The Psychiatric Fallacy 

What do I mean when I say “psychiatric fallacy?” I am talking about the erroneoussness of some of the most prominent assumptions held by psychiatrists and the field of psychiatry. Moving on from the accumulation of information in the past, modern science has made major breakthroughs in our understanding of the underlying biological and environmental basis of many behavioral and mood disorders. The surface was originally just scratched while the biological hell beneath was grossly misunderstood.

You would think that given today’s knowledge on the involvement of inflammation and neuroexcitotoxicity in mental dysfunction (Najjar S, et al., 2013) that it would have already seeped its way into modern mainstream clinical practice, but this has not been the case. Instead, we have pervasive myths that still fill the atmosphere of psychiatric facilities and practices. Keep in mind that these are very specific and pertain to specific instances; I am not claiming that psychiatry as a whole is wrong or that it doesn’t provide any benefit to patients. That would be an equally preposterous assumption.

Firstly, many psychiatrists wrongly assume that certain disorders only have behavioral relevance. This makes sense given their training in understanding the identification, classification, and drug/psychotherapy treatment of behavioral disorders. However, they have failed to be properly educated on the role that neuroinflammation, environmental xenobiotics, and other biological abnormalities have on the surfacing  psychological symptoms in a patient.1

Secondly, the biological basis of some neuropsychiatric diseases has clinical relevance, and once recognized properly can potentially generate attention, awareness, curriculum add ons and even funding for both drug therapies that molecularly target inflammation and other lab testing that a patient needs. In regards to inflammation and depression there are still issues considering inflammation is protective against invaders and immune altering drugs may affect this process. It is specifically chronic inflammation that plays the pathological role. However, once immunomodulators are developed for this they have to carefully be used and studied for their effects on the immune system and how they will work long term.2 This would also apply for other neurological diseases that have an underlying  biological basis, such as OCD, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia, and autism.

Thirdly, although there is are still a lot of questions and studies to be done, there is enough evidence thus far to at least educate providers about the current state of information and how it may help their patients. This would include the role that diet and nutrition potentially has in diseases like depression. For example, there has already been a randomized control trial (RCT) that found a healthier diet had a positive influence on the participants’ depression and could potentially be used for other people with this mental disorder. Nutrition is being understood to play a vital role in depression and other psychiatric diseases (O’Neil, Quirk, and Jacka, 2014; Asha and Rao, 2008). In addition to this, the gut-brain axis is being studied for its role in anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders (Berding K, et al. Nutr Rev. 2016; Evrensel and Ceylan, 2015; Foster JA, et al. Trends Neurosci. 2013; Scirocco and Severi, 2015; Mayer, Knight, and Tillisch, 2014). Inflammation has also been connected to suicidal behaviors (Erhardt and Postolache, 2015). The possible cause and effect relationship between diet, inflammation, and suicide needs to be further evaluated but there are researchers  proposing a new “bio-psychosocial” perspective which looks at these interactions (Desseilles F, et al. Sante Ment Que. 2012). Another study also looked at the interaction between unhealthy behaviors (fast food, tobacco usage, alcohol, lack of exercise, etc) and its role in violent behaviors and mental health problems in Pakistani adolescents (Shah and Shafique, 2015).

Fourthly, it is the duty of healthcare providers to provide the best quality of life possible for their patients. Informed consent and the education of patients is absolutely imperative in this. Patients deserve to know the possible side effects of anti-depressants and the possible ineffectiveness. In the cases where anti-depressants don’t provide benefit, a deeper exploration should go into the patient’s lifestyle and environment, including  their diet. In autism, there is emerging evidence that NAC may have efficacy; this review compared its usage to SSRIs. NAC has been shown to alter neuroexcitoxicity through its effects on glutamate. In schizophrenia, the role of inflammation and immune dysfunction is also being explored. Along with this we have adjunct therapies being studied that use supplements as an add on to drugs. An example of this would be NAC plus clozapine (Francis and Castle, 2016). Other nutritional interventions have also been studied. One I find particularly interesting is the article by Arroll, Wilder, and Neil:

“Similarly, the benefits of folate supplementation on negative symptoms were only revealed once the sample was sub-grouped by genotype; those patients who had at least one copy of the low-functioning variant of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene showed a greater improvement in negative symptoms compared to the placebo group. Indeed this variant has been associated with the onset of schizophrenia [83].”

A fifth and final point to be made is there needs to be close attention to the link between obstructive sleep apnea and behavioral disorders in both children and adults (Lal C, et al. Chest. 2012; Beebe & Gozal, 2002). Unfortunately, there are flaws in our current testing methods for sleep disordered breathing that also need to be addressed (D.E. Wardly, 2014).

In closing, there is still much to be learned about mental disorders and their association with dietary, inflammatory, and immunological factors. There is accumulating evidence on these relationships and it is important that it is discussed in the field of psychiatry where the primary practice is to prescribe drugs. Drugs are not effective in every case and the subgroups within different mental health conditions need to be discussed and analyzed with an interdisciplinary approach. This would involve looking at drug responders and non-responders along with their biomarkers. The exciting research looking at how social and economic environments induce epigenetic changes with inflammation and methylation just goes to show that there are a wide array of overlaps between the biological effects of people’s upbringing as well. These same changes can also be seen with xenobiotic and infectious exposure along with diet. It is important that absolutely everything is taken into consideration with mental health. This involves exploring and understanding the field of systems biology all the way to understanding the work from geniuses such as Carl Jung. We must continue to follow the scientific method and denounce true pseudoscience and pseudoskepticism which seeks to hinder this very process.


References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18621076

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20472134/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19236339/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4531386/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662178/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/492194/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ddr.430150215/abstract
2.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002174/
The artwork used in the featured image is by Cameron Gray. 

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and elevated ICP: The Next Big Autism Puzzle Piece 

I am typing this primarily for the education of readers who are interested in autism causation. As we all know, autism is multi-faceted and a spectrum; children from the “low”, “middle”, and “high” ends have variation in their symptomatology and the possible underlying causes. It is being established that autism involves neuroinflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress. It is a heterogenous disorder that has a genetic component but is not a “genetic disease” in the sense there is a consistent single-gene finding. Rather, there are 206 genes associated with autism (Autworks, n.d.).

Moreover, there are many associated factors and causes of autism which affect normal growth and development of the brain:

  • Metals (Adams et al., 2013; Al-Ayadhi, 2005; Blaurock-Busch, Amin, & Rabah, 2011; Hill et al., 2015; Rossignol, Genuis, & Frye, 2014).
  • 2, 3, 7, 8 tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCCD, dioxin) (Nishijo et al., 2014).
  • Organophosphates and pyrethroids (De Felice et al., 2014; De Felice, Scattoni, Ricceri, & Calamandrei, 2015; Shelton et al., 2014).
  • Air pollutants (Rossignol et al., 2014, Shen et al., 2010, Becerra, Wilhelm, Olsen, Cockburn, & Ritz, 2013).
  • Urban emissions (von Ehrenstein, Aralis, Cockburn, & Ritz, 2014).
  • High-risk behavior while pregnant like drug and substance abuse (Davis et al., 1992; Drahota, Chavira, & Stein, 2010; Ornoy, Weinstein-Fudim, & Ergaz, 2015).
  • Pharmaceutical drugs (Avella- Garcia et al., 2016; Bauer & Kriebel, 2013; Christensen et al., 2013; Harrington et al., 2014; Ornoy et al., 2015).
  • Flame retardants (Braun et al., 2014; Hertz-Picciotto et al., 2011).
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals (Kajta & Wojtowicz, 2013; Lichtensteiger et al., 2014; Rossignol et al., 2014; Sobolewski et al., 2014).
  • Hexavalent chromium (Talbott et al., 2015).
  • Pharmaceutical agents that induce or delay labor (Cook, 1990; Croen et al., 2011).
  • Maternal infections/autoimmune disease (Ornoy et al., 2015; Estes & McAllister, 2016).

Other associated factors:

  • Zinc deficiency (Bjorklund, 2013).
  • Low iron (Chen et al., 2013).
  • Low vitamin D during pregnancy or childhood (Mazahery et al., 2016).
  • Abnormal neurotransmitter/hormone levels (Quaak, Brouns, & Van de Bor, 2013; Tordjman et al., 2013; Tostes, et al., 2012; Braam et al., 2010; Braam et al., 2013; Quaak et al., 2013; Tordjman et al., 2013; Tostes, et al., 2012).
  • Genetic polymorphisms affecting melatonin (Braam et al., 2010; Braam et al., 2013) and MTHFR (Frustaci et al., 2012; Irena et al., 2015; Pu, Shen, & Wu, 2013) which contributes to reduced glutathione, dysfunctional mitochondria, and imbalance in neurotransmitters.
  • Oxidative stress (Frustaci et al., 2012; Irena et al., 2015).
  • Chronic neuroinflammation (El- Ansary & Al-Ayadhi, 2012; Pardo, Vargas, & Zimmerman, 2005, Zimmerman et al., 2005).
  • Auto-antibodies and brain proteins/ Autoimmunity (Elamin & Al-Ayadhi, 2014; Piras et al., 2014).
  • Folate/methionine/homocystine metabolism (Frustaci et al., 2012).
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction (Rossignol & Frye, 2012).
  • Cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism (Aneja & Tierney, 2008; Schengrund et al., 2012; Wang, 2014).
  • Immune system dysfunction (Filiano et al., 2016; Streit, Mrak, & Griffin, 2004).
  • Dysbiosis/microbiota-gut-brain axis (Randolph-Gips, 2011; Finegold, 2008; Kantarcioglu, Kiraz, & Aydin, 2016).

(Sources/list collected from the work of Heather Rhodes, DHS).

Moving onward, there is still a gap in our knowledge regarding what I think is a major part of the autism puzzle. It has been identified and explained by medical doctor and researcher Deborah Wardly but needs more discussion in the public sphere and by scientists. This connection involves OSA, intracranial hypertension, and autism. Her ASD/OSA hypothesis incorporated over 90 pieces of the autism puzzle and how it is connected to sleep disordered breathing and intracranial hypertension. First and foremost, I want to give you more background information on what intracranial hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea is.

