Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Newsweek panders to Dr. Offit

Dr. Offit has written a short blurb for Newsweek's Top 10 list of "Most Overblown Fears" of the decade.  It is filled, as would be expected, with half truths and distortions.  And of course, like most major media outlets, Newsweek has failed to mention the fact that Dr. Offit has made a fortune from his patent on the Rotateq vaccine.  So, if you care to read yet another version of the classic "asked and answered" line, have at it.

For me, there are two lines from the piece that stand out.  The first is -
As is true with most pseudoscience, hypotheses shift, eventually settling on one that isn’t testable and, therefore, can never be proven wrong
This idea that "shifting hypotheses" is somehow unscientific is completely absurd on its face.  The bedrock of modern science is the scientific method where the whole idea is that you come up with a hypothesis, test it, and if doesn't pan out you come up with a new hypothesis and test that one.  Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Yet coming up with an alternative hypothesis to fit the available facts is somehow pseudoscience?

Anyway, the second line is -
The tragedy is, given all we now know about the neurological basis of autism, all three of these hypotheses had no chance of bearing fruit.
Apparently Dr Offit knows something that the rest of us don't because, as far as I am aware, the amount we "know" about the physiological basis of autism amounts to almost nothing.

We don't "know" what causes autism, we don't know how autism effects the brain, we don't know the biological basis of autism, we don't have any sort of biological marker for autism, nor do we even know what autism is.  So how exactly can we say that there is "no chance" of any theory bearing fruit when we don't have the slightest clue what we are even talking about?

I expected this sort of nonsense from Dr. Offit but I had more respect for Newsweek.  I guess it is time to cancel my subscription.

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