Australian Research Illustrates a Reason for Irrational Skeptic Behaviour

In last week’s edition some of our staff writers put together an article that featured Australian research on Asperger’s syndrome and the behaviours associated with that condition.
That article was titled “People with high autistic tendencies see the world very differently,
and a Swinburne magazine summary of their research is found here:
What started out as a routine reporting of a research paper became a focus for a change in our own policy, as we identified the behaviours of medical skeptics (found in a range of high profile organisations) with that illustrated in the Swinburne University study, and their attack on one of our writers, Judy Wilyman.

In my entire professional career I have never seen such venomous attacks on a PhD student who did nothing more than write a thesis on Australian government vaccination policy, have it reviewed by two independent experts and subsequently accepted by her university – the University of Wollongong.
There was nothing out of place with any of the university processes, just the controversial nature of her paper, because it created findings against vaccines and their manufacturers, which has now become part of the formal literature base that could influence future decisions regarding vaccines, their toxicity and the unethical practices that lie beneath the surface of a significant segment of mainstream medicine.

Her supervisor, Professor Brian Martin, wrote an article that identified a pattern common to all of Judy Wilyman’s detractors, and summarised that pattern down to four points.
The four points correlate very closely with behaviours exhibited by people that have Asperger’s Syndrome, and i2P has now adapted them as part of our formal publishing policy:

This group of medical skeptics has now forced i2P to adopt a policy relating to their use of our own article comments panel.
We will no longer publish comment that contains one or more of the following issues:
1. They attack the person, not just their work.
2. They concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points.
3. They make no comparisons with other standards, or with standard accepted practices, but rather make criticisms in isolation or according to their own assumed standards.
4. They assume that findings contrary to what they believe is correct, must be wrong or dangerous or both.

The irony of adopting this new policy is that we had to do an almost identical process to protect Loretta Marron, CEO of the Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), a member of Skeptics Australia and a long-time former writer for i2P, when many of her detractors began to post inflammatory and derogatory comments to each of her articles.
Now the medical skeptic network is endeavouring to do the same thing to Judy Wilyman.

A recent Conversation article highlighted both the difficulties of diagnosing autism (ASD) and the fact that it is a condition that appears to be rapidly increasing.
While the references made apply to the total autism spectrum (including Asperger’s), some commentators are arguing that Asperger’s be separated as a separate condition because their social communication skills are usually at a higher functioning level than those correctly diagnosed with autism
An extract from the Conversation article states:

“To be diagnosed on this autistic spectrum (ASD), the individual must have difficulties in two areas.
First, they must have persistent problems in social communication and interaction. This includes deficits in empathy, body language, facial expression and eye contact; and difficulties or lack of interest in social relationships and making friends.

Second, they must exhibit restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities such as insistence on rigid routines, fixation on certain topics, sensory hypersensitivities such as noise sensitivity and sometimes hyposensitivities – such as a high pain threshold.

The problems must be severe enough to cause impairment in everyday life. Many people with ASD also often have areas of extraordinary giftedness.

The rate of ASD diagnosis has risen significantly in recent years. Studies between 1960 and 1980 found a prevalence of 0.02% to 0.05%.
By the early 2000s rates were between 0.3% and 0.6%; by 2006 0.5% to 1.14%. A meta-analysis suggested a steady rate between 1990 and 2010 of 0.75%.

However, by 2009, the rate of children diagnosed with ASD in Queensland schools had become as high as one in 50 students (2.05%), according to Queensland Education Department statistics reported in the Courier Mail (obtained by Freedom of Information).
This has led to controversy about whether this is an uncovering of cases that in the past would have been missed, an epidemic of ASD caused by environmental toxins affecting the early developing brain, or a false “epidemic” due to over-diagnosis.”

While people who exhibit tendencies towards high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome may not be able to help their behaviours, they can never be accepted or tolerated as they contribute to disruption and destructive activities.

As the Swinburne University of Technology Venture magazine states:

“As a result, clinicians speak of a ‘spectrum’ in which autistic behaviours occur with increasing severity, as measured by the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)The AQ was developed by a UK researcher, Dr Simon Baron-Cohen, and consists of 50 statements related to behaviours typical of autism, such as difficulties with social interaction, communication, motor skills, sensory processing and a tendency towards repetitive behaviour. 

Test subjects are required to specify whether they ‘definitely’ or ‘slightly’ agree or disagree with the statements and score one point for each question that is answered ‘autistically’. The higher the AQ score, the further along the spectrum an individual lies.

“Everyone has some degree of autistic tendency, expressed in terms of socialisation preference, scope of imagination, level of rigidity in opinion and whether or not we are fascinated by patterns or numbers,” Professor Crewther says.

