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Monday, August 27, 2012

Backlash to Speculation

Emily Willingham kicks the "inflammatory disease" notion to the curb:
What we have here is an argument that relies on shaky and shifting hypotheses of autism and autoimmune epidemics and hygiene, built using sparse data and scientific hints, a poor understanding of basic evolution and ecology, and a paradox of calling for a return to a more infectious past to “cure” autism while blaming immune-dysregulated, occasionally infected mothers of the present for … autism. In his closing, Velasquez-Manoff argues that evolution provided us with a roadmap of the original microbial and parasitic ecosystems we once were, one that, presumably, if we follow it, will guide us out of the “insanity” and “affliction” that is autism. If it’s possible, that’s where he’s most wrong. Evolution isn’t something that happens with a plan. To describe it in those terms is to have a profound failure of understanding of what evolution is. Where we’re going, evolutionarily speaking, there are no roads. And it would be better for most of us if there weren’t any parasitic worms, either.
Back in October, she wrote about "Being Alive Linked to Autism" (caution, strong language in the full piece)
T his last week or so, every day seemed to bring a new finding about something linked to autism. I blogged one of them--diabetes--but who really would have the wherewithal to follow the growing list of factors linked to autism? I guess I would because below, I give you that very list, including current pop hits and some blasts from the past, with some brief commentary. Without further ado--The ever-changing face of autism--or, as some have wisely suggested we call it--the autisms:

Refrigerator mothers. Sooo coooold.
Mercury. Sigh.
"Environmental" chemicals. Hmmm.
The Interwebz. Someone pointed to them. Then there was autism.
Older fathers. Paging Father Abraham.
Older mothers. We can only be so old, you know.
Depressed or stressed mothers. Wouldn't everyone have autism, then?
PrematuritySib with autism. Autism, family style.
Low birthweight. OK, but what about...
High birthweight. Confusing, isn't it?