Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Are Hub Science Blogs Unfair

Some helpful anonymous person expressed the idea to me that Autism Hub bloggers are very unfair. We only tackle mercury and ignore other autism science. This person proposes that we should criticize all autism science.

I put up this thread in the hopes that this person would have a place to have his/her/it’s concerns discussed. And that if so, then the so called “autism science” blogs will really be shown to be totally one sided and really un-critical in the nature of their reasoning.

So, how ‘bout it, anyone want to agree/disagree that the hub blogs that focus on science are not critical of bad science that supports what they think?

Any takers?


Blogger Chaoticidealism said...

I do think they need to widen their focus. I'd like to see more discussion of autism education and treatment, rather than just bad-science bashing.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Not so sure science-blogs are all that's needed to discuss education and treatment, but if that's what you are looking for, try googling autism hub evidence-based. Here is a recent blog that appears to have just what you are asking for.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Camille said...

I consider ABA to be quackery and I treat it as such. Michelle uses science to discuss it more rationally than I do. Prometheus has criticized ABA in his blog.

I have criticized HBOT and all kinds of psycho woo on my blog. Several bloggers are strong on criticizing the goal of prenatal genetic testing. What is it that we are supposed to write more about?

Not everyone is able to write cogently on every topic. it's **ridiculous** to criticize the choice of topics that bloggers write about, they aren't being paid to write as for a newspaper.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Of course bloggers will usually write about what they are interested in. I guess sometimes we write about things that have a good chance of being of general interest.

I've written some things that are not about mercury, e.g. humor in autism, institutionalization, what can be expected as far as development and outcomes, etc.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Another Autism Mom said...

I don't think one should dismiss the feedback from readers as ridiculous. Obviously the blogger will always write about the things that concern him the most, but you also have to take into consideration other issues that are important to your readership, whithin the main subject of your blog.

I'm with the first commenter: more discussion of autism education strategies, not just for bashing, but for an exchange of ideas/experiences. There's a lot of stuff that parents figure out themselves (and that are not necessarily in the books) that worked great to improve their children's communication or play skills, or to increase their feeding repertoire, or to pottytrain, and other parents would benefit from the sharing of information.

11:07 AM  
Blogger KeithABA said...

Totally disagree that it's just mercury, I've yet to see a treatment NOT bashed by blogs.

How many people who blog on the various autism bad science bashing weblogs actually have formal training in scientific methods and research designs?

In general, the goals of a science largely dictate it's research methods. I've seen the, "That is the gold standard of research..." argument many times in reference to things like single subject design. However, I don't beleive many of those people who make those criticisms fullly understand the differences in the goals of single subject versus between subject research method designs.

You'll never get civil discussions about autism education and treatment, because very few in the blogosphere can agree on what constitutes effective treatment.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

This came up recently over at Respectful Insolence about 2 days ago. Somebody wanted the operator to Rant about what they wanted him to Rant about, not about what his interests are, or where his skills lie.

I don't think that Camille was considering the user feedback ridiculous, just the 'idea' or principle/request that people can 'omnisciently' blog about something the commenter wants them to, or something other than Mercury.

On the other responses, I have to agree that I have seen very Many subjects addressed that are not mercury related. (Disparity between services rendered and geographic locales in California was a peice I think was amazing!) And perhaps the reason it (Mercury) gets addressed sooo much is because of the ongoing flow of claims from the mercury groups.

I would suggest that the unhappy commenter go back through the year/month archives that many of the blogs list, and see for themselves.

And Dear Commenter, is the location to get the list of hub blogs from, in case your not seeing the whole hub.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Seidel said...

"This person proposes that we should criticize all autism science."

If this person wants to read criticism of all autism science, they can visit a lot of different blogs, and read a lot of different journal articles. I feel no moral obligation to shift my focus just because someone else might want to read about other subjects than the ones I'm currently writing about. If they want to do that but don't want to leave my blog, they can look through the articles index, where they'll find plenty of variety.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Schwartz said...


With the exception of your site (which is why I check here first), it is very rare to see any criticism at all of any vaccine supporting studies.

Even more disturbing is the propensity of many (not all) of the other hub sites to wage personal attacks on individuals (ad hominem) -- and you only asked for comments on the Autism Hub Sites. ( as an aside, I find Autism Diva to be biased, but fair when faced with reasonable argument).

There definitely is also a propensity to promote bad science supporting their position, even in the face of evidence of bad science. Even more subtle, the Autism Hub supporters will remain silent while one of their group posts or argues a point that is clearly not supported by evidence. However, most of you will not hesitate to jump in if a similar argument is being had in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I will include you in that club, since you clearly have the background and capability to see the bad science on both sides, yet I never see you jumping in on another site when an Autism Hub supporter is backing up some crap.

I also think that in general, the Autism hub ignores/diregards problems surrounding conflicts of interest which in my opinion is a big problem.

Just my observations.

The Autism Hub detractors have exactly the same problem. Maria is a notable exception IMO.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Camille said...

I didn't say that readers of blog shouldn't give feedback. I said it was ridiculous to criticize the fact that blogger blogs about a certain topic.

Move along if you want to read about another topic.

Kathleen said it nicely.

