Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jabberwocky of the Day : Age of Autism on Smiting

As a parent of three children who suffer from autism, I can fully understand the difficulties and challenges that autism can bring to your life. I can understand that some days it seems like nothing you can do can alter the course of autism or make a dent in the problems that is causes. And I certainly understand that having to deal with autism can monumentally suck for both you and the child who, lets face it, gets the worst of it.

I get all that because autism has been a part of my family's life for many years now. And after all of these years, I think I can say that I truly understand the frustration and occasional hopelessness that that goes with it. I don't think that you can really understand what autism can be like unless you live it day after day.

I get that and so I normally don't comment on what other parents say about their experiences. I understand that these parents are under tremendous stress and are simply trying the best they can to deal with an unfortunate situation.

But (you knew that was coming, right?), there are times when someone takes it too far. In my opinion, Kent Heckenlively did just that in a post over at Age of Autism entitled "When I Can Do Nothing".  In this post, Mr Heckenlively talks about his feelings of helplessness when it comes to the getting the world to accept his view of autism. He talks about how he has turned to religion to help him deal with his inability to make a difference. He says, in part -
I've been very busy lately.
Unfortunately, I can't talk much about it. What I can say is that on some level, my prayers to God for an understanding of the autism epidemic have been answered. I now know why they fear us so much. I can't prove it, and as a lawyer I understand that's the real show. But I know.
And yet, as thankful as I am for an understanding of what has happened to my child and so many others, my heart is heavy. The Dark Forces which in the past have destroyed the careers of those who have found clues to the afflictions of our children and other disease communities are once again on the move. You may very well read about their actions this week. And I can't do anything to stop them.
He goes on to talk about Stephen King's book The Stand and talks about how the forces of good in that book fought against the forces of evil. And from there he goes on to quote Psalm 94 from the Bible, a passage entitled "A Prayer for Vengeance".

I think the message he is trying to get across is pretty clear.

Now, I have absolutely no problem with religion or someone turning to religion to help them through a difficult time. It isn't my cup of tea, but I can understand why some people are religious and take comfort from their beliefs. But here is the problem.

There is no enemy here to smite.
There are no "Dark Forces".
There is no vast conspiracy to cause autism or to cover-up the cause of autism.

What there is is a large number of people who are doing what they think is the right thing. You might not agree with what they are doing and you might think that be acting out of their own self-interests. And who knows, you could be right.

But there is no demonic Randall Flagg who is in need of smiting.  There are just mostly good people doing what they feel is the right thing to do.  Which is exactly the same as what most parents do.

I can understand that scientific progress towards understanding exactly what autism is can be painfully slow. I can understand that, after over thirty years worth of research, science is not much closer to understanding what autism is let alone understanding how to fix it.

But the answer is to work together to try and advance our understanding and to help those that we can deal with the problems that autism causes. The answer is not to retreat into religion platitudes and to encourage your readers to engage in some holy war.

Doing that makes you look like you are nothing more than a cult.


  1. OH..I dunno. I'm kinda slow, but it sounds to me like somebody is threatening to sue A of A.

  2. Huh. I thought it sounded like he was lashing out because he felt impotent, not because of any threat.

    On what grounds do you think that someone would be able to sue them? I know they do a lot of trash talking but I haven't seen anything that even comes to close to being actionable.

  3. I'll let someone else explain why a parent of a child with autism might be just a bit upset.

  4. Minority,

    I get why he could be upset and I agree with what the post you linked to said. It is highly frustrating to deal with the crap that the "science" , ND, or whatever they are calling themselves now crew throw out.

    But, here's the thing. If you let the "other side" goad you into sounding like a religious nut who is calling for a holy war or asking god to smite your enemies then you let them win. When you do that you take all of your credibility and throw it out the window.

    Lets say I a some random person who is looking for information about autism on the internet. I run across a site like AoA but I am dubious about what it says because the I don't have the level of understanding to grasp the subtle little nuances of their argument. What I would do instead of trying to acquire a deep understanding is look at the reputation of who is making the claim.

    I would look into other things that this speaker has said and what over people say about what they said. And then I run into the current piece on AoA or someone points it out to me.

    What do you think I am going to think about AoA then?

  5. MJ,
    There I agree with you. It wasn't a sensible thing to post. I cannot believe, however, that the people who are promoting vaccines at the moment are honest brokers who are trying their best.

    Nor can I believe that the people who try to persuade parents to stick totally with mainstream medicine when they have sick children with autism mean well either.

    I think studying this subject has made me very cynical.

  6. I disagree with you slightly here, MJ. I will agree that the tone of the article is a little extreme, but I also take into account that this is Kent just blowing off steam and trying to find a way to cope.

    However, I think you are misinterpreting the tone of Kent's article. I don't see this as him wanting "The Dark Forces" to be smitten by God, but just him praying that those responsible for the injury to our children be punished.

    Orac made an extremely hysterical post about this last week. He does an excellent job of imposing his own interpretation of what Kent was trying to convey and imply that Kent was trying to promote violence. Orac goes and he finds a different translation of the Psalm Kent quoted and then ramps the drama up to Eleven to change the tone of Kent's article so that Orac could imply that Kent was praying to God to destroy the evil-doers. All so that he could make himself seem saintly.

    What it turned out being was pathetic.