11/09/2009

Age of Autism, Factual Information, and Decency

I have a series of quibbles this morning about Age of Autism, but first I'll begin with a point of agreement.

Olmsted reprimanding the writer of Denialism on plagiarism: I'll start out with noting he is technically correct, in that the passage appears to be plagiarized. If those two passages are in fact word for word as they appear, then intentional or not, it was taken from Offit with very little adjustment and would have meant a failing grade if I had caught it (as a college English instructor, I've already dealt with four incidences of plagiarism this semester and take it beyond serious). Doesn't matter if it was unintentional, so it's nice the author took accountability and will fix it. The problem I have with both paragraphs, incidentally, is a lack of sources. I know that both are written for lay audiences, and it may be the publisher's preference, but when I read factual information or information sourced elsewhere, the English and psychology instructors in me want attribution for the information. These books aren't throwaway comments; they are arguments to believe information and conclusions. They need to provide a trail right back along the path to how they drew these conclusions.

So, there, I start out with a common agreement with Olmsted that plagiarism, unintentional or not, is not a good thing.

***From Liz Ditz in the comment section below (quotes added to Specter's blog quote)***
Liz Ditz said...


From Michael Specter

http://www.michaelspecter.com/2009/11/my-mistake-and-an-apology-to-paul-offit/#respond

"My Mistake and an Apology to Paul Offit

November 8th, 2009 Posted in Blog

There is nothing more important to me than accuracy, and there is no place in my book, Denialism, where I tried harder to avoid careless mistakes than in the chapter called "Vaccines and the Great Denial." I didn't succeed, though, and I want to make sure readers are aware of that. In a section describing the origin and workings of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program I quote extensively from an article in The New England Journal of Medicine written by Dr. Paul Offit, the well-known vaccine researcher. At one point in my narrative (which begins on page 88 of the book) however, I stopped quoting Dr. Offit in order to explain, in my own words, the meaning of some of the medical terminology he had employed. I then returned to Dr. Offit's description of why the court was created and how it works, and should have gone back to quoting from the NEJM article, but did not. It was an accidental oversight which I will correct as soon as new copies of the book are printed. I told Dr. Offit about the mistake as soon as I realized I had made it, and, as always, he was gracious. But I also wanted to make readers aware of the error, which I regret."


While technically plagiarism, to me, this is a copyediting or formatting error.

Note the date of Specter's acknowlegement & apology -- before the AoA article.


(Thanks, Liz!)

Now, irony, here: Olmsted, seriously, maybe you haven't committed the cardinal sin of plagiarizing, but you have far worse to anwer for. After all, your shoddy reporting is the backbone to the provenly false conclusions that the Amish don't vaccinate and don't have autism. So, maybe you could turn that critical eye of yours to your own faults. And I can't help but notice that you didn't denounce Spector for calling AoA anti-vaccine. I do believe I'll take that as confirmatory: Age of Autism is anti-vaccine.

For an excellent deconstruction of how badly Olmsted got it wrong: see David Brown's page for a series of articles: http://evilpossum.weebly.com/olmsted.html.

We move onto another quibble. Olmsted writes that the folks at AoA are "smart, well-informed and decent people whose grasp of the truth is much stronger and harder-won than yours."

http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/11/olmsted-on-autism-michael-specter-plagiarizes-paul-offit-massacres-facts-in-denialism.html#more

Decent?

Well, let's take a stroll, shall we?

