Never One to be Far Behind, AoA Bursts the Irony Meters

"You have to hand it to these guys; they sure know how to sell a losing war."  Blaxill
Yesterday, Mercola outed himself with the whole: "This is deception at its finest: begin with a shred of truth, and then spin it to fit your own agenda." Today, AoA's Blaxill is finally ready to take on that huge genetic study from last month and tell us why it's still the mercury (I'm sure Orac will be delighted when he sees Blaxill has finally delivered, and I have no doubt that Orac will do a thorough job on all the places Blaxill is just wrong, wrong, wrong). 

Several things strike me as interesting. Of course, yesterday saw the beginning of AoA's buy-our-book push, which Orac covered. It makes sense, having primed the pump, that Blaxill comes out  today to argue a bunch of strawmen and give me, at least, the opportunity to giggle at some of his sentences. He's been reading his critics, I'm guessing, and uses some of their own charges against him and his complete whackjob ideas regarding science back at the whole gene theory of autism. He also schools his readers, which would explain another reason they go around believing nonsense. How come Kent didn't get to do this? I mean, he's the science teacher and all? I wonder how the sticky blood fits with the mercury?

I also wonder how they deal with cognitive dissonance over there? It must be like a swarm of bees in their ears, you know? It's the measles in the MMR lining the gut, that's it, that's it! It's mercury. It's too much too soon. It's, it's it's adjuvants. It's the aluminum and the squalene. Wait, no squalene in our vaccines? Damn. Hold up, soldiers get some squalene in theirs? Well, that's why they have adverse reactions! 

The AoAers go further than the editors. It's aborted fetal cells. It's SV-40. It's all the imaginary ingredients they think are in vaccines. And besides, vaccines don't save lives. Never did. Nope, vaccines are worse than the diseases, don't you know? It's a pharma government conspiracy to cripple a generation. Pretty soon we'll all be autistic. One in fifteen is now, didn't you know that, man? Get with the program! Ick, I've read entirely too many of them over the last 16 months, you know? I can channel them easily.

I've got nothing against wordiness, nothing at all, but I wonder if Blaxill and Jake go with more in order to make it less likely woo fighters will wade through all those words to dissect it. Think about it: a line by line deconstruction of this 6,453 word article would easily tie a woo fighter's hands for hours and lead to an unwieldy article double in length. Plus, the time spent painstakingly showing why Blaxill is wrong. 

It's an evil plot, I tell you, a conspiracy by the mercury militia to keep the woo fighters at their computers, racking up vitamin D deficiencies, and you know, vitamin D deficiencies make you autistic, so tell me, really, who is it again that's plotting to make the world autistic and cash in on cures? Is it big pharma or is it Big Woo and the little guys pushing it? Hmmm? Well, hmmm? Who's selling the test kits for vitamin D? Who's cashing in on mining chelators? On the Mb-12 pops? Who's got their website and their tee shirts plastered with their sponsors? That's right! Age of Autism.! AoA, along with SafeMinds, TACA, NAA, GenRes. It's a conspiracy, damnit. Wake up and smear the chelating creams, man! 

Blaxill thinks the whole gene studies thing is literally like the Groundhog Day movie. Who's Bill Murray and who's Andie MacDowell is what I want to know.

"One thing to know about CNVs is that they come in two flavors." Is Blaxill licking the CNVs again?  How many licks to get to the center?

"This is just the kind of constructed, tortured finding that falls apart on closer inspection." Look, Blaxill's talking about all the "science" (see, Jake, I can put quotes on it, too) that the mercury militia's done. What? He's not? Are you sure?  Because I'm pretty sure it's talking about his six thousand words here, or at the very least, anything Mercola, Hyman, or Ullman has ever written.

"Association is not causation"   Hahahahahaha, he's hilarious. Truly, truly hilarious. This is good stuff, folks, well worth the read.

