A magnified image of stained human sperm (click for credit)
While there is some disagreement on the subject, most medical scientists would agree that Autism rates are on the rise in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world. What’s the reason for this increase? Like most medical issues, there are probably a variety of reasons. Some have suggested that the increase in autism can be linked to childhood vaccination, but the data argue strongly against it. Most likely, there are a series of genetic and environmental factors that play a role in the increase.
For quite some time now, there has been strong evidence that the age of the father has a significant effect on the chance of his child having autism.1 There has been evidence that the mother’s age also plays a role, but its effect is much smaller.2 However, these studies simply demonstrate a correlation between parental age and autism. They do not show that increased parental age plays a direct role in the cause of autism. However, a recent study published in the journal Nature has changed that. It seems to provide a direct link between the age of the father and autism in the child.
The authors of the study examined the entire genomes of 78 parent-offspring trios (mother, father, and child) to directly determine what mutations the child received from the father’s sperm cell and what mutations the child received from the mother’s egg cell. Because they were specifically interested in the cause of neurological disorders, they used a large number of trios that contained a child with either autism or schizophrenia. In the end, 44 of the children had autism spectrum disorder, and 21 were schizophrenic. In addition, the genomes of 1,859 other people were sequenced to serve as a population comparison.
The authors focused on the de novo mutations in the children. These are mutations that do not exist in either parent but do exist in the child. Thus, they must arise from a mutation that occurred when the father made his sperm or the mother made her egg. Such mutations happen in every production of egg and sperm cells, and the authors wanted to know which parent (if either) was more responsible for them. The results were surprising, to say the least!
There are many myths about medicine these days. Some are harmless, but many can lead to all sorts of problems. One very harmful medical myth is the idea that autism is caused by childhood vaccination. Although many careful studies have demonstrated that there is just no link between vaccines and autism, you can still find many websites that try to argue that vaccination causes autism. A while back, I participated in a debate hosted by one such website.
In the debate, I discussed and explained the studies that show there is simply no link between vaccines and autism. I also pointed out that some of the authors involved in these studies have a proven track record for finding a link between a vaccine and a serious medical condition, so it is hard to believe that they would miss a link between vaccines and autism if there is one. Not surprisingly, the website that hosted and heavily promoted the debate removed all mention of it afterwards, because the debate clearly showed the error of the idea they they are trying to promote.
Fortunately, real scientists are searching for the actual cause of autism, and lots of progress has been made. I recently ran across a study that addresses autism and the health of the mother during pregnancy. As a result of that study, I learned about a very interesting program that was started in 2003 and is just beginning to produce some very interesting results. It is called the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study. The study recognizes that there seem to be both genetic and environmental risk factors for autism, and it is designed to produce rigorous research that will help us understand both.
The CHARGE study has already produced at least three very important and somewhat surprising results.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about how Dr. Richard Dawkins attributed a quote to St., Augustine, but the quote turned out to be 100% false. A while before that, I wrote an article about how an evolutionist and a young-earth creationist both mangled quotes by C.S. Lewis in order to make it sound like Lewis believed things that he didn’t believe. Well, here’s yet another example of someone using made-up quotes in an attempt to prove her point of view.
This article comes from World Net Daily, which is not exactly a paragon of responsible journalism. It was written by Marylou Barry, and it tries to make the case that scientists don’t believe in evolution because of the evidence. Instead, they believe it because they dogmatically reject the idea of a Creator. This, of course, is absurd, as there are many, many Christians who believe in evolution. If belief in evolution is based on the rejection of a Creator, no Christian would accept it. Nevertheless, Marylou Barry tries to make the case, and she does so by quoting famous scientists. Some of the quotes sounded a bit odd to me, so I did some checking. It turns out that many of them are either made up or taken completely out of context.
Let’s start with a simple one. Ms. Barry reports:
“Evolution is unproved and improvable, we believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable,” wrote the late Sir Arthur Keith, physical anthropologist and head of the Anatomy Department at London Hospital.
Since she doesn’t bother to source any of her quotes, I had to do a bit of research. The only source that has been given for this quote can be found in Comparative Views on Origins. The author (Brock Lee) claims that this quote comes from the forward to 100th anniversary edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, 1959.1 The problem with this reference is that Sir Arthur Keith died on January 7, 1955. That’s a full four years before this book was supposed to have been published! Keith did write an introduction to an edition of The Origin of Species that was published by J. M. Dent. However, it was published in 1928, and Keith’s introduction does not contain anything even approaching the quote that Barry gives. In the end, then, this is simply a made-up quote, and it doesn’t belong in any legitimate discussion of evolution.