I believe I have at least a couple posts throughout Countering demonstrating that decency. Sheoples, trolls.
http://counteringageofautism.blogspot.com/2009/10/trolls-sheoples-and-arrogant-hostility.html
http://counteringageofautism.blogspot.com/2009/09/vaccines-and-autism-what-can-parents-do.html


Oh, and then there's Handley and his intellectual rape bit.  http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/the_anti-vaccine_movement_strikes_back_u.php


There's Kathy Blanco actually having the bad taste to suggest that infectious diseases are good for culling the herd, or words to that effect (and Jen who should be embarassed for explicitly stating it over at LBRB and seeing no wrong with it). --it got to where I quit naming her when I ran quotes from her; they were just that bad and I was trying to be gentle as her comments got further from reality; hard won, strong grasp of the truth, anyone? Swear I had a blog on this last week, as well, and that it was a comment of hers. http://counteringageofautism.blogspot.com/2009/10/it-seems-to-be-week-for-anti-vaxxers-to.html


And just last week, rileysmom got herself quoted on Orac for her decency.  http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/11/an_age_of_autism_commenter_destroys_yet.php

I have no doubt many of AoA's folks are intelligent. I completely quibble with the contention that they are well-informed, unless we mean well-informed of woo and bunk, because that they absolutely are and they hold tight to it with a religious that nothing will touch.

Perhaps they are decent people in some areas of their lives. Perhaps. See, to my way of thinking, the kind of things they write, the uliness and venom they spew relatively anonymously on the web belies that completely and speaks to their character far more than what they do in the real world where people can see them. And those who do it with their names full out in the open, who show such ugliness, who demonize those who disagree with them, well, no I don't consider them decent people, not on balance, not overall.

As to Olmted's last bit of that line: "grasp of the truth is much stronger and harder-won than yours": no. Olmsted wrote that AoA was going to follow the truth wherever it led. I believe I have demonstrated quite well over the last several months that this is not at all true.

And having autistic children doesn't make your truth harder-won. For frak sake, that's like saying your child is your science. It demonstrates your ignorance of the truth, of scientific evidence, of psychological fallacies. You keep making the same errors over and over. You spiral into a cesspool of nastiness and hold yourselves up as morally superior and smarter because you see the truth. You are becoming a cult.

No, I quibble completely with the idea that you are "smart, well-informed and decent people whose grasp of the truth is much stronger and harder-won than yours." You are angry, hostile parents who are hurting. You believe with a fervor bordering on fanatical that you have the answers of autism. You are so close to being just like John Best Jr, on the whole, that soon no one other than your most zealous followers will afford you any weight.

Again, whale.to and holocaust denial. That's who you people are. You aren't in it for the truth. You aren't in it to make the world a better place for your children. You aren't in it for your children, despite what you think, or you'd treat autistic adults a damn sight better and you wouldn't engage in bullying.

And I grow weary that the smart, decent people amongst you do not stand against the lies and abuse. Ideology drives this, not the pursuit for truth.

10 comments:

Ivy said...

I just found your blog and I'm so glad I did. I have a 4-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism in July. At first I was devastated and desperate to "cure" him. Although I never bought the vaccination connection, I did try the GFCF diet, which didn't change anything and only seemed like it would be further setting him apart if we continued it.

I now realize that the traits my son has that were used to reach the diagnosis of autism are some of my favorite things about him. He's an amazing, quirky, beautiful child and a WHOLE person just as he is. To think that these AoA folks think I should allow him to be vulnerable to infectious diseases and subject him to risky experimental treatments like chelation so he'll be more like other kids... well, it's maddening. Also maddening is how they respond to autistic adults whose existence threatens their ideology (but shows the rest of us that a diagnosis of autism is not a tragedy).

Thanks for providing a reasonable counterpoint to the pseudoscience filling the vacuum of public opinion.

Corina Becker said...

Heh. Slightly off topic, but my mom keeps getting annoyed with me now, since whenever she sprouts statistics. I try to nicely ask her where her information is coming from and when it was taken, and I guess she gets annoyed because she can't remember exactly. The problem with trying to be very well-informed is that eventually you start questioning everything.

kathleen said...

I don't know Kim. Sometimes I think that many of these AoA people are parents who-are overwhelmed by guilt. O.K.-so they beleive that vaccines caused this autism-they got their children vaccinated..so instead of just looking at their kids-fully looking, they only see autism-autism that they believe they caused. So they rally together-they are going to beat this autism, whatever it takes. They are surrounded by mob mentality-group suggestion. It just seems that many are so hell bent on being victims of their own guilt-they don't know how to behave any other way. I wonder,what would happen if they did let go of that anger and rage?
I think that they are a very scary organization. I hope that as my kids get older...they never run into them..

