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I wrote a chapter, from a critical perspective, on autism genetic research
in my 2006 book "The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless
Search for Genes." I have attached the chapter as a pdf for interested
parties.

Jay Joseph




On Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 12:36 PM, Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]
> wrote:

> http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/11/30/hiding-behind-genetics-to-
> avoid-culpability-for-environmental-causes-of-autism
>
> <http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Collective-evolution/~3/bATynWoSc5A/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email>
>
> Hiding Behind Genetics to Avoid Culpability for Environmental Causes of
> Autism
> <http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Collective-evolution/~3/bATynWoSc5A/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email>
>
> by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
> <http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Collective-evolution/~3/bATynWoSc5A/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email>
>
>
> Genetics is the darling of the biomedical research industry. For diseases
> ranging from cancer to skin disorders, investigators have been busily at
> work for decades trying to identify the conditions’ underlying genetic
> causes. However, these same investigators—and the reporters who communicate
> their findings to the public—are often strangely incurious about the role
> of environmental toxins as triggers of disease.
>
>
> A story
> <https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/11/15508006/what-causes-autism-spectrum-disorder-vaccine-theory> about
> autism spectrum disorder (ASD) published in October 2017 by the news
> website *Vox* furnishes an example of this genetics-as-the-explanation-for-everything
> perspective. *Vox* senior health correspondent Julia Belluz
> <https://www.vox.com/authors/julia-belluz> (a self-described “evidence
> enthusiast”) interviewed a small sample of five reportedly “cutting-edge”
> autism researchers, all of whom focus on autism genetics. Given the lack of
> disciplinary diversity in her selective sample, Belluz’s conclusion that
> genetic factors are the most “well-established” and “promising” explanation
> for autism comes as no surprise.
>
>
> …environmental factors have been underestimated, and genetics
> overestimated, for their roles in autism-spectrum disorders.
>
> Two of Belluz’s five interlocutors (geneticist Stephan Sanders
> <http://sanderslab.ucsf.edu/stephan-sanders> and psychiatrist Lauren Weiss
> <http://bms.ucsf.edu/faculty/lauren-weiss-phd>) are researchers at the
> University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), but neither one mentions a
> rigorous population-based study
> <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440679/> of 192 twin pairs
> published in the *Archives of General Psychiatry* by UCSF researcher Neil
> Risch <http://profiles.ucsf.edu/neil.risch> and colleagues in 2011. Risch
> is the director of UCSF’s Institute for Human Genetics. The study’s results
> indicated
> <https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2011/07/10153/study-debunks-autism-primarily-genetic-disorder> that
> “environmental factors have been underestimated, and genetics
> overestimated, for their roles in autism-spectrum disorders.” Another
> study <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25621899> that involved
> families with two ASD-affected siblings (published in *Nature Medicine* in
> 2015) likewise highlighted “substantial genetic heterogeneity” in ASD,
> again suggesting
> <https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20150126/autism-genes-study#1> that
> environmental or other shared risk factors trump heritability.
>
>
> To be fair, Belluz’s discussion gives a nod to a “genes plus environment”
> perspective on autism causation by acknowledging that an “underlying
> genetic predisposition or mutation” generally needs to “collide” with
> environmental triggers in order to give rise to ASD. However, Belluz
> characterizes the research on environmental risk factors for ASD as
> “blurry,” “murky,” “mixed” and not “robust.” Belluz also cites a study
> <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3513682/> that, according
> to her, views shared genetic variants in families as “probably more
> important” as an autism trigger than shared environments. However, the
> article actually emphasizes gene-environment interactions and concludes
> that “the amount of evidence supporting a significant contribution of
> environmental factors to autism risk” makes it clear that “the search for
> environmental factors should be reinforced.”
>
>
> A pivotal paper <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27906501> published
> in early 2017 goes a step further, asserting that “The term ‘heritability,’
> as it is used today in human behavioral genetics, is one of the most
