The Latest Autism Gene Study: NIH Director Collins Hails Deliberate Waste of Time, Money and Lives...
By John Stone
In a short article in Southern Maryland Chronicle a few days ago the Head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, hailed the latest autism gene study under the title 'Largest-Ever Genetic Study of Autism Yields New Insights'. Perhaps the message here is that in order to fight crime the government has decided to investigate the victims not the perpetrators (actually it has been doing this for three decades). In 2006 as Head of the Human Genome Project Collins told Congress:
"But genes alone do not tell the whole story. Recent increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity or autism cannot be due to major shifts in the human gene pool as those changes take much more time to occur. They must be due to changes in the environment, including diet and physical activity, which may produce disease in genetically predisposed persons. Therefore, GEI (the Genes and Environment Initiative) will also invest in innovative new technologies/sensors to measure environmental toxins, dietary intake and physical activity, and using new tools of genomics, proteomics, and understanding metabolism rates to determine an individual's biological response to those influences."
References on-line to GEI seem to peter out round about 2008 (perhaps they were in danger of finding something). So, 14 years ago Collins warned that there would be no material result from this kind of research and it is what the government have been doing ever since, more or less as an employment scheme (typically, the new study boasts nearly two hundred authors). As Eisenhower said to no avail in his farewell speech six decades ago:
"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity....
"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific/ technological elite."
Now - with whatever insights their may be into gene risk association or even patterns of damage - is that all the NIH have really succeeded in doing is generating a lot more data: the new study is not only "the largest ever" it is "the largest-ever" in NIH speak (and with a huge cast), but in terms of government approved science we are not an inch nearer discovering what is driving the autism epidemic, just as Collins told Congress it would not all those years ago: it is all one giant step for mankind to nowhere. Meanwhile, the autism rate in schools is perhaps 4 or 5 times higher than it was then: it is rather hard to tell because NIH and CDC have failed to monitor it in any systematic way.
When I started out on this trail I recall a meeting at a freezing local church hall in early 1997 addressed by Paul Shattock, now of the ESPA Autism Research Unit, Sunderland. One of the many and terrible things Paul told us was that 90% off the funding into the causes of autism was being swallowed by useless gene research, meanwhile the problem was ten times as bad as ten years before. He foretold exactly was going to play out. How appalling and cynical this charade has been.
If you want to turn a disaster into a catastrophe and catastrophe into a cataclysm send for Collins!!!
John Stone is UK and European Editor, Age of Autism
Editor of Age of Autism