11 Feb 2009

Who wants to win "Autism's False Prophets"?

This week, people around the world learned of Jeni Barnett's ignorance and how her radio station, LBC, attempted to stifle debate with legal threats. As explained so elegantly on Autism News Beat, Jeni is a,
"British actress who feels obligated to share what she knows about vaccines and measles. But since she knows so little, Barnet was compelled to fill the rest of her three hour time slot with anti-vaccine talking points, addle-pated weltanschauung, and other assorted brain farts."
From the wonderful worlds of autism and vaccine quackery, and sadly the two are inextricably linked, we also learned this week of Andrew Wakefield's incompetence/falsification of data (the only possible explanations for what happened).

In a bid to restore balance to the universe, I shall give away a copy of Paul Offit's wonderful book, "Autism's False Prophets."

I must get around to doing a proper review soon, but for now, although I wish he'd looked at the behaviorist's claims with the same rationalism as those of the vaccine causation cranks, and though I oppose the harsh words on autism of one contributor, it is a fine book. It details the history of the false association of autism with vaccines, just part of the anti-science story exemplified by Jeni Barnett and LBC. Clearly, liar/extreme incompetent anti-scientist Andrew Wakefield has a prominent role in the tale, which is highly readable, a bit of a page turner even. If you have children and are concerned about having them vaccinated, read this, and realise that the whole sorry mess was manufactured out of nothing. The various vested interests are laid out in full. Offit's is open about his own role as a specialist in infectious diseases and co-inventor of a flu vaccine.

So if you want a copy, no matter where in the world you are, just leave a comment below and tell me who is your autism hero and why, and who is your autism anti-hero and why. I'll have one of the children pick a name at random and then I'll get the book sent out.

To get you started, here are a few names, a mixture of heroes and zeroes, (hotties and notties...sorry):

Wakefield, Leitch, O'Leary, Offit, Shattock, Shattuck, Lovaas, Orac, Dawson, Stanton, McCarthy, Leary, Geier, Seidel, Baron-Cohen, Rimland and so on...

Get at it. The winner will be chosen on February 25.


Anonymous said...

Hero: Amanda Baggs. Seriously, if I ever need to link somebody to autism resources, her name goes on the list.

Zero: It's a tie between Wakefield, whose "research" is directly responsible for the measles outbreaks that have been going on, and "What do you mean it's not acceptable to talk about killing my child while she's still in the room?" aka Alison Singer. (Yes, she's kind of redeemed herself by leaving That Group. Somewhat. Doesn't make what she said any less repugnant.)

Anonymous said...

My hero would have to be my son Kevin, who has been a joy to almost every one of his school teachers over the years and is on the Honor Roll at his high school despite his severe Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD.

Anti-hero? Ms Catherine DeVille, e-mailing list editor for the Church of All Worlds, who blocked me out of the Church lists when I protested another member's stated intention to expose her child to as many childhood diseases as possible and to not vaccinate against them due to autism/vaccination paranoia. Ms DeVille allowed this unscientific -- no, anti-scientific -- attitude free reign on the Church lists in her official capacity as list manager, as well as allowed personal insults to be aimed at me while not allowing me to respond.

It seems that protesting a stated intent of bad parenting to the point of child abuse is not in keeping with the church tenet "Be Excellent to Each Other", although how this is being excellent to that poor child escapes me.

Venessa said...

Hero: Dawson. Her self acceptance gives me a lot of hope for every child on the spectrum. I just like her.

Zero: Jenny McCarthy. If one more well-meaning person asks me to read her book, I may faint... and people just love her. I don't get it.

The Biologista said...

I cannot pick a hearo as I simply don't know enough about the matter. I would say that your blog has been very eye-opening for me.

Instead I'll select here my anti-hero for today. Melanie Phillips, who today in The Spectator wrote an infuriating defence of Andrew Wakefield and the anti-MMR position. She is correct that Wakefield is being unfairly singled out. But only because she and every other credulous journalist who swallowed Wakefield's pure speculation as scientific fact, deserves whatever fate awaits him.

Between them they have made the parents of a great many autistic children feel a great burden of uncertainty and guilt.

Random Behaviorist said...

I'm going to go with Gina Green as just one of them. There are few! She has been the source of many a manuscript that has been based in good science, common sense, and the fight against quackery!

Also, FYI I found a good review of Autism's False Prophets at http://petemolino.com

Anonymous said...

Hero - You, Sharon.

anti-hero - warri-or-not-Jenny.


Anonymous said...

Hero; Jim Sinclair whose amazing writings that helped me forge a new understanding of my daughter's condition.

Anti-hero, it's hard to pick just one! But I think it would have to be Wakefield for lying and cheating, and now that it's all catching up with him, he's playing the victim card. He's done so much harm to so many and has been the main cause of the intertwining of autism and vaccines for so long.

Socrates said...

