Thursday, October 28, 2010

Targeting the Right Species

Since its autistic mice studies have apparently crapped out (who could have predicted it?), Autism Speaks has decided to take the inspired step of ordering up a batch of autistic rats instead. And to think, people were worried the organization might be a hindrance to fruitful research.

On a related note, Autism Speaks also announced today that it is canceling its order with SAGE Labs for the production of some illogical, narrow-minded primates—Autism Speaks discovered it already had an abundant supply running around in the corporate offices.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Here's an excerpt courtesy of Olga Solomon, in Sense and the Senses: Anthropology and the Study of Autism:

“[This review] considers the production of knowledge about autism as a clinically relevant category at the intersection of sense as culturally organized competence in meaning making and the senses as a culturally normative and institutionally ratified sensory and perceptual endowment.”

Is that a sentence? Please don't tell me that's a sentence from the English language. Because if that's a sentence from the English language, I'm going to have to go back to first grade and start over. To be honest, it's a downright shame I felt the need to substitute “[This review]” for “It” in the excerpt, because as far as I can tell “It” was the only word that actually had a referent.

Yes, folks, this is what a postgraduate education can do for you too. Be forewarned.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


As harmful as bad science has been to autistic individuals (and that harm has been considerable) it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the damage inflicted under the heading of good science. Good science has been the tsunami washing across every autistic land, leaving behind an ever expanding legacy of destruction and mayhem.

What autistic peace was disturbed when good science crashed ashore?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Embarrassment of Riches

So now we have best-selling books decrying “bad science,” do we? Hell, I think I would give my left arm and half a fortune to meet a bad scientist—just as Kierkegaard no doubt would have relinquished the entirety of his inheritance for the off chance to encounter a bad Christian, or a Christian of almost any persuasion for that matter, just as long as he or she was not a good Christian. Those, Kierkegaard realized with utter dismay, could not be avoided.

Bad, vicious, grumpy, lazy—yes, I will accept a scientist of almost any ilk, just as long as for God's sake he or she is not another good scientist. I cannot seem to walk across the street without stumbling over another one of those.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Tripping off Turing's
Tape, like words from human tongue,
Foreground emerges.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond

As regards to the work of John Ioannidis and his colleagues, I have little doubt that it is accurate and revealing, but I remain far less optimistic about where this trend will lead. If our best researchers are now pouring their best efforts into analyzing the methodologies of our worst researchers, then who, might I ask, is actually attending to the science?

And think about what is bound to happen next. Meta-research, now widely regarded as successful and informative, will soon blossom into a distinctive and popular field of its own. How long before the launch of the new and prestigious journals Meta-Science and Meta-Nature? (Might I suggest the latter begin with a thousand-author study on the exponentially increasing trend of co-authorship within the pages of Nature.) Perhaps a Scandinavian committee of committees can begin awarding meta-Nobels for outstanding research into the increasingly trivial results of Nobel prize winners (a surprisingly fertile domain).

But of course as this new field becomes ever more popular and draws in more and more practitioners, the day inevitably comes when the majority of meta-scientists begin doing shoddy work as well, and then how much longer before some enterprising young team, with apparently nothing better to do, begins meta-analyzing the meta-analysis—and so on, to infinity and beyond.

Does anyone remember why humanity turned to science to begin with? I very much doubt it was so that we could learn more about science itself. When the carpenter becomes obsessed with his tools, he forgets to build the house.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Mistaking the current breed of autism researcher for a scientist is like mistaking an all-thumbs carpenter for a brilliant architect—it demeans the value of both brilliant architects and competent carpenters.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Limbo Dancing

Publication—the new standard of scientific evidence.

Statistics software—the new standard of scientific effort.

Postdoctoral fellowship—the new standard of scientific courage.

Peer review—the new standard of critical thinking.

Questionnaire—the new standard of scientific measurement.

Experimental design—the new standard of scientific insight.

Co-authors—the new standard of reproducibility.

Grant proposal—the new standard of scientific innovation.

Grant approval—the new standard of scientific achievement.

Good science—the new standard.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eloquent Words

Be sure to catch the recent interview of Ari Ne'eman in Wired magazine. While I do not agree with everything Mr. Ne'eman has to say, he does present an eloquent and positive message about the aspirations of autistic individuals, while at the same time being realistic about their ongoing needs.

I have previously noted some concerns about ASAN's methods and policies, and in many ways, Mr. Ne'eman's interview in Wired demonstrates the importance of Mr. Ne'eman and ASAN being open to such questions and criticisms. Mr. Ne'eman and his organization are clearly capable of being a catalyst for constructive change in the community, and thus it is essential that they accept these abilities and responsibilities with courage, wisdom and honesty. When ASAN's actions consistently match the eloquence of Mr. Ne'eman's words, autistic individuals will then have a valuable advocate indeed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Uninspired Profession

When modern scientists begin talking process, design and methodology, that's when I know that science has left the room.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


If it were up to me, those who are commonly called modern scientists would instead be classified by their more accurate name—technicians. That would not make them any less valuable—indeed, the work of technicians is often precisely what is called for and can often be the most valuable. For instance, as scientists, Michelson and Morley were not in the same league as Lorentz and Einstein, but where might Lorentz and Einstein have been without the clever experiments of Michelson and Morley helping to light the way. Credit must always be given where credit is due.

But these days, both taxonomic groups—scientists and technicians—find themselves gravely damaged by the insistence of the tens of millions of technicians among us on calling themselves the only true scientists, a total eclipse of the former upon the latter. If one truly understood the nature of science, if one truly thought about it for a moment, then the idea of tens of millions of scientists walking among us would of course be laughable. But this is a joke that never occurs to the gathering throng.

When Ben Goldacre exposes the characteristics of bad scientists, what he is actually describing are the characteristics of bad technicians—science in fact never enters the discussion. Indeed, that's the main problem in nearly every instance of this so-called modern age of science—science never enters the discussion.

In an era in which being a good technician is both stubbornly and somewhat obnoxiously mistaken for being a good scientist, count me as one proud to be instead a bad scientist.