Saturday, October 21, 2006


Not long ago, a group of economists decided to join in the hunt for the root cause of autism. They looked at statistics and decided there could only be one culprit: watching too much television. I resisted the temptation to comment on the story because I just couldn’t take it seriously. But there seem to be many people who are giving the “study” credence. For the last week, my Google news alerts have been dominated by various media outlets running the story on how Barney and Sesame Street are behind the rise in autism.

Only Time magazine seemed willing to call this hypothesis “bizarre.” Of course, the same Time article seems to prematurely discard hypotheses involving links to vaccines or mercury, but they are at least showing a consistency that is otherwise lacking in the media.

The point is that there are important developments in the worlds of autism ⎯ both the scientific and the political worlds ⎯ nearly every day. And yet the two most widely covered stories of the past year have been a young man shooting three-pointers and now a crackpot theory about television causing autism.

On a related note, check out this post by Kristina Chew, in which she discusses how it would make almost as much sense to say that autism causes TV as the other way around. She puts the story into perspective, which to me underlines just how silly the media attention has been.

ADDENDUM: For a really great analysis of the absurdity of the television study, check out Kendra Pettengill's take here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Well, the Rankins are still living out of boxes, but in general the move has gone well. The hardest part of the transition was being away from the internet for awhile, and it is taking me some time to get caught up. But things are definitely happening in the on-line world.

First, I need to mention that Dan Olmsted once again has the audacity to use common sense while others are telling us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. We keep hearing that we can’t believe what we see, and that there is no epidemic of ASD. In a very readable piece entitled The Age of Autism: Many, many more, Mr. Olmsted takes on those that preach denial.

If you’re more interested in reading an interesting review of some truly significant scientific work, Ian Parker over at A Shade of Grey, once again tackles the ongoing work of Dr. Manuel Casanova, in Autism and the Evolution of the Brain.

And last, but most certainly not least, I am delighted to point you in the direction of Searching Equilibrium. Many of you are familiar with María Luján, the Argentine chemist and parent of an ASD son. Despite the challenges of writing in a foreign language (English), María always manages to leave the most lucid comments at various spots across the internet. Now, she’s starting her own blog.

Through the internet, I have been fortunate to make good friends I have not yet met in person. Ian and María have become good friends indeed. They are both a bit more conservative than I am on the issues of causation and treatment, but both maintain open minds and open hearts. Friends like that help to keep me honest in my own opinions.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Really, I swear I'll be posting something new real soon. I've been a little busy getting settled into a new house and a new career, and there just hasn't been enough time to keep up with everything. But I'm getting back up to speed and I hope to have something up in the next few days. In the meantime, start a conversation among yourselves . . .