Two weeks ago I posted Left Brain Right Brain closes – how the actions of John Best (who sometimes posts as Fore Sam) had forced Kevin Leitch to close his blog to protect his family. Predictably, John Best appeared in the comments to promote his pseudoscientific view that autism is caused by Thimerosal in vaccines. Several other commenters (details below) took Best to task and essentially ripped his silly arguments apart for all to see. Yes, my regular commenters really are smarter than the average bear.
Not everyone reads long comments threads, but I can honestly recommend reading this one to see how weak Best’s’ arguments are. You can compare Best’s mere assertions with the actual contrary evidence and citations provided by the other commenters. It’s worth a read just to appreciate the intellectual ass kicking the other commenters gave Best. Some of it’s pretty funny too. And remember, this repertoire Best has of fallacious reasoning, assertion and bullying represent the very best (no pun intended) arguments that he has been able to think of in all his years promoting these beliefs. You’ll need to set aside a couple of hours to read all of the 180 comments - more if you’re going to read all the citations (not the ones from Best because he doesn’t provide any), but it will be entertaining.
That said, I know not everyone has that amount of spare time, so I’m going to sum up Best’s arguments and the rebuttals.
Best Arguments for Thimerosal
Pun intended that time. His is an argument in two parts, namely:
- Autism first appeared in 1943 (or maybe 1931 – a little uncertain over the exact date) – which corresponds to the date Thimerosal was first used in vaccines. The only explanation for this is that thimerosal causes autism.
- Based on his personal observation only, Best thinks his son’s autism (or is it his ADD – a little unsure here too), and that of several other kids, was cured by chelation.
Take those two points, add insults about your opponents – call them deuschbags (sic), knuckleheads, Bozo’s (sic), idiots, dumb bastards, simpletons, boneheads, wack jobs, bunch of jerks, scum, dopes etc. – and reference your success at gambling on the horses as proof you’re smart (I’m not kidding), and you’ve essentially got Best’s arguments.
I’ll try to summarize the main reasons the other commenters gave for why Best is wrong.
Autism first appeared in 1943
Best actually writes:
How about we use a graph from the last million years? It will show no autism until 1943 with a slow rise for about 40 years and an increasing rise as the number of vaccines with thimerosal increased.
Even if we had data from the last million years (obviously we don’t), it wouldn’t show autism until 1943 because that’s when Leo Kanner determined that autism was a separate syndrome, not reported before. Kanner notes autism had most likely previously been previously reported as schizophrenia. Best provided no data, but Tom Foss found Kanner’s actual paper that states:
These characteristics form a unique “syndrome,” not heretofore reported, which seems to be rare enough, yet is probably more frequent than is indicated by the paucity of observed cases. It is quite possible that some such children have been viewed as feebleminded or schizophrenic. In fact, several children of our group were introduced to us as idiots or imbeciles, one still resides in a state school for the feebleminded, and two had been previously considered as schizophrenic.
It seems fairly clear that Kanner means autistics were around before but had been misdiagnosed as feebleminded or schizophrenic. That is, autism existed before 1943 (or 1931 – take your pick), but it had been called something else. Kanner is just the first person to recognize that autism is something different. Best insists Kanner is saying autistics didn’t even exist before he (Kanner) diagnosed these initial children. Reading what Kanner wrote, I don’t see how any reasonable person could possibly come to the conclusion that Best comes to. In any case, the idea is absurd.
Best’s entire case stands or falls on his interpretation of Kanner’s words, the truth of Best’s interpretation, and Best’s assertion that “Autism is never misdiagnosed”. And he means it never was misdiagnosed – even before Kanner. That’s clearly an absurd assertion on its own, but even more so after Joseph provided a link to Dr. J. Landon Down and "Developmental" Disorders – referring to an 1887 paper that reported on patients with a “developmental” disorder that we would now almost certainly refer to as autism. Best just ignores this inconvenient piece of data.
Best then leads with what he considers is a killer argument, the crudely phrased:
Are you trying to tell me autism existed before 1943? If your ridiculous assertion is true, you should be able to show me 77 year olds at the rate of 1 in 150 with autism. If you can do that, I'll blow you.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely that 77 year old autistics, who value their privacy, would be lining up to present themselves now for classification at the order of John Best. Even so, Interverbal managed to provide:
California Department of Disability Services
Quarterly Report 7/1/1992
Age Cohort: 62-99
4 people meeting DSM-III-R autism criteria (stricter than the current standard).
1992 - 62 = 1930.
If they are alive today, then they are your 77 year old autistics, at the youngest.
Best just hand waved away this inconvenient piece of data.
The most charitable view is that Best hasn’t provided any even remotely extraordinary evidence for his extraordinary claim. The less charitable and more realistic view, is that his argument has been totally busted. And without it, what reason does he have to suppose autism is caused by Thimerosal? Oh yes, it’s:
Best’s reasoning for this is:
My son's improvement, my son with ADD being 100% cured, friends and acquaintances who have cured their children and reports from DAN and others.
But he provides no double blind studies that show chelation to be better than placebo. There is a reason we use double blind studies – it is because we know that humans are good at fooling themselves. This is especially true with autism which involves delay in many areas of development. But delay doesn’t necessarily mean no progression. Autistic kids often progress without intervention, and certainly without chelation. Without a double blind study, you have no way of knowing if chelation is a factor in the progression or not.