Intracranial Hypertension

Intracranial hypertension is when there is increased pressure inside of the skull; this happens when cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is too high.

Intracranial hypertension can have several causes including systemic diseases of infectious etiology, venous sinus thrombosis, dural fistula, certain endocrine and metabolic disorders, tumors, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain drugs.1 The “idiopathic” diagnosis is made when there are no known identifiable causes. Pseudotumor cerebri is considered by the mainstream to be a rare disease and is said to occur in 28/100,000 people a year and mostly affects those who are obese and female. The “rare” label is debatable considering 91, 041 per year (90K/year) is considered by some scientists to actually be significant. There is still much argument over this disease considering the pathology and etiology is not completely understood.2 The presentations of intracranial hypertension usually include headaches, dizziness, vision loss, double vision, nausea, and pulsatile tinnitus.3 It is said to be rare but this is a highly debatable claim. The possible issue is under-reporting due to not all cases presenting with optic nerve swelling. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension can occur without visual symptoms but it is considered to not be common. However, if people have IIHWOP (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension Without Papilledema) and are diagnosed with typical migraines and never receive a lumbar puncture, this will go under the radar. It has been stated by some researchers that the rates of IIHWOP are unknown.4


Sleep apnea

 

Sleep apnea is a disorder where someone repeatedly stops breathing during sleep or has shallow breathing during this time. It has significant impacts on brain function and leads to higher morbidity and mortality.5 When left untreated in children, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to learning, behavioral, and other health problems.6  Unfortunately, there are problems related to the diagnosis of OSA because sleep study results can be inaccurate. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine had a statement that allowed sleep labs to use different criteria regarding hypopnea (overly shallow breathing) and this resulted in different interpretations and diagnoses depending on what criteria was used.7 Parents can also miss the signs of sleep disordered breathing in their children and SDB can even lead to ADHD, so noticeable excessive sleepiness is not necessary for the existence of sleep apnea either. It was demonstrated through a study that the 2007 AASM criteria diagnosed only 19% of a study group with sleep disordered breathing while 99% of the study group were diagnosed properly when Stanford criteria was used. This is very significant. Esophageal manometry is also more sensitive for detecting SDB but is not commonly used or studied for its correlation with behavioral disorders.

Furthermore, OSA can be an underlying factor in autism and treatment can result in behavioral improvement.8 It is extremely important that proper sleep studies are put into place so we can have accurate diagnoses and treatment plans related to sleep disordered breathing and the resulting biological effects. OSA is connected to intracranial hypertension and the overlaps between autism and sleep disordered breathing have been identified alongside the findings that suggest ICP is related autism:

Pertinently enough, sleep is also known to clear the brain of waste products. Lack of sleep leads to significant cognitive problems and health issues which are possibly related to this. Sleep is needed to flush out toxins and dysfunction of this process can have consequences. Cerebral spinal fluid is managed by the glymphatic system with the brain’s neuroglia; this is an area of research that is currently a hot topic given it was first published in 2015 in Nature that the lymphatic system was connected to the brain and potentially related to numerous neurological disorders.

“The scientists examined layers of tissue, known as meninges, that cover the brain and contain blood vessels and cerebrospinal fluid. While searching for structures associated with the meninges, the researchers noticed vessel-like patterns. These vessels contained markers of the lymphatic system. By injecting dye into anesthetized mice and tracking its path, they found that the vessels carried fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid, along veins in the sinuses, and into nearby deep cervical lymph nodes. The researchers surmise that these vessels may serve as a second step in the drainage of fluid from the brain, after it’s drained into the cerebrospinal fluid through the glymphatic system.”

Additionally, this year it was also reported that elevated CSF in infants was associated with later diagnosis of autism:

“A national research network found that many toddlers diagnosed with autism at two years of age had a substantially greater amount of extra-axial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) at six and 12 months of age, before diagnosis is possible. They also found that the more CSF at six months — as measured through MRIs — the more severe the autism symptoms were at two years of age.”

Cerebral spinal fluid protects the central nervous system. It’s main purpose is to protect the brain from trauma, supply nutrients, and carry out waste products. However, when it becomes too elevated, we obviously run into some very serious problems. The glymphatic system will be a huge part in understanding intracranial hypertension of idiopathic origin and other secondary causes. The glymphatic system has been more seriously studied and considered since it was first published about in 2015; this means that much more research is needed so we can understand the lymphatic system’s role in neurological disorders as a whole. We must ask the right questions such as “Why are people presenting with symptoms of a brain tumor without having an actual tumor? Why do they present with symptoms of head trauma even without an identifiable physical cause? Why does the brain end up increasing the CSF as if it has been injured? What possible toxicants can lead to blood-brain barrier disruption and affect the immune and glymphatic system to the point there is CSF build up?”

This is something I also wanted to bring attention to since I have not seen any other articles from anyone discussing it. I found a case study that found increased intracranial pressure following DTP immunization. The authors here noted that there is a problem with under-reporting of adverse events following vaccines because of the difficulty connecting the vaccine to the negative reaction. However, when it happens within 24-48 hours, people should be suspicious of the connection. The question remains, can vaccines contribute to chronic CSF build up and through what mechanisms does this happen? Can this occur slowly over time with repeated exposures and go unidentified due to the time gaps? 

In closing, there are several problems we still face concerning the treatment of autism. With OSA and intracranial hypertension, we possibly have under-diagnosis due to the lack of studies on the issue and the inaccurate sleep testing that is offered. The autism community needs to actively study and talk about these connections. Both conventional and non-conventional health professionals have grossly underestimated the link between obstructive sleep apnea and autism as well. Routine screening for sleep disorders should be done in patients who present with behavioral problems that have been linked to obstructive sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing. Additionally, more sensitive and accurate testing with well defined criteria (like Stanford’s) should be used. It is unfortunate that there are not non-invasive ways of measuring ICP, although they are being discussed and suggested.9 This has lead to great difficulty in getting diagnoses for elevated intracranial pressure that may be associated with autism. Still, this problem requires further research so that we can better understand, treat, and manage the possible elevated ICP and sleep disordered breathing in those with ASD.

References:

1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674489/

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1214410-overview#a1

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/managing-side-effects/increased-intracranial-pressure-icp/?region=on

2.http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/02/17/jnnp-2015-311302

3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pseudotumor-cerebri/symptoms-causes/syc-20354031?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=abstract&utm_content=Idiopathic-intracranial-hypertension&utm_campaign=Knowledge-panel

4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326261/

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399513/

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-apnea-and-progressive-brain-damage

6. http://m.kidshealth.org/en/parents/apnea.html?WT.ac=

http://www.sleepreviewmag.com/2016/02/children-autism-trouble-sleeping-linked-behavioral-problems/

7. http://www.breathesleepandbewell.com/articles/autism-sleep-disordered-breathing-and-intracranial-hypertension.pdf

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16638513/

9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402331/

Misinformation Espoused by Proud Social Skeptics (Academics and Otherwise)

I’m sure if you live on planet earth and are up to date with the vaccine debate you know who Dorit Reiss is. She is omnipresent on the internet; if you bring up vaccine risks, bet the person next to you 20 bucks that she will show up and see how long it takes before that prediction comes true (wink). For the purpose of this post I will be identifying some of the misinformation she has posted on twitter.

 

“Autism isn’t encephalitis” she says, as she compares photos of a normal brain to an autistic and encephalitis stricken brain. Firstly, she fails to differentiate between encephalitis and encephalopathy. When researchers discuss brain inflammation in autism they are not always speaking about encephalitis induced by a viral or bacterial infection. I cannot comment entirely upon the images shown because she cites no source and has failed to respond to my request for the citations used for the comparison (needed to determine the accuracy of methodology), but I can prove how the images are misleading and that in fact brain inflammation is associated with autism. Vaccine-induced encephalitis does happen as well, but what is much more common in autism is chronic neuroinflammation.


(Source)

Neuroinflammation is inflammation of the nervous tissue. It may be initiated in response to a variety of cues, including infection, traumatic brain injury, toxic metabolites, or autoimmunity.”

 

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img_1463(Source)

 

(Source)

 

IMG_0445(Source)

 


(Source)

Dorit fails to understand how underlying neuroinflammation can influence and directly cause certain behaviors. These behaviors fall under DSM-5 criteria used in autism diagnoses. Pseudo-skeptics fail miserably at separating underlying biological abnormalities from neurobehavioral disorders. This is something that they maintain in their arguments for the purpose of avoiding the grim reality and defending interest groups. Moreover, Dorit is using complexifuscation:

Complexifuscation – the introduction of similar signals, inputs or measures, alongside a control measure or an experimental measure, in an attempt to create a ‘cloud of confusion or distraction’ around the ability to effect observation, control or measure of a targeted set of data. Preemption of a phenomena with in-advance flurries of fake hoaxes, in order obscure the impact, or jade the attention span of a target audience, around a genuine feared phenomena

Dorit has succeeded at creating a cloud of confusion and distraction surrounding the topic of autism etiology and pathophysiology. Researchers and even parents want a specific set of data studied on autism biomarkers including the presence of neuroinflammation. She solely defines autism by behavioral characteristics and signals while separating it from underlying medical/biological problems that cause those exact same characteristics to come into being. By doing this she has been able to obfuscate the true causes of those very behavioral disorders in a statistically significant part of the population.

In addition to that, Dorit also uses misleading memes such as this one:

img_0417

img_0418-1

(This meme is misleading and disingenuous for several reasons that are outlined here and here).

Pertinently, (something else she also conveniently ignores) is that the peer-reviewed journal EHP came out with a project known as TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) and they discuss the very risks that environmental exposures pose to children’s brain health.

CONCLUSION: Based on these findings, we assert that the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken. To help reduce the unacceptably high prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in our children, we must eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to chemicals that contribute to these conditions. We must adopt a new framework for assessing chemicals that have the potential to disrupt brain development and prevent the use of those that may pose a risk. This consensus statement lays the foundation for developing recommendations to monitor, assess, and reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. These measures are urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.

