In mainstream media, everywhere from Fox News to Time (and here on Science 2.0, though with a little more skepticism) a bizarre study is all the rage - pesticides and other environmental toxins will give your kid a malformed penis and cause autism. And state regulations...prevent it.
This overturns all of epidemiology, right? Now something has to be done. Autism causes might be okay to debate in a reasoned fashion but the public will not stand for giving American men tiny penises. We're already in a new Cold War with Russia and Russian men are supposedly huge.
Well, no, it doesn't turn over anything except the stomaches of people who know how to read a study. They don't actually know if there are any chemicals, toxic or otherwise, involved. Instead, they searched for malformed penises among insurance claims. And those must be caused by environmental toxins, right? It's our old friend the surrogate marker.
How can you claim chemicals are causing autism and have no measurements of chemicals?
Disease clusters have to be factored carefully anyway, especially when it comes to something like autism. If you go to rich areas of Los Angeles, for example, you will find a lot of pediatricians, and you will find a spike in autism diagnoses for kids who move there. Does being rich in Los Angeles cause autism? It does if I write a correlation paper and my credit card payment clears with an open access publisher.
The American Council on Science Health oscillates somewhere between apoplectic and stunned in their coverage. I got on Skype with Ana Simovska and you can tell I was thinking about articles on both direct evidence for inflation and Cosmos, because I couldn't decide what is a better similarly ridiculous metaphor - correlating the rates of "Hello Kitty" dolls or the number of Whole Foods stores in a county to autism. So they used both:
I hate to be mean to peer-reviewed journals but, come on, this is clearly an attention-grab.
Luckily, I suspect the rash of Environmental Working Group and NRDC fundraising claims ('donate now if you don't want your child to have a micropenis') will be offset by legitimate analyses of the actual study. Writing in Forbes, Emily Willingham dissects the story while somehow managing to make no jokes. I applaud her for that.
Dr. Josh Bloom is even more aghast than I am about this study. Because he is a chemist and actually knows what he is talking about, I presume. Unlike the authors of the paper.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Sexual Fantasies: Threesomes Are Normal, Golden Showers Not So Much
- The Vampire Deer Of Afghanistan
- Resveratrol Reverses Benefits Of Exercise - Study
- Okay With Disgusting Images? You Vote This Way 95 Percent Of The Time
- Aging Brains Aren't Necessarily Declining Brains
- Cui Bono? B-corporations And The University
- Information-Theoretic Security: Creating 21st Century Cryptography Standards
- "It's vital to understand that while crapping where you eat is not linked to having conservative..."
- "16 people who were originally doing less than 30 minutes exercise a day then did how much low volume..."
- "Trouble is without citations this article reads like a slew of anecdotes. It begins promisingly..."
- "Do you work for Hank? Or do you just parrot his line of bullshit, and try to legitimize it with..."
- Two-faced anti-GMO groups: Block crop and food innovations then claim Big Ag prevents GMO innovations
- Why support erodes for GMO labeling (Hint: It’s not because of spending by Big Ag)
- Genetic “hall of mirrors” with large palindromes, yet smaller: What’s mighty about the mouse
- Gut bacteria an easy scapegoat for disease, but connections hard to prove
- Vermont Rube Goldberg-like GMO labeling law exempts GMO filled natural supplements
- Downside to GMOs: Yields have become so good, they exceed processing capacity
- More penalties on the way for hospitals that treat the poor? New U-M study suggests so
- Cancer cell fingerprints in the blood may speed up childhood cancer diagnosis
- Study of Chile earthquake finds new rock structure that affects earthquake rupture
- Tracking a gigantic sunspot across the Sun
- Massive geographic change may have triggered explosion of animal life