“The average score among the population is 16, whereas scores of 32 or more indicate clinically significant levels of autistic traits. Subtler forms of the condition occur between these scores, including autism spectrum conditions (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome at scores below 26.”

Studies have found that high AQ scores are prevalent among engineers, and computer and physical scientists; perhaps typified by a group of 16 British Mathematical Olympiad winners scoring an average of 24.

Because of this link with ‘savantism’ – abilities that go beyond what normal people can do – Professor Crewther thinks that a certain appeal for ASD has emerged in popular culture. Wired magazine affectionately refers to it as the ‘Geek Syndrome’ and actors on the TV show The Big Bang Theory are winning Emmy Awards portraying scientists with classic ASD and Asperger behaviours.” 

It is alleged that the US Skeptics body is funded by Big Pharma and that if you join the US organisation you are automatically subscribed into the Australian Skeptics organisation.
What a great way to fund a group of people that have a high content of medical researchers or influencers.
And why would they fund them?
They certainly make a good “front organisation” for Big Pharma when grouped into an arms-length separate organisation.
Let’s call them The Friends of Deceit in Science and get them to deflect any adverse statements regarding Big Pharma research and let’s chase down as many irrelevant opportunities as possible, such as persecuting homeopaths.
And never investigate any iatrogenic illnesses from drug side effects ( which are massive), and that includes vaccines.

The ability of the medical skeptics to mount a high profile case against Judy Wilyman the individual, is reprehensible.
But the morality and ethics of such a campaign seems are right out of the Big Pharma textbook, the funding of which is simply booked as a “research cost” which goes towards a cost paid for by government or future patients taking future drugs.
Or, by the current strategy of old drugs taking a massive price increase, for no good reason.

Cambridge University conducted a study on Asperger’s Syndrome titled:
Genetic variation in GABRB3 is associated with Asperger syndrome and multiple endophenotypes relevant to autism

The researchers found a strong genetic link between empathy levels and different types of Asperger’s.
Lead researcher, Professor Baron-Cohen said:
“We are excited that this study confirms that variation in GABRB3 is linked not just to Asperger’s Syndrome(AS) but to individual differences in empathy in the population. Many candidate genes do not replicate across studies and across different samples, but this genetic finding seems to be a solid result. Research now needs to focus on where this gene is expressed in the brain in autism, and how it interacts with other genetic and non-genetic factors that cause AS.”

The team was co-led by Dr Bhismadev Chakrabarti from the Department of Psychology at Reading University. He commented: “Genes play an important role in autism and Asperger Syndrome. This new study adds to evidence that GABRB3 is a key gene underlying these conditions. This gene is involved in the functioning of a neurotransmitter that regulates excitation and inhibition of nerve cell activity so the research gives us vital additional information about how the brain may develop differently in people with Asperger Syndrome.”

Varun Warrier, who carried out the study as part of his graduate research at Cambridge University, added: “The most important aspect of this research is that it points to common genetic variants in GABRB3 being involved in both AS and in empathy as a dimensional trait. Although GABRB3 is not the only gene to be involved in this condition and in empathy levels, we are confident that we have identified one of the key players. We are following this up by testing how much protein GABRB3 produces in the brain in autism, since a genetic finding of this kind becomes more explanatory when we can also measure its function.”

That people with Asperger’s syndrome experience difficulties with social interaction, and can display unusual behaviors, such as repeating the same action or being excessively attached to performing certain routines, is well known.
The Swinburne recent research has demonstrated that they are also unable to “see the trees from the forest”.
As, for example, when they became totally immersed in their agenda of crucifying valid research conducted by Dr Andrew Wakefield, thoroughly destroying his reputation and findings of vaccine-induced autism.
Yet when US lead scientist for the CDC, William Thompson, stated in writing that he had omitted certain research findings regarding vaccine-induced autism, that did not accord with the skeptic agenda, that “on record” admission was smothered and ignored.
Medical Skeptics still promote the dogma that autism is not caused by vaccines, but the evidence is still available for all to see through a simple Google search.
And these behaviours correlate exactly with the four point list Judy Wilyman’s long-time supervisor, Dr Brian Martin. 

But this is not to say that all medical skeptics have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Skeptics Australia are also setting up their ludicrous “Bent Spoon Award” to be awarded to the University of Wollongong.

One response to “Australian Research Illustrates a Reason for Irrational Skeptic Behaviour”

  1. Thank you Mark & Brian for publicly supporting Dr Judy Wileyman and her research paper. It’s way past time that the attack on people or science that have an opposing or questioning view on vaccines stop. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but these have always been orchestrated attacks that are given more publicity and credence than the science or facts.

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