Autism's False Prophets on the ScienceBlogs Book Club

“A couple of bloggers praised [Autism’s False Prophets] for its tone, that I never appeared to get angry at the false prophets described in the book. The reason for that is that I’m not the father of a child with autism. If I were, I would have been quite angry. Angry because I think that the anti-vaccine forces have taken the autism story hostage. And angry that because of their influence, the media almost never carries stories about the real cause or causes of autism. In the July 11, 2008 issue of SCIENCE, Jim Sutcliffe summarizes the functions of the 30 or so genes that have now been associated with autism. A pattern is clearly emerging. Those genes code for proteins that involve the neurological synapse or proteins that are important in endocytoplasmic trafficking in neuronal cells. These kinds of studies might well lead to therapies that could modify the disorder. But you never hear about them. Never. Rather, we hear about how Jenny McCarthy treats autism by focusing on the gut—anti-fungals, elimination diets, etc. The media is perfectly willing to mislead parents for ratings. Shameful.”—Paul Offit, from the ScienceBlogs Book Club

The ScienceBlogs Book Club has begun its much-anticipated discussion of Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure

Posts to club include Paul Offit’s introductory remarks as well as his responses to the many questions he received after the initial posts. Other participants include Kev Leitch, who also blogs on the very good LeftBrain/RightBrain site; Kristina Chew, a mother of an autistic child who blogs about autism at AutismVox; and Orac whose blog Respectful Insolence has been an important voice in the debate about the supposed linke between autism and vaccines.

The posts and the many subsequent responses from readers reflect the valiant attempts to provide a careful, scientific approach to the issue and the concerns many people have that the vaccine controversy is a distraction from developing proper treatments and care for children with autism. Unfortunately, the comments also reveal  ugly tone this debate sometimes takes.

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