Pseudo-skeptics and con artists such as Dorit can deny facts as much as they want and further fuel their cognitive dissonance; this however does not change the scientific evidence or the reality that children and their parents currently face when it comes to disability. There are also societal consequences to this that branch out and affect multiple areas of existence and potential prosperity. We are not claiming that all neurobehavioral problems have the same cause; rather, we want the public to be educated on the current state of knowledge regarding causes that have been identified and associated with these issues. This includes potential causes that are still being studied. We find that it is absolutely necessary that parents have the ability and right to avoid certain exposures where there is doubt and a lack of solid conclusive evidence of their safety. We favor the precautionary principle over interest groups’ opinions and shoddy (poorly designed) studies that reach specific conclusions too hastily. We also favor transparency, plurality, and the scientific method over proof gaming, the argument from ignorance, and the existential fallacy of data.

In closing, genetic and environmental factors both have a place in determining behavioral and social skills. Autism is multifactorial and epigenetic—involving an interaction between a genetic background and environmental exposures (triggers). Various phenotypes have been identified and the classifications are supported by scientific evidence. I recommend reading James Weiler’s evidence-based book “The Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism” for further edification. Some important messages from his book are on the importance of adhering to the scientific method and always asking questions. An important question to ask yourself now would be “Where do we all go from here?”

 

Scientific Consensus or Political Consensus? 

In scientific debates surrounding controversial topics we commonly hear the claim that scientists are the experts who shape consensus based on the facts and available evidence. If anyone questions the “evidence” or the conclusions of this consensus (including other scientists and health professionals) they are anti-science, pseudoscience peddling loons (or any other number of pejoratives frequently used). 

Once we understand the conceptualization of social skepticism and what it derives from we can further understand the edifice of psuedo-skepticism and its faulty interpretation of reality (what is subjective and mistaken as objective). 

The first mistake is to assume that scientists somehow dictate scientific reality. Scientists describe, measure, investigate, identify, and study phenomena. Through experimental investigation, and most importantly, asking questions, we build upon our knowledge base and can establish facts. The scientific method is a process and establishing facts requires rigorous science, question formulation, and laborious investigation. “Facts” must be differentiated between the social skeptic version:

¡fact! – lying through facts. Data or a datum which is submitted in order to intimidate those in a discussion, is not really understood by the claimant, or rather which is made up, is not salient or relevant to the question being addressed, or is non-sequitur inside the argument being made. The relating of a fact which might be true, does not therefore mean that one is relating truth.

Social skeptics use this quite often when citing studies that they have never even fully reviewed in order to claim that the said ¡facts! support their conclusion. They even throw ¡facts! around when people are merely asking questions. It is a way that they attempt to halt discussion on the issue under the guise of the so-called “facts” already being established and accepted (thus being incontrovertible and free from criticism). 

I will provide an example. Here is a citation that has been thrown around with ¡facts! but is poorly designed and lead to questionable conclusions. 

Jain, A., Marxhall, J., Buikema, A., Bancroft, T., Kelly, J., Newschaffer, C. (2015). Autism occurrence by MMR vaccine status among US children with older siblings with and without autism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313(15). doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3077.

The people using this do not necessarily understand the research methods and how the data is being used. When an independent scientist reviewed this study she found issues with the statistical testing. The authors also ignored statistically significant findings in the 5 year old group. It is another study being used in support of a specific conclusion but the avenue to this conclusion is flawed within itself. 

With regards to consensus, here are some definitions to start with for a better understanding:

Consensus – is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists composing a particular field of study. It is not a popularity poll among scientists in general or even necessarily inside the field of study in question. Consensus can only be claimed when multiple opposing explanatory alternatives have been researched in objective detail, and a reasonable body of those scientists who developed the field of opposition alternatives, have been convinced of the complimentary alternative’s superiority. Just because a null hypothesis exists, and only that hypothesis has been researched, does not provide a basis for a claim to consensus, no matter how many scientists, or those pretending to speak for science in the media, favor the null hypothesis.

Consensus Appeal to Authority – in so far as scientists speak in one voice, and dissent is not really allowed, then appeal to scientific consensus is the same as an appeal to authority.

Interestingly enough, those claiming to represent the side of consensus don’t have a complete grasp on the meaning of consensus. 
Here, I will speak specifically about the contention that vaccine safety is proven and agreed upon through the consensus of experts. On the issue of vaccine safety, have multiple opposing explanatory alternatives been researched in objective detail? Specific parts have indeed been researched and the purported safety of vaccines has not only not been proven, it has been proven otherwise.1 Other specific parts have not been researched objectively in detail. For example, to this date, there are no robust long-term prospective unvaccinated versus vaccinated studies looking at total health outcomes in US children who have followed the full schedule versus children who have not been vaccinated. There aren’t randomized control trials on the vaccine schedule either because it is claimed that it is “unethical” to do that type of study and leave children without vaccines. Vaccines are also labeled as biologicals instead of pharmaceuticals – with this classification they have been able to avoid the FDA research standard. The studies used to “prove” safety and refute causation are epidemiological and by methodology cannot even do what they are claiming.2 

All scientific work is incomplete—whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.3

Within the framework that social skeptics have created the core of their argument is a consensus appeal to authority. Once you understand and identify this (you can do this easily in a debate—pick any social media website and bring up the topic of vaccines and count how many times this is used) you will see how banal pseudo-skeptics are, yet how crafty and sophisticated they are with rhetoric, the deceptive usage of language, misrepresentation of data, method, science, and assumption. Some of them are better at it than others but you will see similar tactics even amongst the varying degrees of developed sophistication within the social skeptic crowd. 

Another example would be the statement “The dose makes the poison.” Here we can identify it as falling under these terms:

Ingens Vanitatum Argument – citing a great deal of irrelevance. A posing of ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’ framed inside an appeal to expertise, which is correct and relevant information at face value; however which serves to dis-inform as to the nature of the argument being vetted or the critical evidence or question being asked.

Ambiguity – the construction or delivery of a message in such words or fashion as to allow for several reasonable interpretations of the context, object, subject, relationship, material or backing of the intended message.

“The dose makes the poison” is both misleading and true depending on the context. At face value it is correct and relevant but it ultimately disinforms those who are asking questions and bringing up specific arguments about the various factors involved in a poison (a substance that causes injury, illness, or death, especially by chemical means). “The dose makes the poison” is also ambiguous. One reasonable interpretation of this is that “dose makes the poison” translates to “low doses are not poisonous.” If you have a debate over environmental exposures “dose makes the poison” is usually used when the claimant is arguing that the levels of chemicals (xenobiotics) we encounter are in “too low” of doses to cause any possible harm to an organism. When discussing aluminum adjuvants we also hear social skeptics say that “the dose makes the poison.” You want to know something both interesting and ironic about this? The dose does make the poison with al adjuvants; however, it is actually the low doses in vaccines that are more harmful—the exact opposite of what they are claiming. They are not clear in their statement either and should modify it to fit the true intended meaning, but this is not what they do, and there is a reason for this. It is successfully sophistical. 

Crepeaux (paper): Non-linear dose-response of aluminium hydroxide adjuvant particles: Selective low dose neurotoxicity

The low toxicity of the higher dosages appears to be a consequence of dosage-dependent inflammation at the injection site. The high dosages caused intense inflammation at the injection site, forming “granulomas”. The 200 mcg/Kg dosage did not produce granulomas. Granulomas are hard nodules in tissue produced in response to injury, infection or foreign substances. Its a way the body “walls off” injured tissue and prevents the spread of infection or toxins. The granulomas apparently prevented Al adjuvant particles from leaving the injection site. This explains why the 200 mcg/Kg dosage affected the brain and behavior, while the higher dosages did not.

(The aluminum adjuvant used was Alhydrogel. This is used in the tetanus, Hep A, Hep B, HiB, pneumococcal, meningococcal, and anthrax vaccines. This study found that the lower dosages were actually more toxic than the higher doses used.)

It is also stated that the “consensus” is that aluminum adjuvants are safe and you ingest more aluminum than you inject (Ingens Vanitatum Argument – the second statement is true, but there is a difference in mechanisms, kinetics, and affected tissues). 
Ingested aluminum cannot be compared to injected aluminum since injected aluminum is more metabolically available and ingested aluminum has lower absorption (0.1-0.4% and .5-5% for al citrate). Again, “the dose makes the poison” is a common and inaccurate one-liner/argument people have regarding this issue, but it is overly simplistic and not aligned with modern science on the kinetics of aluminum adjuvants. 

The reason that there are vaccine-injuries is because of several factors, many involving genetic susceptibility. We do not entirely understand every single susceptibility factor involved—but we do understand some of them. We have enough science to further support the precautionary principle in this matter. More unbiased scientific research is needed of course, but even then, the science already available is overwhelmingly crucial yet remains unacknowledged and even denied by people and health authorities who wish to vigorously defend the vaccine schedule. Aluminum adjuvants are not safe for everyone and comparing them to ingested aluminum is highly misleading. You cannot scientifically compare studies of ingested water-soluble aluminum salts such as Al-lactate or AlCl3 to establish safety regarding injected aluminum adjuvants made of aluminum hydroxide/aluminum phosphate nanoparticles. The chemicals and route of administration are both different and the well designed animal studies thus far have shown that low doses of al adjuvant cause brain inflammation. 

(This information was collected from VaccinePapers, a highly recommended evidence-based science website with citations. On this link you can learn more about the study and how the childhood vaccine schedule poses a risk with the amount of aluminum that is injected.)

The analyses used in support of aluminum adjuvant safety (Mitkus and Keith) are also scientifically flawed. These are used by the FDA and other health authorities, and in turn, this is used by other major health organizations who misinform doctors that aluminum adjuvants are completely safe. The very people claiming to be experts are getting their information from other “experts” who are using pseudoscience. Having the label or status of an expert does not somehow negate the unsound evidence being used in support of a specific conclusion. The evidence should be objectively studied and analyzed—and it has been. It is found to be erroneous. You can learn more about that here as well. 

