Like most bloggers, I spend a little time every now and then checking out what other people are saying. I try to include blogs by people with whom I disagree and yet respect. One such blog I visit on occasion is Kevin Leitch’s Left Brain/Right Brain. Although Kev usually maintains an appropriate tone of civility, the public comments to his posts always seem to degenerate into bitter mud fights because people on both sides of the issue can’t seem to control themselves. For that reason, I decided not to post comments there as often as I once did. Sometimes, though I feel compelled to join in the conversation, hoping to make it a dialog of diverse ideas, but a recent experience shows the folly in doing so.
Kev posted his thoughts on recent reports that Dr. Rashid Buttar now offers IV-EDTA as a chelation protocol. I really don’t know Dr. Buttar; in fact, I may be the only person on the internet that does not have strong feelings one way or the other about the man. But I do maintain an interest in various biomedical protocols that are being tried in the autism world, and that interest includes finding out why IV-EDTA has been used by some doctors. I left a simple comment on Kev’s post trying to explain its place in the biomedical world, and, as could be predicted, the attack came. This time, it was from “Ms. Clark.”
Here’s an excerpt from the first salvo she fired in my direction:
Wade Rankin, you have no idea what you are talking about.
I wish you and your friends, and people like Craig Westover, would stop influencing parents to chelate their kids when you yourselves have no idea of what you are discussing. You pass around third-rate, third-hand knowledge and if you think that you couldn’t contribute to another child’s death you are wrong.
Where is your conscience in this?
I’m really appalled at your behavior, not that you should care what I think of you, but I really must comment. I hope you will all stop playing doctor before another child is killed.
Ms. Clark gives me far too much credit. If she saw my Site Meter reports, she would know my capacity for influence is pretty darn limited. Heck, I think I’m probably on a first-name basis with everyone who visits the site. And judging by the comments that are usually left, I can’t think of anyone who I’ve influenced to try any particular protocol. I can only think of one post that I devoted to the particulars of biomedical treatments for ASD, and that one was pretty much ignored (for good reason; it was not my best stuff). Even that one emphasized that parents who wanted to consider a biomedical approach should only do so in consultation with a qualified physician, and should educate themselves on every aspect of the process. I made the same point that I state pretty often whenever and wherever I write about all this; there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
After I responded at Kev’s blog to some specific mischaracterizations by Ms. Clark, she favored me with yet another comment, and that’s when I decided to write this post. I suppose I could have posted it as another comment to Kev’s blog, but that would have taken the discussion too far from his original point. In any event, Ms. Clark’s second comment that spurred me to respond went back to her original accusation:
You are influencing people to believe that autism can be caused mercury poisoning. That’s what I believe.
If my opinion is not true in the least, then no parents will say, “I’m sorry my child is dead now. I wish I hadn’t believed that autism was the result of mercury poisoning, but we thought that Mr. Rankin had some crediblity and that he must know what he was talking about since he’s a lawyer and educated, and he’s so nice, too.”
Ms. Clark probably doesn’t read much of what I write. While it’s true that I believe thimerosal exposure played a key role in the dramatic increase in autism rates in recent years, and I further believe it played a key role in the development of ASD in my own child, it’s not the whole story. Indeed, I am somewhat of a heretic in that I think ASD is too complex of an issue to place all of the blame on one factor. But that being said, I’ll accept as true that I have stated that mercury poisoning can help trigger ASD. I still find Ms. Clark’s estimation of my influence -- and her underestimation of the intelligence of parents with children on the spectrum -- to be laughable.
I can just picture parents sitting around discussing worries over their child, and one says to the other: “Let’s go to that nice lawyer’s blog … you know, the one who talks about everything but science. He’ll tell us what to do.” Give me a break. I concentrate my efforts on issues other than the science of autism. I tend to address educational issues, the semantics that unfortunately separate the biomedical and neurodiversity communities, the hypocrisy of some vaccine manufacturers, the ridiculousness spouted by one particular doctor, and the propriety of seeking a cure for ASD. The closest I come to writing about scientific issues comes when I discuss the lunacy of the IOM’s reliance on very flawed epidemiological studies. To a certain extent, science has to be mentioned as part of my general discussions, but science is not the focus. I’m more interested in improving the tone of the dialog than I am in trying to win a debate.
Ms. Clark apparently feels my failure to debate anyone on the scientific studies is because I either haven’t looked at the science or because I don’t understand it:
You have bought a lie if you think that in any way your child has become autistic because of mercury in vaccines and that any form of chelation will help an autistic child become less autistic.
If you can counter my statement with science then do it. But you can’t.
I have looked at the science. I don’t know what you are looking at but it’s junk if it’s telling you that any treatment to remove any heavy metal is going to cure your child or in any way rewire his brain.
Teaching him can rewire his brain, up to a point. Mercury is not going to stop him from learning and taking out imaginary or real mercury is not going to improve his learning to the point where he can learn not to be autistic.
What about the minicolumns, what about the Purkinje celsl[sic]? What about the extra white matter. Have you read any of Casanova or Courchesne’s work?
It might surprise Ms. Clark to know that I have looked at the types of studies she mentions, including some of the work of Dr. Manuel Casanova and Dr. Eric Courchesne. In fact I even understand them pretty well. The fact that certain brain architecture is found in some autistics does not necessarily tell me that the clinical indications by which our children are diagnosed with ASD were not triggered in whole or in part by an environmental insult. Nor does the fact that an increase in brain size -- after birth -- has been noted to coincide with diagnosed autism does not necessarily mean that environmental insults, including but not limited to mercury poisoning, do not play a role in causing autistic dysfunction. A decrease in Purkinje cells certainly makes sense in all models of autism to explain the hows but not the whys.
All the studies Ms. Clark mentions, along with numerous genetic and neurological studies not usually cited by “our” crowd, have a place in our developing understanding of the autism spectrum. The biological and clinical studies we more often cite (e.g., James, Burbacher, Hornig, Deth, Wakefield) also contribute to our understanding of the problem. But none of the studies begins to tell the whole story. Despite a mountain of paper, science has only begun to scratch at the surface of autism. We can’t even agree on what autism is!
And that’s why I avoid debating science; there’s simply not enough to debate. Until we know enough to start putting together the pieces, all we can do is talk in broad generalities. That’s why the main comment I make on science is that we need more of it.
I will gladly admit that Ms. Clark may know more than I about the specifics of some studies bearing on a particular model of autism. But just as I believe ASD is too complex to be explained by an explanation that it is merely misdiagnosed mercury poisoning, I likewise believe that neurological studies do not tell the whole story. I cannot and will not debate someone who refuses to acknowledge that autism is about more than what the brain looks like.
It is no secret that I believe we are in the midst of an autism epidemic (something Ms. Clark disagrees with, I know), that the epidemic results from increased exposure to environmental insults in genetically predisposed children, and that it may be possible to reduce or eliminate some of the clinical manifestations of ASD by various protocols. I don’t claim to be an expert in any of this. I am only a parent trying to make sense of it all.