I'd vote Lorna Wing...

Sharon McDaid said...

@Nebby, total agreement on your hero. I understand the difficulty in choosing who is worse from your zero options too.

@David, it's delightful that you've chosen your son as your hero. I bet he is too.
It's a shame you have not been allowed to voice your objections to dangerous ideas on your church list.

@Nessa, Michelle Dawson (I assume that's who you meant) is certainly a hero of mine. And ugh, I shudder on your behalf at people recommending Jenny McIgnorant's books.

@The Biologista, I hope that's eye-opening in a good way!

Thanks, I think for the link. How depressing!
Melanie Phillips (and it's hard not to go all ad-hominem on her scrawny arse...see, I failed) has more than anyone in the UK media promoted Wakefield as some poor misunderstood, maligned hero. She (I can sense a fail coming on again) is full of shit on so many fronts, preaching anti-gay bigotry alongside regular anti-rationalism tirades.

@Random Behaviorist, thanks for the review link. What about an anti-hero? How about Lovaas with his history of using electric shocks on children?

@Barbara, no way am I a hero! But Jenny is certainly an anti-hero.

@Penny, both choices I can appreciate.

@Socrates, wot, no anti-hero?! What about your little list? Or is it just too hard to choose just one name?

Jimmy the Orange said...

Without doubt my heores are Uta Frith and Simon Baron Cohen. Especially their breakthrough work on Theory of Mind and Shared attention Maechanism. Neither are in the public eye, but they are the foremost researchers in this field.

Zeroes? Right now its Jeni Barnett and LBC, but it'll only be a matter of time before some numpty steals their title of irresponsible nonsense spouters du jour.

Anonymous said...

Hero, you. Seriously. The blog has been an education. (backup hero would be Ben Goldacre)

Zero. Andrew Wakefield. For corruption of science and the damage he has done. Its likely that the panic he has generated has cost lives.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll nominate Paul Offit himself as "hero" and the mainstream media as "zero".

Offit has been the recipient of death threats and has been stalked by some pretty unpleasant characters. E.g., here and here.

I think Ben Goldacre best explains the role of the MSM in the MMR scaremongering here.

Casdok said...

Both are difficult questions! I have learnt a lot from Amanda Baggs, Donna Williams and of course my son.
Anti - either Jenny or Wakefield.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Jimmy, welcome! Uta Frith and Simon Baron-Cohen have been plugging away at understanding autism for a good while. Simon is a friend of mine now ;-)

I totally get you with Jeni as zero de jour. There's always someone else to move in and try out for that role though.

@Dermot, nah, I'm seriously no hero, except to my dog 'cause I've got the kibble.
Agree on your zero though.

@Jdc325 good points all.

@Casdok, Donna and Amanda have helped so many understand autism a bit better, They're definitely two of the good people...unlike Jenny and Andy.

jypsy said...

As much as I'd love to have the book, I have a real hard time picking favourites and an even harder time singling out people in a negative light.

oh, well....

Sharon McDaid said...

jypsy, you set such a good example! I feel a bit ashamed now, because I have no problem mentioning names of those I see as having harmed autistic people. I should be more kind like you, but names like Matthew Israel, and Roy Kerry pop to mind so quickly. I suppose I didn't mean it to be a question of who is the very best person connected with autism and who is the absolute worst, but pick a name of someone in each category whose name comes to mind.

I'd actually put you down for sure (as a goodie!) for your website was one of the first resources of hope I found online and it was full of wonderful, loving, and useful information and it helped me stop worrying and get on with life.

Gonzo said...

I loves Camille Clarke, and her loose mouth, and I miss her badly!!!
(And noone's mentioned her, yet!)

I absolutely loathe Maxine Aston, (her of FAAAS) Uuurrrrghs!

I also think Estee Klar-Wolfond and you should be on the heroes list!
(Shame I can name only one...)
I'm not trying to flatter you, to win the book, I don't even need the book, it should go to someone who has Autistic children.

Seriously, there are so many parents, who think it's their children's job to make them happy, instead of a parent's job, to give a child a happy childhood. It's so depressing what these cows say about their own children and Autistics in general, I'm very grateful for people like you and Estee.

Sharon McDaid said...

@The Woolworth cup, how come I didn't even notive your comment 'till now! I agree about Camille, she's a star. I wonder if she'll decide to come back to blogging some day. That would be a treat.
Thanks for saying nice things too.

Sharon McDaid said...

@ Jimmy the Orange, I hope you opted to receive emails of comments, because you just won the book.

I asked Thomas to pick a name from the list of commenters and he pointed to yours.

So Jimmy, could you email me your address and I'll send it out.

(I know I said I'd pick someone yesterday but Duncan was sick and needed my attention.)

Jimmy the Orange said...

Yay! I feel most honoured. Thomas is clearly a sharp lad. Huge thanks for the book and for such a GREAT Blog.