Now if this were just one example among many quotes, I might be able to overlook Barry’s irresponsible behavior. Unfortunately, several other quotes in the story are either made up, edited, or taken way out of context.
When I decided to start a blog, I wanted to devote a section of it to ideas that are popular in modern Christendom but are simply not true. I call these “Christian Myths,” and you can see the ones I have written about so far. Interestingly enough, one of those articles (Laminin Shaminin) is the most common article on this blog that people find via search engines. Even though the majority of my writing is devoted to scientific issues, I do keep a lookout for any Christian myths that need to be addressed.
A few days ago, someone left a comment that was a bit far away from the topic of the post for me to approve. However, I read it and replied to the commenter via E-MAIL, as I always do in such situations. The person’s comment included a discussion of Dr. Frank Logsdon, a man who claims to have been an integral part of the team that developed the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I tried to track down the primary source for the quote, but I could not find it. The closest I could come is an article by David Sorenson. Here is what that article says:
Dr. Frank Logsdon was the co-founder of the New American Standard Bible (NASB). He since has renounced any connection to it.
“I must, under God, renounce every attachment to the New American Standard Version. I’m afraid I’m in trouble with the Lord… We laid the groundwork; I wrote the format; I helped interview some of the translators; I sat with the translator; I wrote the preface… I’m in trouble; I can’t refute these arguments; its wrong, terribly wrong… The deletions are absolutely frightening. . .there are so many. Are we so naive that we do not suspect Satanic deception in all of this?
Upon investigation, I wrote my dear friend, Mr. Lockman (editor’s note: Mr. Lockman was the benefactor through which the NASV was published) explaining that I was forced to renounce all attachment to the NASV (editors note: This is the same as the NASB)…”
Now, of course, this sounds very bad for the NASB. If the “co-founder” of the translation – the man who wrote the format, interviewed and sat with the translators, and wrote the preface – denounces the NASB, it must be a terrible translation. Fortunately, it is almost certainly not true.
I recently received this video via E-MAIL. The subject line of the message was “What you won’t be taught in school.” That intrigued me, so I watched the video. It is of a man named David Barton who is leading a tour of the U.S. Capitol. According to his company’s website:
David Barton is the Founder and President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage….His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues and he serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of the History/Social Studies standards for states such as Texas and California, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation.
As I listened to just the first part of the video, however, something seemed off…way off. So I decided to do a little fact-checking. Now I am not a historian, but I am able to do some investigative research. When I checked the facts on just one segment of the video, I was rather disappointed.
I don’t normally do this, but I ask that you watch the video before you read the rest of this piece. You needn’t watch the entire thing. Just watch from 0:40 to 1:26. It’s only 46 seconds of video, but it allows you to see just how wrong he is, at least in that section of the video.
A model of the human brain, highlighting the different lobes. Click for credit.
Autism is a poorly-understood neurological disorder that affects many people throughout the world. Unfortunately, because it is poorly-understood, there is an tendency for people to blame autism on anything they don’t like. For example, there are those who try to claim that vaccines cause autism. When confronted with the overwhelming scientific evidence against such a claim, many of those people simply ignore the data.
For example, not long ago, I did an online debate on whether or not vaccines cause autism. The debate was heavily-publicized by the anti-vaccination group that hosted it, but after the debate, all mention of it was removed from the group’s website. Why? Because I simply presented the data that clearly show there is no way autism could be related to vaccination. The group decided to pull all mention of the debate rather than risk some of their readers learning what the data actually say about vaccines and autism!
Fortunately, most people are more interested in finding the real causes of autism. Thus, they have looked at the data and realize that vaccines simply aren’t a possibility. As a result, they have moved on and are looking at other possible causes. About a year ago, I blogged about a study that tried to pin down the genetic causes of autism. Since autism is a highly heritable disease1, it makes sense that the cause should be genetic. However, rather than implicating just a few genes, the study came to the conclusion that there are a lot of genes involved in autism. That made the results rather disheartening, because it is hard enough to treat a disease that is caused by only one or two genes. How can you possibly treat a disease that is caused by lots and lots of genes?