There is the issue of al adjuvant toxicity, but there is also the issue of immune activation (including postnatal) and its role in brain injury. We know that immune activation (from infections) during pregnancy has been associated with schizophrenia and autism. What wasn’t entirely understood in the beginning was how vaccination could also activate the immune system in such a way to also cause damage. Now the science on cytokines, neurons, glial cells, purkinje cells, and microglial activation has given us more information on why immune activation causes damage to the fetal brain and how immune activation is related to conditions such as autism. 

It is an incredibly heated and complex debate, but the existing science shows that vaccines can and do in fact cause damage. If someone presents the false and specious dilemma to you that you must be either “pro-vaccine” or “anti-vaccine”, they are being dishonest. Not everyone is arguing that vaccines have never prevented disease or that they are not needed. Many vaccine skeptics are simply giving the facts and showing the holes that exist in the research that claims vaccines are safe and effective. 90% of infectious disease mortality was also on the decline before vaccines were even introduced – another fact that is rarely mentioned by those who claim to be “pro-vaccine”. 

For clarity: Guyer et al, “Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans During the 20th Century”, PEDIATRICS, 2000.
http://m.pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/106/6/1307

“Once again, nearly 90% of the decline in infectious disease mortality among US children occurred before 1940, when few antibiotics or vaccines were available.”

If someone makes the claim that vaccines are responsible for saving all of those lives from infectious disease, they are wrong.
People are afraid to not vaccinate because of the threat of infectious disease and the supposed herd immunity that mass vaccination gives, but they should also be afraid of risks that do in fact exist and are not disclosed to parents. You have to understand each disease and vaccine available before you come to a complete conclusion on what to do for your child; you also have to understand the risks, which for many, far outweigh the benefits. You can learn more about the science of each vaccine and its ingredients here. You cannot force someone to vaccinate when there is a risk to their child that will negatively affect them the rest of their life. Unfortunately, the risks are usually unknown and unheard of until after the event of vaccine injury occurs. It is also unethical to tell everyone to vaccinate when there is experimental and observational evidence that vaccines cause damage to a genetically vulnerable sub-population (which major organizations have refused to properly study in order to prevent other people from being harmed). 

IOM, pg. 127

What is even more unethical is when proper research is blocked or never completed because social skeptics, health organizations and biased scientists assume that vaccine safety is already proven and anyone who suggests otherwise should be shamed and ridiculed. The scientists, doctors, and parents who do speak out are considered “anti-vaccine loons” even when they bring up valid concerns. The fact that a majority of health organizations and doctors state that vaccines are completely safe does not make it so. What would make that statement a fact would be if the scientific evidence supported it, but the scientific evidence in favor of that conclusion is actually lacking and distorted because of biased and poorly designed studies. Immunity is a very complex subject and every person does not respond exactly the same; the “one size fits all” approach does not work when it comes to vaccination. It isn’t that we want vaccination to be stopped—it’s that we want vaccine injuries to be stopped. We want the at-risk groups to be studied so that we can prevent future injuries in people who also share that susceptibility. We also don’t know the true “benefit to risk” ratio of vaccination because adverse reactions to vaccines are not properly reported. Less than 10% are reported and physicians don’t encourage patients to report when there are visible symptoms following vaccine administration. And even when parents do take their concerns or observations to doctors, many times they are told that “It can in no way be related to the vaccination and is just a coincidence. Correlation does not imply or equal causation.” 

Furthermore, there are other problems we face when it comes to VAERS. Two variants of complexifuscation will be explained here. 

Complexifuscation – the introduction of similar signals, inputs or measures, alongside a control measure or an experimental measure, in an attempt to create a ‘cloud of confusion or distraction’ around the ability to effect observation, control or measure of a targeted set of data. Preemption of a phenomena with in-advance flurries of fake hoaxes, in order obscure the impact, or jade the attention span of a target audience, around a genuine feared phenomena.

In quotes below you will see how this was explained by a special scientist friend of mine (articulated perfectly – I could not summarize this any better than the given description). 


Hiding Through Data Flood 
“The VAERS database of vaccine injury is one example. – There are tens of thousands of vaccine injuries each year, and in order to mask this statistic, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a database where not only are those injuries recorded, but EVERY side effect of a vaccine is also reported. So rashes, slight fevers, ‘didn’t feel good’ reports come in by the hundreds of thousands and squelch out both the usefulness of the database and the ability to spot ‘permanent disability through encephalopathy’ data. It is a way of killing an idea by tendering the appearance of giving it overwhelming attention.


Hiding Through Cladistic Categorization
“Autism is a great example here. In this method of counter-intelligence, you take a threatening data trend, and in order to mask its growth – you start identifying subcategories inside the malady so that old numbers are apples-to-oranges in comparison to new numbers. You cannot track the 1970’s ‘autism’ stats versus the 2010’s autism because there are so many gradiations now. Incumbent in the Cladistic Complexifuscation tactic, is the built in excuse when any growth is observed = ‘Well it is simply a case of increase in diagnosis, ability to detect and maladies which used to not be included, which are now included.” This is how Steven Novella attempts to diffuse the topic.”

Moreover, as I have stated before, there are also no well designed prospective studies comparing total health outcomes between the vaccinated and unvaccinated so that we can better understand the effects. Pharmaceutical companies refuse to label vaccines as drugs; this makes it to where they do not have to do the same type of thorough safety studies like the ones that are completed on pharmaceuticals. It is purported that vaccines do not have negative effects and that vaccinated children are healthier in totality while unvaccinated children are dangerous. We have to move beyond the argument from ignorance that asserts that “a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, or is false because it has not been shown to have any evidence” and the existential fallacy of data “the implication or contention that there is an absence of observation or data supporting an idea, when in fact no observational study at all, or of any serious import has been conducted by science on the topic at hand.” 

We constantly see doctors and nurses claiming they are the experts (next in line to the scientists who support the conclusions they espouse) and that we unqualified plebs better take a step back. Unfortunately for them, their claims are rooted in erroneous conclusions and social skepticism. This means that what they are saying is not “settled science” but rather deceptive rhetoric influenced by deep indoctrination and a lack of information. No amount of adverting to asserted consensus or authority will change the scientific method or epistemological accuracy. 

The nurses and people in medical school who make these claims have been taught how to administer vaccines and/or that vaccines are life saving, safe, and effective, and that that’s all there is to it. They are given courses in immunology and microbiology as well. However, they are not given the facts about the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the national vaccine injury compensation table of injuries, the science of aluminum adjuvant neurotoxicity, thimerosal neurotoxicity (thimerosal is still in multi-dose flu shots), the science of immune activation and its role in brain disorders, or how to discern the difference between sound research methods, biased science, and research flaws/manipulation. They are given one side of information and in many cases misinformation in regards to safety. You cannot expect to see the whole picture if you take advice and listen to people who only give one specific side of regurgitated one-liners. Aside from the pretentiousness and hubris of these purported “experts”,  we also have to understand most of these people genuinely think they are doing the right thing. 

In closing, it is essential that you understand the differences between political consensus that is derived from deception and scientific consensus that is formed through the proper usage of the scientific method. Political consensus has to do with the politicization of science and agenda driven misinterpretations of data, information collection, and epistemological solecism that is used in order to cite a false consensus that would not even exist if scientists were given the complete information from both sides (along with being properly informed about the lack of data on the given subject and the reasons why you shouldn’t jump to a conclusion precipitately and wrongfully). Political consensus covers the social and political dimension of subjective interpretation in social skepticism and pop science. The antithesis to this is scientific consensus that properly follows the scientific method through arriving at conclusions based on time, objective understanding free of human bias, meticulous consideration, and at the apex—ethical skepticism.

References:

1. http://autismrawdata.net/validation.html

Human Studies that Indicate Autism/Vaccine Link

http://info.cmsri.org/the-driven-researcher-blog/first-medical-textbook-devoted-to-research-linking-vaccines-to-autoimmunity

http://soundchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DNA_Contaminants_in_Vaccines_Can_Integrate_Into_Childrens_Genes.pdf

http://medcraveonline.com/IJVV/IJVV-04-00072.pdf

2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15460223/

3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1513293/#!po=79.0000


Definitions worth learning:

Appeal to Tradition (argumentum ad antiquitam) – a conclusion advertised as proven scientifically solely because it has long been held to be true.

Appeal to Probability – the false contention of a skeptic that the most probable, simple, or likely outcome in a set of highly convoluted but unacknowledged assumptions, is therefore the compulsory or prevailing conclusion of science.

Appeal to Ridicule – an argument is made by presenting the opponent’s argument in a way that makes it appear ridiculous.

Appeal to Scientific Democracy – the contention that if the majority of scientists believe something to be true, regardless of epistemological merit, then it must be assumed as true.


Appeal to Scientists Fallacy
– an argument that is misrepresented to be the premise held true on the part of the prevailing group of scientists; or concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to a more successful career in science.

Appeal to Skeptic – citing a skeptic as an authority, recitation or expert witness on a subject or observation, when a skeptic in reality provides no particular relevant expertise. In recitation rules, not qualifying as an authority. Under the Rules of Federal Evidence, skeptic testimony is the lowest ranked of any kind, being ranked under eyewitness testimony, not possessing any particular expertise other than a specious claim to know the scientific method, or lacking in the court’s Duty of Candor.

Appeal to Skepticism Position – the argument assumption or implication that an opinion possesses authoritative veracity or a proponent possesses intellectual high ground simply through allegiance to a consensus skeptical position on a topic.

Appeal to Skepticism Status – the declaration, assumption or implication that a consensus skeptical position on a topic is congruent with the consensus opinion of scientists on that topic.

Appeal to Skepticism Fallacy – the presumption or contention that taking a denial based or default dubious stance on a set of evidence or topic is somehow indicative of application of the scientific method on one’s part, or constitutes a position of superior intellect, or represents a superior critical or rational position on a topic at hand.

