The Sad Side of Pseudoscience

By Michael Edmonds 30/06/2013 6


Sometimes pseudoscience frustrates me, sometimes it makes me really angry, and sometimes it just makes me really sad.

An article in the May – August edition of The New Zealand “Journal” of Natural Medicine fits under the sad category. It is copied  from an online posting called How I Gave My Son Autism, written by “Mountain Mama”.

In this piece, “Mountain Mama” lists all the “unforgiveable” things she did during her pregnancy which “gave” her son autism.

These include

  • getting ultrasounds
  • drinking coca cola, containing the “highest levels of mercury due to the HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in it”
  • using Lortab/acetaminophen to treat her fibromyalgia
  • allowing pitocin to be used to induce labour
  • having a C-section
  • using antibiotics
  • getting her son vaccinated
  • giving her son acetaminophen/paracetamol
  • giving her son fluoridated water

It is sad reading this list because as far as I am aware there is NO reliable evidence supporting a link between many of these claims and autism.

Also there is no consideration of the risks that some of these practices may have avoided. For example, antibiotics treat potentially life threatening infections, paracetamol treats fever, and C-sections can reduce other risks during pregnancy.

With regards to mercury in HFCS, I would be more concerned with the consumption of too much HFCS than of any mercury being present in it. While mercury has been reported as being detectable at 0.062 parts per million in one sample, there is no evidence that this (very low) amount is consistently present as other coca cola samples have shown no detectable levels.

Some of the evidence gathered by “Mountain Mama” appears to have come from an article called Common Obstetrical Practices and their Link to Autism by Jeanne Ohm, a Doctor of Chiropractic. Others from health websites and government lobby groups.

Just as disturbing is the comments section, which in parts, serves as an echo (and amplification) chamber for ideas about causes of autism, where others point out not to forget about mercury in fillings, Lyme disease or electromagnetic radiation, while others dismiss the idea of autism having a genetic contribution.

It’s depressing to see this sort of  guilt and self flagellation based on misinformation.


6 Responses to “The Sad Side of Pseudoscience”

  • At least you got the edited version. Word is the article’s author originally called it “How I Gived my Boy Autisticism and Banjo Pluckin’ for the Mountain Housewife”

    She at least captured the heart of one of the commenters who was having problems dealing with her “quilt”

    – ‘However, I am very disappointed in the way they turned out and I am constantly dealing with quilt.”

    At first, I thought it may have been a typo, but it continued through the comment, so I can only assume she is waiting for some commonsense advice on blanket stitch.

    Really, the only way to deal sensibly with these websites of delusion and mass stupidity is to treat them like You Tube – funny as hell to visit, but you wouldn’t want to base any major (or even minor) decisions on the content.

    Also, accept that some people are gullible – they are the same people who later in life will send cheques to displaced Nigerian princes to assist getting 2.1 million dollars out of the country… You just cannot educate that level of stupidity.

    • Ouch, Ashton, that first line is really playing to stereotypes, not nice at all.

      “You just cannot educate that level of stupidity”

      We can try, because what is the alternative?

  • Accept that you can only move those at the margins, and get in early with the training in critical thinking.

    By the time an individual has got to the point of Mountain Momma and is so entrenched in the paradigm of conspiracy and paranoia that they freely write unsubstantiated drivel on public fora, they are beyond hope.

    Since those fora also tend to be echo chambers of witlessness, you may as well forget about 98% of the responders on there too.

    Counter the madness with logic where possible, but don’t expect wholesale change of minds.

    The only chance to change at a population level is generational – get in from day one at school (or pre-school) with skill development in critical thinking.

  • @Ashton, generally true I suppose. At least with respect to the direct confrontation method of educating the conspiracy minded. Ignoring of course those who are disingenuous in their activism, however many of those there might be.

    But not all hope is lost, the story of Charlie Veitch erstwhile 911 “Truther” shows that even the hard-core can be turned around.

  • @ Darcy – there are exceptions to every rule. They should be regarded as exceptional, not a general truth (pun intended).