Well, researchers from UCLA might have found an answer to that question.
Although you can find information on the internet indicating that the sun is shrinking, the most reliable data indicate that it is not
(manipulated NASA image)
A commenter asked a question before I left on vacation. I gave him a brief answer as a reply, but now I want to go into the details of my answer. As the commenter mentioned, he was doing research for a sermon and came upon some information that indicated the sun is shrinking at a rate of about 5 feet per hour. While that’s not a lot for something as big as the sun, it indicates that the sun is rather young. After all, if we extrapolate the sun’s size backward over time using that rate, we would find that the sun would have been touching the earth a “mere” 11 million years ago.
If this were true, it would be a clear indicator that the earth and sun are not billions of years old. After all, the earth would not be a haven for life if it were anywhere near the surface of the sun! So if the sun is (and always has been) shrinking at anywhere near a rate of 5 feet per hour, the earth and sun could not be very old.
The problem is that this argument is based on faulty ideas about where the sun gets its energy and, more importantly, it is based on faulty data.
Science is self-correcting. Over time, mistakes made by scientists are generally uncovered by other scientists. Sometimes, the mistakes are found quickly. Often, the mistakes take a long time to uncover. But mistakes are simply that: mistakes. Creation is very complex, and as scientists, we can often be fooled by that complexity. What we see as the “obvious” conclusion from a study might not be the correct conclusion at all, because there is often an underlying complexity that was not considered. So while many, many mistakes happen in the course of doing science, it is to be expected. Thus, when a scientist is found to have made a mistake, it doesn’t mean the rest of the scientist’s work is worthless. Even very good scientists make mistakes.
Scientific fraud is another matter altogether. While no scientist should be condemned for making mistakes, all scientists who commit fraud should be strongly and vigorously denounced. There have been two reports of scientific fraud that have come out over the past two days, and I consider it my duty as a scientist to make sure my readers are informed of them. I will discuss the first (and most egregious) in this post.
It involves the nonsensical idea that vaccines cause autism. This idea has been thoroughly tested by various scientific studies, and it is simply wrong. Indeed, I debated a proponent of this idea recently. The debate was hosted, produced, and heavily advertised by an anti-vaccination group. It went so poorly for my opponent that all mention of it has been wiped away from the anti-vaccine site.
Despite the fact that the conclusions of science could not be clearer when it comes to vaccines and autism, there are many people who still believe that vaccines cause autism. Many of them are followers of Andrew Wakefield, the one responsible for the the fraud I wish to discuss in this post.
On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is no. It was sponsored by the International Medical Council on Vaccination, which produces all sorts of anti-vaccine misinformation. Prior to December 13th, they publicized the debate heavily, and their website indicated that a recording of the debate would be posted after the debate was finished.
Interestingly enough, the recording was never posted on their website. Now something even more interesting has happened. Currently, there is absolutely no mention of the debate on their website at all. If you Google the word “debate” and restrict the domain to the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find several addresses where it was once mentioned:
However, if you go to those addresses now, you get either an error message or a list of other articles. If you search for “debate” using the search box on the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find nothing related to the debate.
Does this surprise me? Not really. Does it disappoint you? If so, don’t worry. You can watch the debate here. Once you watch it, perhaps you will understand why such a heavily-promoted event has been wiped off the website of the group that hosted it!
On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky, on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is that they do not. In my previous post on the subject, I noted that if you want to see the shoddy science promoted by those who believe that vaccines cause autism, you should watch the debate.
Well, despite the technical problems associated with the debate, I think it really did show how shoddy the science is on the anti-vaccination side. However, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can watch the debate yourself:
You have stumbled across Dr. Jay L. Wile's Blog. Dr. Wile holds an earned PhD from the University of Rochester in Nuclear Chemistry. He is best known for the "Exploring Creation with..." series of textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home.
Red Wagon Tutorials
This site is run by the most gifted teacher with whom I have ever worked. He has live classes that go with my books as well as recorded classes.
Answers in Genesis
While the theology leaves a lot to be desired, the science discussed on this website is pretty solid.
This website contains works from a good mix of young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Dr. Todd Wood, one of the leaders in baraminology. He covers current topics of interest to young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Kevin Nelstead, an old-earth creationist geologist. He covers many topics related to the age of the earth and offers a nice contrast to the young-earth writings listed above.
An interesting "think tank" that contains the major players in Intelligent Design