Appeal to Tradition (argumentum ad antiquitam) – a conclusion advertised as proven scientifically solely because it has long been held to be true.

Argument from Incredulity – the contention that because something is too difficult to imagine or possibly exist, then this is proof that it does not exist.

As Science as Law Fallacy – the implication or assumption that something is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ under the scientific method, when in fact this is an incorrect philosophy of hypothesis reduction. 

Bunk Nauseam Fallacy – the argument that a point is invalid by implying or citing incorrectly that the topic has been de-bunked many many times, and is now nothing but an irritating myth inside circles of stupidity.

Cannot be Reliably Tested Error – the malpractice of disqualifying a subject, study or researcher from science by citing that it has not been or cannot be tested or reliably repeated in testing. When in fact many conclusions of accepted science fall under such a reality. This often is achieved through blocking its access to the scientific method, ignoring the topic, conflating the scientific method with the experimental method, ignoring discovery science protocols, refusing to research/test the contention, or misrepresenting its appropriate next steps or empirical questions, and further then citing that therefore the subject has failed the necessary testing methods of science.

Cherry Picking – pointing to a talking sheet of handpicked or commonly circulated individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring or denying a significant portion of related context cases or data that may contradict that position.

The World of Autism and the False Dichotomy; It’s Not Just Black or White

1. “Autism is either environmental or it’s genetic.”

2. “You’re either pro-autistic (the qualifier being you’re a neurodiversity advocate) or you’re anti-autistic.”

3. “Vaccines either cause all autism or they do not cause autism at all.”

4. “You’re either anti-vaccine or you’re pro-vaccine.”

These are examples of false dichotomies to look for when you’re viewing discussions about autism. Let’s examine all four of them.

Firstly, what is a false dichotomy? A false dichotomy fallacy involves using two different options as if they were the only possible ones. This type of reasoning can be seen as “Either B or A” when in fact both could be false or there are more alternatives. When people use this reasoning they can also say “Claim B is true therefore claim A is false” or “Claim A is false therefore claim B is true.” It is faulty binary reasoning that can be used to obscure and avoid other possible answers that involve different factors, contexts, and conditions. It is also known as the “black-or-white” fallacy, bifurcation fallacy, and false dilemma.

Proposition number 1 states that there are two options for autism causation: genetic or environmental. This is misleading because research shows that autism involves genetics and the environment rather than just one of the two.1 An open discussion should not present itself in such a way that people cannot openly consider other factors or combinations of these factors.

Proposition number 2 states that you are either pro-autistic if you’re a neurodiversity advocate or you are anti-autistic if you are not. This only gives two options when there are actually more. To start with, we have to ask what it means to be “pro-autistic.” This can have several meanings and we will approach this statement (as an example) as if it is being specifically given by someone who is using vagueness and not clearly/thoroughly defining the meaning of the word in the given context of their statement. Does being “pro-autistic” mean that you want acceptance of autism? Does being pro-autistic mean you want people to respect those with autism? Does being pro-autistic mean that you want the healthcare of autistic people to be covered and there be adequate options for maintainence, care, and access to special education? What if you agree with most of those but you disagree with one? Are you suddenly “anti-autistic” for doing so? I have written about my position on this issue and I have replied to a neurodiversity advocate as well.2 I am not a neurodiversity advocate for several reasons, one being that I do not want to associate with a group that has largely denied the fact a statistically significant portion of autism cases are caused by environmental and genetic interactions rather than just something that is a psychologically inborn difference. Autism in its entirety is not  “positive” and we have to understand the experiences from different viewpoints rather than assuming that autism is automatically a gift. This is not to say that it isn’t a gift for some or that there aren’t positive things about autism for some people. Moreover, we should not overlook the suffering or the scientific evidence that exists so that we can instead favor a distorted view shaped by opinions and partial information. I am not “anti-autistic” because I am not a neurodiversity advocate in the same exact way that others define themselves as neurodiversity advocates. Someone framing the argument in such a black and white way is going about it through their own arbitrary interpretation rather than reasoning that considers all possible facets. I would be considered “pro-autistic” by the standard of caring about autistic people, wanting those with autism to be listened to/studied properly and advocating for autistic people to have proper access to healthcare and education. In addition to this, I also want the cases of autism caused by harmful environmental exposures to be prevented and I want those who suffer from co-morbidities to have proper treatment (including treatment for ongoing brain inflammation). There are more factors involved and ways of approaching this issue.

Proposition number 3 states that vaccines either cause all autism or they don’t cause autism at all. This does not consider all factors or possible answers. Vaccines cause autism in susceptible individuals but they don’t cause every single case of autism because autism has more than one cause.3 The fact that not all cases of autism are caused by vaccines does not mean that they don’t cause autism in a specific subgroup. One has to understand the science and circumstances which give rise to autistic behavior and how many biological factors underly autism etiology.

Proposition number 4 is one of the most commonly seen uses of the bifurcation fallacy. “You are either anti-vaccine or you are pro-vaccine.” I first encountered this reasoning when debating someone over potential vaccine risks and the research that was needed and had not been done yet. They claimed that me merely questioning vaccine safety was pushing me into the “anti-vaxx” category (celeber cavilla fallacy). They were approaching this from the position of someone who pushes the view that vaccines are completely safe and effective and hold no risks, and anyone who questions or denies this proposition must be an anti-vaxx, anti-science moron who wants infectious disease to return. The pigeonholing did not serve to help their argument. Rather, it showed that they could not look beyond “black or white” thinking or question what they’ve been told by perceived authorities. My actual position was that the at-risk subgroups needed to be studied further to mitigate the risk and there was enough science to warrant further research as well as caution. I did not claim that vaccines were never useful or harmed every single person; I was pointing out certain science and observational accounts that put into question the efficacy, safety, and “one size fits all” viewpoint of vaccine usage. We have to move beyond the two-sided “anti” and “pro” nonsense to actually analyze and interpret the arguments  being given.

The use of pigeonholing, false dilemmas, oversimplification, and making assumptions about your opponent’s position is not lending you intellectual credibility. Let’s move beyond “group think” and listen to one another so we can have objective, open and fruitful dialogue.


References 

1. http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

The Environmental and Genetics Causes of Autism
2.https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/a-reply-to-the-user-and-neurodiversity-advocate-autistinquisitor/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/major-flaws-within-the-neurodiversity-movement/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/an-open-letter-to-the-neurodiversity-movement/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

3. http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

The Environmental and Genetics Causes of Autism

In Defense of Dr. Neides

Recently we have seen health professionals and other people villifying the doctor who wrote this controversial (and now removed) article:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lVMRp4wMZ-QJ:www.cleveland.com/lyndhurst-south-euclid/index.ssf/2017/01/make_2017_the_year_to_avoid_to.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

While I am not going to address every claim by this doctor, I am going to defend him for bringing attention to this important issue—vaccine safety.

The backlash is to be expected from people who have not critically evaluated all of the existing scientific literature. They continue to believe what they are told by the WHO, FDA, and CDC regardless of what science exists that contradicts studies and statements put forth by these (and many other) organizations. Many are saying what this doctor has published is “dangerous” because it can lead people to (God forbid) question vaccine safety. Scientists, doctors, and laymen have rightfully questioned  vaccine safety because there are valid concerns. Clinical observation has time and time again shown the connection but the scientific data itself has proven the mechanisms behind vaccine-induced injury and the evidence is there for those willing to research laboriously.

Now, back to this article I am referencing. There is a plethora of ignorant comments in the comment section but I have chosen to write a reply to the comment made by Kevin Folta. I won’t go into his background as I am sure many of you already know who he is, but if you wish to look further you can make a quick Google search.
Here are snapshots of his comment:

 

 

Here is my reply:

I won’t reply to every part of your comment, Kevin, but I will point out the specific parts that are erroneous. First, let’s start with your comment that “It is well known that ethyl mercury has limited toxicokinetic properties and is eliminated from the body and poses little risk.” This assumption is false and based on pseudoscience that is pushed by the vaccine industry and many other health organizations. Ethylmercury is a mitochondrial toxin and especially injurious for those who have mild mitochondrial defects and are susceptible to its exposure. Thimerosal might be the pathogenesis of autism in this subset of children. (Sharpe et al., 2013; Sharpe et al., 2012). Disorders of the mitochondria are also not rare in the autism community and individuals can acquire mitochondrial dysfunction through environmental toxins lacking a familial link. (Frye et al., 2013). 

 

Small amounts of thimerosal even induce changes in gene expression in the cerebellum. In the conclusion of Minami et al. (2010): “The present study helps to support the possible biological plausibility for how low-dose exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines may be associated with autism.” It has also been long confirmed in animal studies that ethylmercury in doses from the vaccine schedule (or lower) causes damage neurologically. (Rodriques et al., 2010; Olczak et al., 2009; Qvarnstro et al., 2003; Burbacher et al., 2005; Magos et al., 1985). 

Furthermore, glutathione is the most powerful anti-oxidant in the body and has been shown to be depleted in children with autism (Rose et al., 2012). Thimerosal is shown to cause glutathione depletion, which may demonstrate exacerbation of neurotoxicity (James et al., 2005).


There is a 2014 study (Rooney, J., 2014) that documented the half-life of inorganic mercury in the human brain, which can last “several years to several decades.” It was thought before that vaccines containing ethylmercury (which is in flu vaccines as a preservative) couldn’t be compared to inorganic mercury. Inorganic Mercury is extremely neurotoxic and we now know that thimerosal containing vaccines do uptake in the brain as inorganic mercury where it can accumulate and remain for the individual’s life (Burbacher et al., 2005). The inorganic mercury concentration in the brains of ethylmercury exposed monkeys in the Burbacher study is up to 4.6 times higher than in the blood at 2 days after the last injection. The ratio increased as sacrifices were performed at a longer duration from the last dose. Furthermore, the thimerosal exposed monkeys had higher levels of mercury in the kidneys when compared to the methyl mercury monkeys. Something that vaccine advocates are quick to point out is that the ethyl mercury clears the blood at a higher rate, which is true, but both mercury compounds uptake in tissues about the same (~4-7ng/g and ~10ng/g respectively). But the total inorganic mercury concentration is much higher in the brains of thimerosal exposed monkeys. Thimerosal is still (despite evidence that warrants caution) being used in flu vaccines which are recommended to children and pregnant women. I will provide further references at the end of this comment.