KWombles said...

Ivy,

Thank you for your kind words, and welcome to the blog. We've got a support group at Raising Autism, if you're interested. The link is further below on the right side of the blog and available at the countering facebook group.


Corina,

Well, just shows you like to check your data, which is a good thing. Sometimes we accept things merely because we hear it repeated. Hence, the patently absurd idea that we only use 10 percent of our brains. :-)

KWombles said...

Kathleen, you're right, I keep forgetting the guilt angle, but if you don't feel guilty over the genetics angle, it's easy not to consider the guilt that might bre involved of believing vaccines did it. But they do bring up the I can't believe I held my kid down thing a lot.

Liz Ditz said...

From Michael Specter

http://www.michaelspecter.com/2009/11/my-mistake-and-an-apology-to-paul-offit/#respond

My Mistake and an Apology to Paul Offit
November 8th, 2009 Posted in Blog |

There is nothing more important to me than accuracy, and there is no place in my book, Denialism, where I tried harder to avoid careless mistakes than in the chapter called "Vaccines and the Great Denial." I didn't succeed, though, and I want to make sure readers are aware of that. In a section describing the origin and workings of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program I quote extensively from an article in The New England Journal of Medicine written by Dr. Paul Offit, the well-known vaccine researcher. At one point in my narrative (which begins on page 88 of the book) however, I stopped quoting Dr. Offit in order to explain, in my own words, the meaning of some of the medical terminology he had employed. I then returned to Dr. Offit's description of why the court was created and how it works, and should have gone back to quoting from the NEJM article, but did not. It was an accidental oversight which I will correct as soon as new copies of the book are printed. I told Dr. Offit about the mistake as soon as I realized I had made it, and, as always, he was gracious. But I also wanted to make readers aware of the error, which I regret.

While technically plagiarism, to me, this is a copyediting or formatting error.

Note the date of Specter's acknowlegement & apology -- before the AoA article.

KWombles said...

Thanks, Liz,

I'm going to add your comment into the main post. Yes, I'd agree with your assessment; it should have been caught, should have been placed in quotes or more extensively rewritten (with sources to corroborate --always helpful); I don't think it was intentional plagiarism, but inadvertant. However, I have students who would think that substituting a word here or there is an adequate reformulation, and it isn't sourced back to Offit. It should have been caught in the editing process.

Specter did the right thing here, and I'm in no way condemning him. In fact, his speedy correction and addressing of the matter are commendable. So very different from Olmsted, for example, who still won't admit his egregious errors regarding the Amish, vaccination, and autism.

Roger Kulp said...

Off-topic and unrelated,I had an interesting exchange offlist with an autism mother from one of my Yahoo! groups this morning. Basically she was pretty discouraged with both AoA and GR, because she felt they had gone too far overboard with the vaccine stuff,and had sacrificed all other interests in the name of going after vaccine makers.

Like me,she believes both diet (After the regression and withdrawal I had after cutting out dairy and casein,I am a real diet convert now.),and medical problems, like seizures,mito or immune disease are the biggest contributing factors to autism in many cases,and that AoA,and GR have given up any interest in this,to go on a full-time crusade against vaccine makers,when they should be advocating for increased medical care and coverage for medically fragile autistics.(A term you will be seeing a lot more of in the future.)

I think she has a real point here.

cawill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

Is the passage an exact copy of the original, or does it look like the author attempted to change the order of the words and such?

If it's the former, it's possible the author simply didn't add quotes. If it's the latter, then it's an inexcusable form of plagiarism.

Inexcusable, like the Geiers' plagiarism of an early draft of Verstraeten et al. Which I don't believe anyone at AoA condemned, and I know some who tried to defend it.