Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Autism and Science

While doing my usual Tuesday morning errands, I was listening to Imus in the Morning on ABC radio. Imus very ofter has his wife, Deirdre, as a guest. Her particular passion is the fight against Autism. She does speaking engagements, raises money & awareness and fights for more funding for research. So far all this is fine. We all have to have our causes. The trouble begins when she states repeatedly & unequivocally that one of the chief causes of Autism is the nation’s immunization program. This is where she loses me. Ms Imus did what many people do when discussing an issue in which they have too much emotional involvement. She neglected to think like a scientist. Her entire argument was based on the premise that since there is such an increase in Autism, what else could it be but something all children have in common: immunizations. She failed to take into account the many variables involved in this issue:
1. The very definition of Autism has changed dramatically. It is no longer a single entity. It is now a syndrome consisting of many things, i.e. Asperger’s Syndrome.
2. Diagnostic procedures have improved tremendously. I’m sure we all know adults, many adults, who if they were children today would be diagnosed with some form of Autism.
3. The general population has grown and continues to grow. Statistically, it’s impossible for there NOT to be more cases of Autism.
Science and the Scientific Method will solve this and all other problems. Not hysterical ranting or wild assumptions. Correlation does not presume cause and effect.

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