When it comes to the topic of vaccine safety, there are many logical errors people use and I am going to point out a few of them (albeit there are many others). One of the first ones is an appeal to scientific democracy which involves “the contention that if the majority of scientists believe something to be true, regardless of epistemological merit, then it must be assumed as true” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Then we have an appeal to scientists fallacy which is “an argument that is misrepresented to be the premise held true on the part of the prevailing group of scientists; or concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to a more successful career in science” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Another commonly used argument and pseudo-skeptic tactic involves the use of a consensus appeal to authority. “Insofar as scientists speak in one voice and dissent is not really allowed, then appeal to scientific consensus is the same as an appeal to authority” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Consensus that is shaped by scientific obfuscation, conflicts of interest, and shoddy scientific studies that use poor methodology is consensus that is in error. If the “consensus” on such a topic is not in line with scientific facts or the proper usage of the scientific method, it ceases to be a consensus based on actual reliable science and thus poses major issues.

The precautionary principle is of utmost importance especially when dealing with a sub-population that is at an increased risk of an adverse reaction from specific exposures. Also, I agree with the statement “First, do no harm.” But you are making this statement from a position of ignorance on the topic of thimerosal. It turns out it is you that needs a lesson in biochemistry and an understanding of how to critically evaluate the literature (including many important studies of which you have never put an eye on, considered, or weighed the evidence for).

Further reading recommendations:

Rose et al. (2014). Increased susceptibility to ethylmercury-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in a subset of autism lymphoblastoid cell lines. Journal of Toxicology. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2015/573701/

“These findings suggest that the epidemiological link between environmental mercury exposure and an increased risk of developing autism may be mediated through mitochondrial dysfunction and support the notion that a subset of individuals with autism may be vulnerable to environmental influences with detrimental effects on development through mitochondrial dysfunction.”

 

Sharpe et al. (2013). B-lymphocytes from a population of children with autism spectrum disorder and their unaffected siblings exhibit hypersensitivity to thimerosal. J Toxicol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23843785

 

“Cells hypersensitive to thimerosal also had higher levels of oxidative stress markers, protein carbonyls, and oxidant generation. This suggests certain individuals with a mild mitochondrial defect may be highly susceptible to mitochondrial specific toxins like the vaccine preservative thimerosal.”

 

Dorea JG. (2013). Low-dose Mercury Exposure in Early Life: Relevance of Thimerosal to Fetuses, Newborns and Infants. Curr Med Chem.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23992327

“Major databases were searched for human and experimental studies that addressed issues related to early life exposure to TCV. It can be concluded that: a) mercury load in fetuses, neonates, and infants resulting from TCVs remains in blood of neonates and infants at sufficient concentration and for enough time to penetrate the brain and to exert a neurologic impact and a probable influence on neurodevelopment of susceptible infants; b) etHg metabolism related to neurodevelopmental delays has been demonstrated experimentally and observed in population studies; c) unlike chronic Hg exposure during pregnancy, neurodevelopmental effects caused by acute (repeated/cumulative) early life exposure to TCV-etHg remain unrecognized; and d) the uncertainty surrounding low-dose toxicity of etHg is challenging but recent evidence indicates that avoiding cumulative insults by alkyl-mercury forms (which include Thimerosal) is warranted.”

 

Duszczyk-Budhathoki et al. (2012). Administration of thimerosal to infant rats increased overflow of glutamate and aspartate in the prefrontal cortex: protective role of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. Neurochem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22015977

“Since excessive accumulation of extracellular glutamate is linked with excitotoxicity, our data imply that neonatal exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines might induce excitotoxic brain injuries, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders.”

 

Sulkowski et al. (2012). Maternal thimerosal exposure results in aberrant cerebellar stress, thyroid hormone metabolism, and motor behavior in rat pups; sex- and strain-dependent effects. Cerebellum. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22015705

Our data thus demonstrate a negative neurodevelopmental impact of perinatal TM exposure which appears to be both strain – and sex-dependent

 

Sharpe et al. (2012). Thimerosal-Derived Ethylmercury is a mitochondrial toxin in human astrocytes:  possible role of fenton chemistry in the oxidation and breakage of mtDNA. J Toxicol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395253/

“These mitochondria appear to have undergone a permeability transition, an observation supported by the five-fold increase in Caspase-3 activity observed after Thimerosal treatment.”

 

Dorea, JG. (2011). Integrating experimental (in vitro and in vivo) neurotoxicity studies of low-dose thimerosal relevant to vaccines. Neurochem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21350943

“Thimerosal at concentrations relevant for infants’ exposure (in vaccines) is toxic to cultured human-brain cells and to laboratory animals.”

Hooker et al. (2014). Methodological issues and evidence of malfeasance in research purporting to show thimerosal in vaccines is safe. BioMed Research International. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/247218/

There are over 165 studies that have focused on Thimerosal, an organic-mercury (Hg) based compound, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, and found it to be harmful. Of these, 16 were conducted to specifically examine the effects of Thimerosal on human infants or children with reported outcomes of death; acrodynia; poisoning; allergic reaction; malformations; auto-immune reaction; Well’s syndrome; developmental delay; and neurodevelopmental disorders, including tics, speech delay, language delay, attention deficit disorder, and autism. In contrast, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that Thimerosal is safe and there is “no relationship between [T]himerosal[-]containing vaccines and autism rates in children.” This is puzzling because, in a study conducted directly by CDC epidemiologists, a 7.6-fold increased risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy was found. The CDC’s current stance that Thimerosal is safe and that there is no relationship between Thimerosal and autism is based on six specific published epidemiological studies coauthored and sponsored by the CDC. The purpose of this review is to examine these six publications and analyze possible reasons why their published outcomes are so different from the results of investigations by multiple independent research groups over the past 75+ years.

Adams et al. (2013). Toxicological status of children with autism vs. neurotypical children and the association with autism severity. Biol Trace Elem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23192845

Overall, children with autism have higher average levels of several toxic metals, and levels of several toxic metals are strongly associated with variations in the severity of autism for all three of the autism severity scales investigated.

Rooney, J. (2013). The retention time of inorganic mercury in the brain – A systematic review of the evidence. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X13005644

Evidence from such studies point to a half-life of inorganic mercury in human brains of several years to several decades. This finding carries important implications for pharmcokinetic modelling of mercury and potentially for the regulatory toxicology of mercury.

Chen et al. (2013). Effect of thimerosal on the neurodevelopment of premature rats. World J Pediatr. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24235069

The negative adverse consequences on neurodevelopment observed in the present study are consistent with previous studies; this study raised serious concerns about adverse neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism in humans following the ongoing worldwide routine administration of thimerosalcontaining vaccines to infants.

Olczak et al. (2011). Persistent behavioral impairments and alterations of brain dopamine system after early postnatal administration of thimerosal in rats. Behav Brain Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21549155

These data document that early postnatal THIM administration causes lasting neurobehavioral impairments and neurochemical alterations in the brain, dependent on dose and sex. If similar changes occur in THIM/mercurial-exposed children, they could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders

Olczak et al. (2010). Lasting neuropathological changes in rat brain after intermittent neonatal administration of thimerosal. Folia Neuropathol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21225508

These finding document neurotoxic effects of thimerosal, at doses equivalent to those used in infant vaccines or higher, in developing rat brain, suggesting likely involvement of this mercurial in neurodevelopmental disorders

DeSoto, C. (2007). Blood Levels of Mercury Are Related to Diagnosis of Autism: A Reanalysis of an Important Data Set. J Child Neurol. Retrieved from http://jcn.sagepub.com/content/22/11/1308.abstract

We have reanalyzed the data set originally reported by Ip et al. in 2004 and have found that the original p value was in error and that a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, the hair sample analysis results offer some support for the idea that persons with autism may be less efficient and more variable at eliminating mercury from the blood

James et al. (2005). Thimerosal neurotoxicity is associated with glutathione depletion: protection with glutathione precursors. Neurotoxicology. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15527868

Although Thimerosal has been recently removed from most children’s vaccines, it is still present in flu vaccines given to pregnant women, the elderly, and to children in developing countries. The potential protective effect of GSH or NAC against mercury toxicity warrants further research as possible adjunct therapy to individuals still receiving Thimerosal-containing vaccinations

Waly et al. (2004). Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopmental toxins and thimerosal. Mol Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14745455

The potent inhibition of this pathway by ethanol, lead, mercury, aluminum and thimerosal suggests that it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins 

Citations of peer-reviewed studies from the book “The Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism,” written by James Lyons-Weiler (AKA the Twitter troll slayer).

https://envgencauses.com

Fake Science: When is Medical “Science” Not Science?

Excellently written! This definitely pertains to the differences between ethical and social skepticism and how scientific manipulation has been used to hinder the knowledge development process.

lifebiomedguru

WE HAVE BEEN WARNED by our government and by specific social media outlets that much of the “news” we read online falls into a category of “Fake News”.  This warning has been identified as a very real threat to the freedom of expression and a move toward censorship.  I have witnessed first-hand how facts have been obliterated by government officials at press conferences, in testimony fake-newsto Congress, and in conference calls to the scientific community.