"As the watchdogs of scientific rigor so frequently remind us, association is not the same as causation." Then why in fuck's sake do Blaxill and buddies never ever ever apply this to their hairbrained idea that it's thimerosal, all thimerosal? Really?

And off Blaxill goes into the mercury rant. Dude. There's a reason that pregnant women are supposed to limit consumption of fish. No one's denying that environmental issues play a role on autism, and scientists especially aren't denying the role of in utero trauma. In fact, if your heads hadn't been buried, you'd have quit the whole bullshit argument that scientists think genes are 100% responsible for autism. It's such dipole world for these folks.

You gotta laugh at his conclusion:
 "Mercury, for example, is a well-know mutagen. Many other toxins have similarly genotoxic effects. So instead of assuming a straight line of causality from the genome to autism based on a meandering pattern of findings from the CNV analyses of the AGPC and others, there’s a far more parsimonious interpretation. Any kind of elevated CNV rate in autism (to the extent that any such pattern endures, more on this below) could simply be a benign outcome of causal environmental factors."
Why would they be benign? Blaxill's invested all he's got in the mercury argument, but he's going to suggest that mercury causes autism (not something he sees as benign) and also may cause these mutations, but the mutations are benign? 

Blaxill has a warped view of science, something we knew if we've read his pieces:

"So instead of being a startling new breakthrough in autism science, the latest AGPC report is actually just the opposite: yet another Groundhog Day repetition of the futility of autism gene science unaccompanied by any acknowledgement of that sad reality. Instead, the strategic retreat is masked by a sharp volley of new claims, with the gene science enterprise firing as it falls back."
Far more capable and knowledgeable individuals have covered why the recent study is important, why it provides additional information that is worth having as scientists work to unravel the mysteries of the genome. Maybe it doesn't translate yet to information parents on the ground need or can use, but that's the mistake in believing that all scientific research should be about applied science. Basic science research that increases our understanding of the world is important in its own right.

I don't think Blaxill gets it; I really don't:
"Seen from a larger perspective, then, the AGPC celebration was all about the struggle with this looming specter of failure: an attempt to avoid the shame of yet another defeat, to loudly claim victory in what is in truth another losing skirmish in a war the gene hunters are losing badly."

This is where it becomes clear that the AoAers really are fighting a war. It isn't about the science. It isn't even about the kids with autism. It's about mercury, vaccines, and honestly, a serious does of paranoia.

"This tragic waste of time and money is both surprising and unfortunate."

It isn't a waste of time or money to understand how the genetic code works. The tragic waste of time and money is in pursuing the whole mercury gambit.

"It shouldn’t have been this hard to gain genetic insight into the biology of autism. Everyone knows there is familial clustering in autism. Everyone concedes that there ought to be genetic susceptibility factors. And moving faster to learn the lessons of autism’s underlying biology is something all of us should be rooting for."

Really? Yes, what I've noticed is a whole lot of the above over at AoA. Not. No, what we have at AoA is a lot of folks insisting there's no autism in their families, about how it can't be genetic if both identical twins don't have autism, and a lot of absurd, often downright crazy stuff. Blaxill seems to thing that genetic studies should be quicker, faster, easier. It's still a field in relative infancy; it's advanced at a spectacularly fast rate, and it's nothing short of amazing the things that scientists have been able to unlock in the last two decades.

Maybe it's the blinders they wear that makes the AoAers narrow in so tightly on autism, ignoring that six times as many kids have ADHD. Parents (is Blaxill a parent of an autistic kid? Olmsted's not, right? How many times have we read AoAers say if folks don't have an autistic kid they should sit down and shut up?) of autistic kids (well the AoAers at any rate) seem to be highly egocentric: their concern is about their child. Don't believe me? Just read the duo bensmyson; they make it pointblank clear that their only concern is their child, no one else's.

"Time to turn from delusion to rationality."

Hee, he doesn't mean them. Nope, he means everyone else. Sigh.

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