involvement have also been exposed as severely flawed, in this review by DeSoto and Hitlan.
(http://www.ane.pl/showarticle.php?art=7021)
So the case against mercury involvement rests on three papers all of which are fit only for the trashcan. Need I say more?

We can now look forward to hearing this same pseudo-expertise rolled out again as "professional" "expert" testimony to also "disprove" my update review on the pseudic grounds of a supposed lack of difference of mercury in autism.

One may hypothesise that there are malign motives at work, of (1) wishing to deflect blame from the medical establishment's endorsement of dental amalgam, and or (2) wishing to avoid identifying the real environmental cause so that these same researchers can enjoy decades of prestige and income at our expense on a wild-goose chase among any number of other non-causes of autism. One may also hypothesise (3) that some researchers are in an embarassing position, because they fear having their careers destroyed and ending up on the dole if they ask the 'wrong' questions or publish the 'wrong' answers.

Those are only unproven hypotheses. It is nevertheless difficult for me to suppress suspicion that the malign spirit of Lysenkoism is very much alive and distorting the world of professional autism research in the western world. On the other hand again, I would be wary of attributing evil to all the people involved. My observations of other "controversies" indicate that the most stupendous obtuseness can be achieved even by highly intelligent people having no possible selfish motive for their denialism (and this for reasons that were explained in my unpublished theory of neuroticism; btw, the low-neurotic can be even more denialic than the high).

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