Autism’s False Prophets
I love “Cantor’s Dilemma“. In its final chapter (#22) a letter exchange between two powerful characters describes politics in Research in the most clear way. The book has one problem though. It is fiction.
“Autism’s False Prophets” by Paul Offit is not. It covers the various vaccines-cause-autism theories and provides scientific data that prove them wrong. Do you want to read about bad science? It is there. Do you want to read about non-repeatable experiments? It is there. Do you want to read about how people mistake correlation for causation? There too! Do you want to find out how charlatans of any background take advantage of desperate people? Read the book. People want to be heard and want (instant) relief. With science not having the answers (or answers they can accept and deal with) charlatans step in loudly and fill the void. As is written in the book, hope is the best fix, better than any drug on the street.
“An easy-to-read medical thriller about the consequences of greed, hubris and intellectual sloppiness” reads the back of the book. This is a a chronicle and a science thriller, not a science fiction or science-in-fiction work. It contains the best explanation of the scientific method and the Null Hypothesis for the general public. Thanks to the book I now understand why the most illiterate and unscientific show ever presented on Greek TV exists:
“Unfortunately, the motivations of scientists who perform studies differ from those in the media who describe them: one wants to inform, the other to entertain.”
People want quick answers and are easy to jump to conspiracy theories that can provide them. It is no wonder that the opinion of journalists, ministers, politicians and celebrities that “attended the University of Google” gets accepted as expert opinion by the general public while the scientists are hiding “The Truth” by being on the payroll of big corporations. After reading the book I still do not understand why some people (the very same people that subscribe to such theories) do not visit their personal-injury lawyer every time they have a headache.
While if one is not directly involved with autism the book can have a few boring corners, it is a guide on how to present the facts. It is no wonder that the author gets so much hate mail and is the recipient of death threats.