It's a big web. People vote with their feet. If somehow a blog has drawn an audience by claiming to be the all purpose autism blog, one stop shopping, no need to go elsewhere, and then that blogger sticks to writing about HBOT or ABA, then the audience will stop reading the blog.

Most bloggers are trying to gain a larger audience, some are even desperate to gain a larger audience, and fearful of offending even one reader lest that reader take their "business" elsewhere.

Keith ABA, I have university level training in scientific methods and study design, so does Michelle Dawson, Bartholomew Cubbins, Not Mercury, Photon in the Darkness and our host, the ever patient Interverbal. I listed those other folks off the top of my head. Some have published reserach that they designed themselves. So yeah, they have training in the scientific method and study design. Wanna talk about a two by two factorial? Wanna talk ABAB? I'm up for it.

As for criticizing vaccine studies, one needs to be conversant in immunology, epidemiology, and/or vaccinology in order to begin to give a cogent critique. I can critique some kinds of studies because I have the pertinent background in reading those studies so I can spot a problem.

Maria and others do not have that background and yet presume to criticize those studies. And they don't just take their criticisms, which could be valid, actually, to the authors of the papers, or to vaccinologists or immunologists, they instead fill the heads of people who are utterly clueless with more and more fears. I think this is reckless and irresponsible. Even though I like Maria as a person, she does harm to people by questioning vaccines in the wrong fora. I would be amazed and happy if she found a flaw in a vaccine study and then went and discussed it with the authors or other qualified peers, and then digested that discussion for the hoi polloi, such as myself. But I don't see her doing that. I see more or less idle speculation that may or may not be valid, and which has a bad effect on people. It makes them more suspicious of vaccines, which could lead to their real-life actual deaths and the deaths of their children and others in the real world.

I have seen Arthur Allen tackle serious bad news about vaccines, and he does it responsibly with enough caveats. But he's not a hub blogger. He's a journalist with a lot of background in vaccines.

Vaccines are a special case. I think they need to be discussed in a more cautious way, and I don't think every dingbat on the Internet that has the gall to talk like he or she has expertise in vaccinology, actually has that expertise.

2:00 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...

I don't write much about mercury and I am currently working on supporting the message that bad ethics leads to bad science, which leads to bad outcomes for autistic children. This is a rainmouse Mark II study.

It is never just bad science bashing. All those 'educational' or 'treatment' regimes didn't arrive with the ten commandments, they were somebody's bright idea at some time and 10:1 since this is the autism industry they turned out to be generally bad ideas with no scientific support whatsoever.

Chaoticidealism - read Michelle Dawson.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

The demand for perfect papers that disprove an association with vaccines is another thing that's ridiculous. Name me one retrospective paper that is perfect and where correlation (or lack thereof) couldn't possibly be explained by something other than what is hypothesized.

The fact remains that the best vaccine studies fail to support an association. It doesn't get much better than the last study. That was like 300 studies in one.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...


This has nothing to do with mercury:

11:45 AM  
Blogger Schwartz said...


If the studies are not very good, the best isn't that meaningful.

Addtionally, I find it amazing that many people associate lack of association with proving safety. When medicating healthy people, it is incumbent to prove safety, not the other way around.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Schwartz said...


"As for criticizing vaccine studies, one needs to be conversant in immunology, epidemiology, and/or vaccinology in order to begin to give a cogent critique."

Not true at all, especially when dealing with epidemiological studies since they are based primarily on design and statistics. In fact, a non-expert (i.e. a person trained in statistics and logic) can easily find numerous logic flaws or bias in the bulk of the junk studies (of which there are many). Only the laboratory or bio-medical studies require an in-depth understanding of the chemical/bio mechansisms, yet you almost always need to understand statistics to be able to do a proper critique.

Of course, to fully approve of a study, one has to have access to the source data.

I think that the question Jonathan asked, was if the Hub was unfair and biased in their coverage of Autism science. Your post appears to be saying yes. I would argue that a percentage of them certainly are silent on evidence that doesn't support their position. The only exception to that rule is our host here IMO.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Swartz - I think the studies are quite good. In what other area of autism causation science do you find the studies are better, and for what reason?

Certainly, they are light years ahead of plagiarized papers such as those by the Geiers.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Schwartz said...


I can't say they are better elsewhere either, but that doesn't mean the bulk of them are good.

I think there are a small handful of good ones that still stand or have any limited applicability. The last one appears to be decent enough despite it's limitations.

But the number is still very small IMO and some of the them discussed here in detail. If you look into the MMR causation studies, most of them were pretty poor as well.

I can't speak for the genetic studies, as I have not analyzed any of them. Although given the amount of time genetics has been suspected, I would expect there to be at least a decent number of quality studies.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

You mean the twin studies? The issues there are: (1) You can't find that many twins, (2) Determination of zygocity is often imprecise, (3) The social environment is not necessarily shared the same way by fraternal twins and identical twins, (4) Twins might be special in some way.

(That's to show that I don't only know how to scrutinize environmental causation papers.)

But if you consider sibling reoccurrence and things like that, it's difficult to argue that there isn't a strong heritable component to autism.

The father's age paper out of Israel is also quite good, considering they looked at every single Israeli person in a given age cohort. It's difficult to argue with the age finding there, but one could propose different interpretations of the finding.

10:13 AM  

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