Throughout my scientific career, I have championed objectivity, first-hand, with hands-on data, data analysis plans, study designs, reporting, writing papers, publishing, participating on NIH grant review panels, conducting peer review on studies submitted to dozens of different journals.  I served as founding Editor-in-Chief on a journal that was my brain child, and led a dozen or so of the Editorial Board in a threat of mass resignation against the publisher if they weakened the peer-review system…

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A Reply to the User and Neurodiversity advocate”autistinquisitor”

“First off, Autism Speaks is an anti-autistic hate group. Don’t use them for a source. In fact, if you paid any attention AT ALL to neurodiversity proponents, they DO advocate pathologizing and treating the co-morbid conditions. That doesn’t mean we want to change the way we think. Autism is part of who we are. We shouldn’t “treat” autism, but we should treat Autistics for the same things we treat non-autistic people, such as diseases like epilepsy. “

The “Autism Speaks” link I used was merely for the economic statistics, which still stand on their own regardless of who reports them. I am not claiming to agree with everything this organization does nor was that my point. Now, moving on to your other claims—I am specifically addressing those within the neurodiversity who do trivialize and downplay the co-morbidities. I did not claim that every single person within this movement was wrong or that all of their viewpoints were incorrect; I outlined the signature arguments and assumptions that were flawed. I myself have debated those who deny that their is an association between autism and co-occurring morbidities, which is another reason I have pointed this out. In fact, I said “To be clear, I am not claiming that autistic people shouldn’t be accepted or looked at equally; they should be loved, appreciated, and dealt with through compassion, empathy, and guidance. The problem arises when there is ignorance of the negative effects of the autism epidemic and what a statistically significant portion of autistic people go through. I am also not claiming that every idea the neurodiversity movement has put forth is wrong; I am only showing the part of it that is demonstrably false and entirely ignorant of reality. Mainly, looking away from these valid findings and data on autism is both asinine and counterproductive.” To reiterate my point once more, autism is biological. Specific subgroups within autism have the behavioral abnormalities they do due to underlying disease and occurrences such as brain inflammation, oxidative stress, immune abnormalities, and mitochondrial dysfunction. These are medically treatable in specific cases and they are related to the behavioral phenotype. You say you don’t want to change the way “we” think, but you need to realize you do not speak for every single person with autism. I myself am on the spectrum and I do not imply this either; I talk in specifics because I am addressing a specific subset. When you say “we” you are speaking of yourself and the others within the ND movement, but this does not include all of us; I find this is important to note when discussing differences in ideas and perceptions.

“Autism is also not an epidemic. We have always existed. And most of the evidence claiming environmental causes is questionable at best.”

The contention that “autism is not an epidemic” is false. The statistics and science say otherwise:

Nevison, C. (2014). a comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors. Environ Health, 13(73). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177682/

“The quantitative comparison of IDEA snapshot and constant-age tracking trend slopes suggests that ~75-80% of the tracked increase in autism since 1988 is due to an actual increase in the disorder rather than to changing diagnostic criteria.”

Dave, D., Fernandez, J. (2014). Rising autism prevalence: Real or displacing other mental disorders?  Evidence from demand for auxiliary healthcare workers in California. Economic Inquiry. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecin.12137/abstract;jsessionid=EDA31CC40A2BC6358D480853F07EC7BC.f01t01

These estimates suggest that at least part of the increase in autism diagnoses, about 50–65%, reflects an increase in the true prevalence of the disorder. (JEL L11, J2, J3)

DeSoto et al. (2013). Professional opinion on the question of changes in autism incidence. Open Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=30182

Results suggest that among professional psychologists with a terminal degree (n=88), the majority believe that diagnostic changes can not fully account for the observed increase; 72% reported wither the true rate may have, or definitely has, increased

Hertz-Picciotto et al. (2009).UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute study shows California’s autism increase not due to better counting, diagnosis. UCDavis Health System. Retrieved from http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20090218_autism_environment/

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.

I am also not claiming that autistic people have not always been around; they have, but the prevalence and rates were not as high. We now know that a specific percentage of the observed increase is due to actual increases in autism and not just diagnostic changes.

Your statement that the evidence of environmental causes is “questionable at best” is also an assumption and an opinion, albeit not a scientific one. There are known environmental contributions to autism and there are potential causes which are continuing to be studied. Here are some (a small number out of the many existing) scientific citations:

Sandin et al. (2014). The familial risk of autism. JAMA. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24794370

We estimated how much of the probability of developing ASD can be related to genetic (additive and dominant) and environmental (shared and nonshared) factors…  Heritability of ASD and autistic disorder were estimated to be approximately 50%. These findings may inform the counseling of families with affected children.

Shelton et al. (2014). Neurodevelopmental disorders and prenatal residential proximity to agricultural pesticides: The CHARGE study. Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/

Children of mothers who live near agricultural areas, or who are otherwise exposed to organophosphate, pyrethroid, or carbamate pesticides during gestation may be at increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Further research on gene-by-environment interactions may reveal vulnerable sub-populations.

Braun et al. (2014). Gestational exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and reciprocal social, repetitive, and stereotypic behaviors in 4- and 5-year-old children: the HOME study. National Institute of Environmental health Sciences (NIH). Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2014/3/ehp.1307261.pdf

This work builds upon the theory that ASDs are a spectrum of disorders with prenatal origins, where both genetic and environmental factors contribute to atypical neurodevelopment, resulting in more autistic behaviors, and, at the extreme end, clinical diagnosis. EDCs deserve consideration as candidate risk factors for ASDs because of their potential to alter hormonal axis functions that play an important role in neurodevelopment. Building on this, we employed a statistically rigorous design to screen 52 different candidate EDCs and identify those worth additional study

Rzhetsky et al. (2014). Environmental and state-level regulatory factors affect the incidence of autism and intellectual disability. PLOSone. Retrieved from http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003518

Disease clusters are defined as geographically compact areas where a particular disease, such as a cancer, shows a significantly increased rate. It is presently unclear how common such clusters are for neurodevelopmental maladies, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). In this study, examining data for one third of the whole US population, the authors show that (1) ASD and ID display strong clustering across US counties; (2) counties with high ASD rates also appear to have high ID rates, and (3) the spatial variation of both phenotypes appears to be driven by environmental, and, to a lesser extent, economic incentives at the state level.

Commentary:  Study shows autism clusters are caused by environmental factors, urbanization, increased economic status, and impacts males the most.  Some environmental factors noted are: pesticides, lead, sex hormone analogs, medication, plasticizers, among others.

Rossignol et al. (2014). Environmental toxicants and autism spectrum disorders a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v4/n2/full/tp20144a.html#bib13

This was a great review of all the current literature regarding neurodevelopmental disorders.
1.  The dose of environmental toxicants are highly variable regarding negative adverse events, especially in children with ASD because they have polymorphisms in genes that detoxify..
2.  ASD is presenting as a systemic abnormality creating immune dysregulation/inflammation, impaired detoxification, redox regulation/oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction.  Caused by toxicant exposures with genetic interplay.

The findings of this review suggest that the etiology of ASD may involve, at least in a subset of children, complex interactions between genetic factors and certain environmental toxicants that may act synergistically or in parallel during critical periods of neurodevelopment, in a manner that increases the likelihood of developing ASD. Because of the limitations of many of the reviewed studies, additional high-quality epidemiological studies concerning environmental toxicants and ASD are warranted to confirm and clarify many of these findings.

Gayle, D. (2014). Number of chemicals linked to problems such as autism DOUBLES in just seven years. MailOnline. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2560068/Young-risk-silent-epidemic-brain-disorders-Study-finds-growing-number-chemicals-linked-problems-like-autism.html

The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a ‘silent epidemic’ of brain disorders.

Yasuda, H., & Tsutsui, T. (2013). Assessment of infantile mineral imbalances in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Int J environ Res Public Health, 10(11). doi:  10.3390/ijerph10116027

These findings suggest that infantile zinc- and magnesium-deficiency and/or toxic metal burdens may be critical and induce epigenetic alterations in the genes and genetic regulation mechanisms of neurodevelopment in the autistic children, and demonstrate that a time factor “infantile window” is also critical for neurodevelopment and probably for therapy. Thus, early metallomics analysis may lead to early screening/estimation and treatment/prevention for the autistic neurodevelopment disorders.

Essa et al. (2013). Excitotoxicity in the pathogenesis of autism. Neurotox Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23065398

It is a multifactorial disorder resulting from interactions between genetic, environmental and immunological factors. Excitotoxicity and oxidative stress are potential mechanisms, which are likely to serve as a converging point to these risk factors. Substantial evidence suggests that excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and impaired mitochondrial function are the leading cause of neuronal dysfunction in autistic patients. Glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter produced in the CNS, and overactivity of glutamate and its receptors leads to excitotoxicity. The over excitatory action of glutamate, and the glutamatergic receptors NMDA and AMPA, leads to activation of enzymes that damage cellular structure, membrane permeability and electrochemical gradients. The role of excitotoxicity and the mechanism behind its action in autistic subjects is delineated in this review.

Naviaux et al. (2013). Antipurinergic therapy corrects the autism-life features in the poly(IC) mouse model. PLOSone. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057380

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Mitochondria act to connect genes and environment by regulating gene-encoded metabolic networks according to changes in the chemistry of the cell and its environment. Mitochondrial ATP and other metabolites are mitokines—signaling molecules made in mitochondria—that undergo regulated release from cells to communicate cellular health and danger to neighboring cells via purinergic signaling

This is only a modicum of the existing literature but I included the citations as examples of the evidence surrounding autism and the environment. It is multi-factorial and all of the biological underpinnings must be considered. If someone is open to looking at more of the science and research initiatives that there currently are, I am willing to have an open discussion.

Next, moving on to your other claims:

“Also, your “raw data” site is an anti-vaccine conspiracy site, containing anti-vaccine pages, so that’s utter bullshit as well.”

Here we see more suppositions. You assume that the website is “anti-vaccine” or conspiratorial which are terms commonly framed as pejoratives. Making these claims does not improve your argument and it actually shows your inability to look beyond pigeonholes. It is also part of the celeber cavilla fallacy. The author of the “autismrawdata” website is currently receiving her PhD in Health Science and the website uses peer-reviewed science and logical rebuttals. This would not constitute “bullshit” but it is apparent you’ve either not read the science and content because of your preconceived notions or you deny it altogether (and I assume it would be both).