Best also fails to explain why, if his son is “100% cured”, he still needs chelation. This is something you would expect if chelation was not curing the child. It’s a result that is inconsistent with chelation being the cure.
Without a randomized double-blind study we cannot possibly know if chelation is helping Best’s child or any other. And since that was the other leg of Best’s proof that Thimerosal causes autism, his “argument” such as it was, is completely destroyed. Best’s continued aggressive and anti-science responses such as “Studies are a waste of time to me” demonstrate his inability to even think coherently on this subject. It also means he doesn’t even realize how much he’s just been beaten, and how much his foolishness has been laid bare for the world to see.
Questions Best Can’t Answer
When debating someone, questions often arise from the claims the person makes. For example, if someone says “chelation cures autism”, a reasonable question is “where is the study that shows that?” Questions not answered, or answered dishonestly, can be very revealing about the strength of the person’s position and his or her intellectual honesty. Jimmy Blue and Tom Foss came up with several relevant questions that Best ignored. If you want to know how honest Best is, or how strong his case is, consider these questions that Best still can’t or won’t answer:
- What reason do you have not to believe that all the Thimerosal has been removed from vaccines?
- How does Thimerosal cause mercury poisoning?
- If removing Thimerosal from childhood vaccines had no effect on reducing autism (because it's still coming from the parents' flu shots) then how do you know it was ever caused by childhood vaccines?
- A lot fewer people get flu shots than get their children vaccines; still fewer get it while they're pregnant. How long does it stay in the mother's system?
- What evidence do you have that chelation cures autistics?
- So, were autistic kids born with "scrambled brains" before, due to the flu shots? If so, again, how could you blame childhood vaccines? If not, why has the flu vaccine started causing autism earlier than the mercury crowd used to claim?
- How could Kanner (or you) say that autism had NEVER existed before 1943 if he (or you) did not have access to the medical records of every human being who had ever lived?
- Why didn't mercury poisoning and widespread varied use cause autism until 1943/1931/1929?
- How does chelation cure autism?
- What is the chemical equation for the metabolization of some harmful mercury compound from Thimerosal in the body?
- Why don't autistics exhibit the other symptoms of mercury poisoning (kidney dysfunction, ruddy faces, loss of hair, teeth, and nails, etc.) if autism is mercury poisoning?
- How does HBOT cause brain cells to re-grow?
- What evidence is there that autism is the result of brain cells damaged by mercury?
- Why can't Best give us a detailed rebuttal of the sources found in the last week, when he has been researching this for years?
- In what sense does he mean his son is cured of autism if he still needs treatment for it?
- How does Generation Rescue respond to the accusation that its research is not peer reviewed?
- Why does Generation Rescue still claim that the work of certain scientists supports their arguments when many of those scientists have specifically stated it does not and asked to be disassociated from GR's work?
- How does Best explain the contradiction of claiming the CDC cannot be trusted whilst quoting autism prevalence rates provided by CDC research?
- Why does Best think life is nothing to lose for autistic children?
- How does Best explain his statement that autism is never misdiagnosed when there is clear evidence that it has been in the past and still is now?
Note in the comments below, whether or not Best attempts to answer any of these questions, and form your own views.
This post was written with the arguments developed and put forward by commenters on this blog.
Most of the heavy lifting of the detailed paragraph by paragraph rebuttals to Best’s points, was written by Jimmy_Blue and Tom Foss. From experience I know how much time this takes, and they should be congratulated. They also gave me several good laughs (“My dogs think they are smarter than you”). Tactical support was supplied by Bronze Dog and Techskeptic, pointing out fallacies and other problems with Best’s position. A couple of pieces of really interesting information came from Joseph, who has clearly been writing about autism longer than most of us. And of course, Interverbal found the 77 year old autistics that Best still insists don’t exist. Thanks to you all. It was quite a lesson in taking apart fallacious arguments.
I want to end with a few choice Best quotes. It’s not quite as good as this list of John Best quotes, but they are amusing none the less.
In response to requests for citations to back up his claims:
I don't use citations. I just rely on my memory. When you learn to do that, you will be a lot better off.
On the inventiveness of Eli Lilly:
Autism was invented in 1931 by Eli Lilly.
Argument by wild west wanted poster:
…just find me the 77 year olds, dead or alive.
On consistency in evaluating sources:
The FDA and CDC are not reputable sources for anything.
And then goes on to quote the autism prevalence of 1 in 150, which he gets from (guess where? No prizes) , the CDC.
On the true meaning of science
true scientists like myself…
I think you guys are too involved with science
Where I learned what I know to be true is of no concern to you.
Studies are a waste of time to me.
Autism is never misdiagnosed
And finally, the proof Best really is smarter than anyone else:
Until one of you morons can decipher a racing form and select 6 out of 9 races while I only pick 5, you will not be able to outdo me at any intellectual pursuit. For, handicapping horse races is the single most difficult problem solving exercise one could ever encounter.
Note: the single most difficult problem solving exercise one could ever encounter. There really is no answer to that. Best’s Nobel Prize must surely be a mere formality.