A major problem with autism research is that unlike other medical conditions, autism is diagnosed using questionnaires. Can you imagine if we diagnosed obesity, not by taking precise physical measurements, but by asking people “do you feel fat? Do you have trouble finding clothes that fit?”. Sure, this would have some validity and correlate with obesity to some degree, but it would also have a lot of error.
Because the definition of autism is so imprecise, people are able to claim that there is an autism epidemic, giving rise to the dangerous myth that vaccines might cause autism.
Even people as brilliant and influential as Hillary Clinton have spread this myth. For example in 2008, Hillary Clinton wrote that she was “committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.”
This is another reason why HBD denial is so dangerous. HBD deniers are always looking for environmental causes of mental traits like autism, because they don’t want to admit that behavior has a large genetic component. They would rather falsely blame vaccines, than genes, especially if it wins them political points.
And when nerdy scientists try to correct these misconceptions with actual research, many side with the charismatic politicians and claim the research is flawed. But autism research would be a lot harder to dismiss if it was based on actual brain scans, not the current method of diagnosing autism.
Fortunately a fascinating study found that brain scans can diagnose autism with 97% accuracy. That’s an astonishing result, because even a perfect test of autism could not predict who was diagnosed with autism with more than 90% accuracy, because the diagnosis itself can’t even be that accurate! Now admittedly the sample size was small, but if the results are even close to accurate, future research on autism should use brain scans, not whether someone’s been diagnosed, because the people who get diagnosed are likely a non-random sample of autistics. There are likely many autistics who have never been diagnosed because they’re too high functioning. For example, some have speculated that even people as successful as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates might have aspergers (a form of autism).
Bill Gates is one the most vocal major critics of the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, and the doctor who advanced it, telling CNN:
…Dr. Wakefield has been shown to have used absolutely fraudulent data. He had a financial interest in some lawsuits, he created a fake paper, the journal allowed it to run. All the other studies were done, showed no connection whatsoever again and again and again. So it’s an absolute lie that has killed thousands of kids. Because the mothers who heard that lie, many of them didn’t have their kids take either pertussis or measles vaccine, and their children are dead today. And so the people who go and engage in those anti-vaccine efforts — you know, they, they kill children. It’s a very sad thing, because these vaccines are important.
If I were Bill Gates I would use the Gates foundation to conduct the first true expiriment on vaccines and autism. I would go to a foreign country with a very low vaccination rate and randomly select a thousand children to provide with vaccines, clean water and health care, and randomly select a control group of a thousand children that received only clean water and health care. Obviously it would be unethical of the study to prevent the control group from being vaccinated, but that doesn’t mean the study has to provide vaccination for the control group, which would defeat the purpose.
Then when the children were older, I would scan the brains of both the experimental group and the control group to prove to the deniers what scientists already know: Vaccines do not cause autism.