September 7, 2012

Nobody Knows Anything: Autism Edition

The novelist and screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote that until a movie opens, "nobody knows anything" about how well it will do at the box office.

This quotation came to mind as I read two recent stories about possible causes of autism in the New York Times. The first, published on the front page Aug. 23, reported on a study that suggested the older a man is when he becomes a father, the more likely his child is to have autism.

Three days later, on the front page of its Sunday Review section, the Times published an article by Moises Velasquez-Manoff that declared autism is an inflammatory disease caused by a faulty immune system. Theorizing that the lack of parasites in the developed world has thrown the human immune system out of whack, Velasquez-Manoff suggests that autism has become more common because the parasites that used to limit inflammation no longer regulate our immune systems. He approvingly mentions a new trial in which autistic adults are being treated withtrichuris suis, a type of worm meant to help put the immune system back in balance.

My point in bringing up Goldman's "nobody knows anything" quote is not necessarily to criticize... MORE >>

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