“Also, fuck “functioning labels”. Functioning labels are a false dichotomy, they are arbitrary, and dehumanizing. They don’t accurately depict an Autistic’s skills; more just how well they can pass for neurotypical. It may surprise you to know that a LOT of non-speaking people, despite challenges and possible co-morbidities, do NOT want to change who they are. Some of these people have self-injured before as well. (Note the double standard: when a neurotypical self-injures, we help them without changing who they are. Let’s do the same for us? This is coming from an occasional self-injurer.) Look up Amy Sequenzia, her blog can be found here: http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com and know there are many like her. In fact, most Autistics I met, speaking or not, while they wish they could rid themselves of certain impairments, do not want to change who they are.”

Functioning labels are not “arbitrary”in the sense they define specific characteristics that are part of known and studied cognitive phenotypes in ASD. You are assuming that it is dehumanizing and using an appeal to emotion. I study these cognitive phenotypes (as do other researchers) and all of these researchers do not use these classifications to deny the individuality and brilliance of autistic people. They are studied for the particular purpose of scientific and psychological inquiry. There are many skills/abilities certain autistic people hold and they are truly awe-inspiring; the fact that they may not fit in with “neurotypical” skills does not diminish their significance nonetheless. I do not agree with those (if there are any) who claim that there are no autistic people that hold amazing skills, abilities, and perceptions. I also do not agree with those who mistreat those with disabilities or dehumanize them. This is important to note when explaining my views so another straw man can’t be created.

Regarding what you are saying about the non-speaking autistic people who have co-morbidities and do not want to change who they are, I am not claiming that they should be changed. I have said in my blog posts before “I will add that yes, there are important and valid points brought up from people in this movement. I agree that we should accept those that are already permanently autistic as well as acknowledge the brilliance and unique abilities of many of those with autism, but I also believe we should prevent the cases of autism that are induced by deleterious triggers in the environment.” I will add for further clarification, “Those who are non-speaking (but have the ability to communicate in other ways) that do not want to change should not be changed against their will as this would be a direct violation of consent and personal liberty.” I specifically addressed that the neurodiversity movement does not speak for the autistic people that are outside of the movement (either through disagreement or complete lack of comprehension/communication ability) and have behavioral aberrations due to underlying disease pathology. Again, this is a statistically significant subset that I discuss and I am not claiming that it is exactly the same in every single case. Autism is behaviorally and psychologically defined but we know there is a high prevalence of miscellaneous medical co-morbid conditions and they are not mere coincidence (Banaschewski et al., 2011; Geier et al., 2012; Ozsivadjian et al., 2014).  Treatment progress has been hindered because of antiquated misconceptions about autism etiology and the dismissal of evidence that the disorder is linked to brain inflammation. Evidence shows that many children with autism have brain pathology signifying ongoing neuroinflammation. (Enstrom et al., 2005; Pardo et al., 2005; Vargas et al., 2005; Zimmerman et al., 2005; Chez et al., 2007; Morgan et al., 2010, 2012; Tetreault et al., 2012). I won’t go over all of the complex medical science on immunoexcitotoxicity but I will provide links to the science that shows immune activation can cause autistic behaviors. It is also known that infections during pregnancy can increase the risk of the offspring having schizophrenia or autism. This association is continuing to be studied and confirmed in research.
Also, thank you for the blog link; I like to read opinions from both sides and better understand those within the movement, whether “high-functioning” or non-speaking. 

“Lastly, to hell with the talk of how much we “cost”. That is basically implying that we are burdens. Also, you know who else used that rhetoric? The Nazis. Back in the day they put up posters that explained how much disabled people cost and used that as an excuse for Aktion T4. When people talk about how much we cost, they reduce us to nothing more than financial burdens. So you’re basically saying we don’t deserve to exist/our lives aren’t worth living just because we’re an inconvenience. And that is utterly disgusting.”


Here you are attacking a straw man, using false equivalence, avoiding the issue, and using an appeal to emotion. The cost to to the economy is a fact and it is not implying that we are “burdens.” It is looking at the reality of financial costs for autistic people and their families and how this affects the economy along with overall life. 

“In 2011, Autism Speaks awarded Dr. Leigh’s a research grant to develop clear and reliable methods to update autism’s economic costs to society on an annual basis. Such information is crucial when advocating for support services that reduce overall costs to society while improving daily function and quality of life.

In his work, Dr. Leigh included analysis of both direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs include special education, adult care programs, physician and therapist visits, hospitalizations, medications and paid caregivers.

Indirect costs include lost productivity – particularly in terms of wages and benefits – for both those who have autism and their family caregivers.

Information for the analysis came from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and published research estimates of per-person costs.

“Public, research and government policy attention to autism ought to be at least as great as it is for other major health conditions such as diabetes,” concludes Dr. Leigh.”

The data and information is being used to assess the reality of costs and also improve the lives of those with autism, not to “reduce us to nothing more than financial burdens.”

As for your statement about nazis and Aktion T4, I am not advocating for euthanasia nor is any of this related to the arguments I put forth about autism. I am not “basically saying that we don’t deserve to exist/our lives aren’t worth living just because we’re an inconvenience.” The logical fallacy your using is a straw man.

Your nescience seemingly undermines your ability to understand how brain inflammation affects cognitive function and how this translates into specific autistic phenotypes. Although I am interested in open dialogue about autism, science, and the implications of our current state of knowledge, I highly doubt (with you) that this will blossom into a productive, open, and interesting philosophical debate.

An Allegory of Empathy

One of the ultimate educators is empathy, but many people only have a fraction of it for others, depending on their ties to the certain individual or their ability to look further into another perspective.

Imagine a house, filled with an infinite amount of rooms. In each room there is a different person and a background—a background that contains both different factors and occurrences. Each person within each room is confined to their own viewpoint, and they only see within the scope which pertains to themselves.

Let’s imagine one of these rooms contains a person going through psychosis, hearing voices, seeing the strangest of the strange, as they weep to their own delusional aberrations—this is all they have ever known, seen, felt, or heard. They know nothing of happiness, nothing of the effulgence of the morning sun, nothing of anything but mental anguish, every waking moment.

Now the room next to them, which they have no clue exists—contains something much different. The person in the room has only ever known feelings of great felicity, and no facet of any other emotion. They see only beauty, the divine, and the positive. They do not know the great pains that plague other humans, because they do not know that humans of other experience even exist.

There is a great dichotomy between these two rooms and those who inhabit it—the dichotomy of happiness and suffering. Neither of these people know anything that goes beyond their own point of view; other existences to them are both foreign and unknowable.

Now, let’s imagine that each of the other infinite numbers of rooms are also symbols of every aspect and possibility of human emotion and experience—dismay, disgust, fear, vexation, sickness, rage, ecstasy, pleasure, and more. They only feel but a specific set of these at all times and they will never know any others. Their perspective stops past the room in which they reside.

Moreover, imagine that above all of these rooms there is a god-like being, one that sees every room and every infinite possibility within the house of theoretical experience. This entity is able to feel every emotion of each individual in each room and experience the stimuli from each individual environment. They are omnipresent, all knowing, and at the apogee, the ultimate bearer of empathy. Also picture that this being is able to feel and see the entire process of neurotransmission within the brain, along with understanding cognitive interpretations of the environment—two important aspects of human emotion and behavior. This level of empathy would even be molecular.

This, however, is not humanly possible. There is only a specific range of what we are able to experience and feel within the confinement of our own personal experiences and abilities; but, there is a way, an ultimate philosophy, which seeks to understand as many perspectives as possible and use this knowledge to better understand ourselves, others, the past, present, and the future. Working towards this is to see every single gradation of all gradations, and to use this information to its fullest potential.

Humans are naturally prone to bias and many people refuse to look past their own sets of beliefs and conclusions. Other people simply do not have the intelligence to imagine another set of experiences happening to them—since it goes beyond what they know personally. There are also people (for example, social skeptics) who pretend that they understand other people’s experiences; they use feigned superiority and understanding to mock or deny what someone else goes through. It is pseudo-intellect being used merely as a tool to dismiss, misinterpret, and deny the pain that other people experience, especially when these observations and experiences get in the way of social skeptics’ preconceived notions. What they are taking part in is the antithesis of emotional and cognitive empathy. This is not what ethical and empathetic skeptics wish to do—it is the opposite of what our being and objectives are made of. We must strive to understand other outlooks, and  use our knowledge to abate suffering—which is ultimately the most profound goal.

The term “Anti-vaxx” and the Celeber Cavilla Fallacy

The Celeber Cavilla Fallacy is defined as this: 

“A fad condemnation phrase of assumed immediate definition and gravitas. Also known as the ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ fallacy.
/philosophy : fallacy : fad phrases and weapon words : latin (‘celebrated jeer’ or ‘famous quip’)/ : a form of Truzzi Fallacy. A wink wink nudge nudge categorization or condemnation. A counter-claim which is specious in its assertion and usually ad hominem in its implication. However the counter-claim issuer employs it because they are under the false impression that since the accusation phrase is in such popular use, therefore the claim comes incumbent with immediate credibility in the offing, along with an assumed definition, evidence and acceptance.” (Courtesy of The Ethical Skeptic). 

I started off with this definition so that you will understand the meaning of this fallacy and how it applies to the term “anti-vaxx.” Firstly, when someone pigeonholes you as this they are assuming they understand the depth of your position. Secondly, not everyone within the movement of questioning vaccine safety labels themselves as this or holds the view that vaccines have never prevented disease or are useful. We first have to define the meaning of “anti-vaxx”, which is notably variable and the definition changes depending on the subject’s  interpretation (arbitrary). One may define it as simply questioning the efficacy and safety of vaccines, while another may claim that it is someone who thinks vaccines should be banned altogether. There are people who label themselves as “anti-vaxx” proudly and those of us who question vaccines without holding ourselves to that title. I understand the detriment that title poses and the assumptions it will lead outsiders to, but I also understand that many psuedo-skeptics will label me as this regardless of their understanding of my stance or whether we have had a significant amount of dialogue or time to exchange views. Being on the “pro-vaxx” side does not automatically make one correct and being on the “anti-vaxx” side doesn’t either. We must push games of semantics aside and look at the underlying science and philosophy surrounding this paramount issue.