> misleading in the history of science.” The paper’s two authors argue
> against the “deeply flawed” assumption that “genetic influences…can be
> separated from their environmental context.” According to these authors,
> “contemporary biology has demonstrated beyond any doubt that traits are
> produced by *interactions* between genetic and nongenetic factors that
> occur in each moment of developmental time. That is to say, *there are
> simply no such things as gene-only influences* [emphasis in original].”
> Stated another way, the paper suggests that “it makes little sense to
> attempt to quantify the relative importance of two different factors that
> interact with one another [dynamically] to produce an outcome.”
>
>
> …meticulously demonstrated strong parallels between the brain effects of
> mercury intoxication and ASD brain pathology.
>
> Belluz is willing to entertain the idea that environmental factors such as
> “air pollution, pesticides, antidepressants and viruses” may contribute to
> autism, but she categorically dismisses the possibility of any association
> between ASD and the dozen or so vaccines (containing 16 distinct antigens)
> currently included in the childhood vaccine schedule in the U.S. Belluz
> states, “Vaccines are the wrong explanation for autism, and we should let
> the idea go.” This attitude is frankly disingenuous (or worse), given what
> we know about the neurotoxicity of vaccine ingredients such as aluminum
> <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596046/> and the
> mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal (still used in flu
> shots). Landmark papers published in 2004
> <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11339848> and 2012
> <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22810216> meticulously demonstrated
> strong parallels between the brain effects of mercury intoxication and ASD
> brain pathology. To discount these ideas, Belluz cites a fraudulent study
> coauthored by the criminal Danish researcher Poul Thorsen
> <https://worldmercuryproject.org/advocacy-policy/criminal-conduct-poul-thorsen/>—a
> fugitive from justice who has been indicted for stealing research grant
> money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and his
> unethical then-CDC colleague and girlfriend, Diana Schendel
> <https://worldmercuryproject.org/news/love-emails-cdcs-diana-schendel-autism-researcher-poul-thorsen/>
> .
>
>
> …it is biologically plausible that the burdensome (in both number and
> frequency) vaccine schedule is triggering an immune overload that
> contributes to autism as well as other inflammatory diseases.
>
> In remaining fixated on genetics, Belluz also ignores multiple strands of
> evidence highlighting links between autism and immune system challenges.
> For example, it is biologically plausible that the burdensome (in both
> number and frequency) vaccine schedule is triggering an immune overload
> <https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/vaccine-induced-immune-overload-and-the-resulting-epidemics-of-type-diabetes-and-metabolic-syndrome-1747-0862.S1-025.php?aid=24058> that
> contributes to autism as well as other inflammatory diseases. Other
> important research, carried out by the late neuroscientist Paul Patterson,
> has showed that challenges to a mother’s immune system—such as the
> influenza and Tdap (tetanus-diptheria-pertussis) vaccines now routinely
> given to pregnant women—can lead to “lifelong changes to the child’s
> immune system
> <http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-paul-patterson-20140719-story.html>,”
> and this immune response can affect the child’s brain. In addition, an
> article <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590951/> on
> developmental immunotoxicity (defined as “environmentally induced
> disruption of normal immune development resulting in adverse outcomes”) by
> Cornell researcher Rodney Dietert observes that developmental
> immunotoxicity can occur at lower exposure levels than the exposure levels
> that usually produce immunotoxicity in adults and also can lead to
> dysfunction that remains latent “until it is triggered by a later-life
> event” such as vaccination.
>
>
> *Vox* <https://www.vox.com/pages/about-us> proudly states that its job is
> to provide “context” and “insight” so that readers can make sense of
> science and “everything else that matters.” Belluz herself laments
> <https://www.vox.com/2015/2/10/8009973/toronto-star-hpv-vaccine> the
> “transparency problem in medicine and health-regulatory affairs” (although
> she does so in an article that harshly castigates anyone who dares to
> question the safety of the HPV vaccine). While calling on journalists to
> “crack open stories about health the same way political reporters do on
> justice or defense,” Belluz’s discussion of autism genetics unfortunately
> trots out the same old tired refrain that has helped the pharmaceutical and
> chemical industries to evade culpability and simply blame the victim.
>
>
>
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>