We covered several major topics relating to autism. Today’s post will deal with one important area - the science. Causation and treatment are the main topics. What follows is a transcript of the interview.
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Mr. Twain. As your literary record shows, you have been quite a significant contributor in many areas of knowledge. Today I would like to tap into your expertise on a particular subject – the science of autism. For the benefit of the reader, lets start with some basic questions that will establish your position on some of the more controversial aspects of this topic.
Okay, in looking at the issue in an overall sense, there seems to be a body of evidence that is driving a small portion of our medical, research, and parents’ community to believe there exists a legitimate base of studies that would support the hypothesis that Mercury (in particular that contained in Thimerosal) can cause Autism Disorder.
“It was just a snow-flurry on a warm day: every flake was distinct and perfect,
but they melted before you could grab enough to make a ball out of them.”
I think I see your point – that the some of the research stands well enough alone, but that the sum of the results does not necessarily point to causation.
“You can find in a text whatever you bring, if you will stand between it and the
mirror of your imagination.”
Imagination? I’m not sure I would brush it off quite so easily. After all, these are respected scientists and researchers who have publicly proclaimed that they “know” this hypothesis to be true!
“Between believing a thing and thinking you know is only a small step and
But, Mr. Twain, of course you realize that the issues involved in establishing causation are incredibly complex, and certainly this hypothesis may stand as at least a starting point to really understanding what causes autism.
“Some things you can't find out; but you will never know you can't by guessing
and supposing; no, you have to be patient and go on experimenting until you find
out that you can't find out. And it is delightful to have it that way, it makes
the world so interesting. If there wasn't anything to find out, it would be
dull. Even trying to find out and not finding out is just as interesting as
trying to find out and finding out, and I don't know but more so.”
I understand that, but I think what the folks who pursue this hypothesis are really trying to do is determine the cause so that a cure can soon follow. Think about how miraculous that would be!
“The difference between a Miracle and a Fact is exactly the difference between a
mermaid and seal. It could not be expressed better.”
I apologize if I have overstepped my boundaries on this, Mr. Twain. I did not realize you felt so strongly on this issue. So, to clarify, it has been your opinion that the hypothesis that Mercury causes autism has no validity?
“It was not my opinion; I think there is no sense in forming an opinion whenFair enough. Now, aside from the strict Mercury adherents in the causation/treatment debate, there are numerous other “players”. Perhaps we could branch off into discussing some of them. Since it is a current event, perhaps we could begin with a brief discussion of Generation Rescue and their new website. Until now, this organization has always proclaimed, loudly and clearly, that autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning. Now it seems they have broadened their scope to include general environmental insults, non-specific viruses, and non-specific bacteria. What is your initial reaction to this change in the message from Generation Rescue?
there is no evidence to form it on. If you build a person without any bones in
him he may look fair enough to the eye, but he will be limber and cannot stand
up; and I consider that evidence is the bones of an opinion.”
Strong words, Mr. Twain! Though I understand you have a bit of a past with GR. Did you not once send them a letter in response to their inquiry on the efficacy of one of their recommended treatments? If so, what did the letter say?
“You are a coward when you even seem to have backed down from a thing you
openly set out to do.”
“Dear Sir (or Madam):--I try every remedy sent to me. I am now on No. 67. Yours
is 2,653. I am looking forward to its beneficial results.”
On the subject of letters, I also seem to recall you had sent one to a Mr. Arthur Allen prior to his public debate with one Mr. David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm. In it, you exhorted Mr. Allen to swallow his disbelief that Mr. Kirby could actually stand up before a group of scientists and proclaim that his mercury/autism theory had validity. Could you recount for us the contents of that partcular letter?
“My Dear Sir:Ah, yes. But, after the debate, you must have been at least a bit impressed by Mr. Kirby’s deft damage control since the 2006 CDDS figures put the last nail in the coffin of the mercury aficionados just one day prior to its occurrence. If you will recall, he immediately shifted his argument from vaccines being the source of mercury to things such as coal-burning factories in China and crematoriums in the U.S. I believe he even had some figures to back his argument up.
But you are proceeding upon the superstition that Moral
Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth are ingredients in the human being's
makeup. Your premises being wild and foolish, you naturally and properly get
wild and foolish results. If you will now reform, and in future proceed upon the
sane and unchallengeable hypothesis that those two ingredients are on vacation
in our race, and have been from the start, you will be able to account for some
things which seem to puzzle you now.
S. L. CLEMENS.”
“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them
myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with
justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and
My last question for this segment of the interview is this, Mr. Twain. There is a movement in the medical community known as DAN! These doctors (and non-doctors) follow the tenets of some of the theories you have so unflinchingly discredited throughout this interview. What advice do you have for parents who are considering working with a DAN! Doctor to “cure” their child’s autism?
“Medicine has its office, it does its share and does it well; but without hope
back of it, its forces are crippled and only the physician's verdict can create
that hope when the facts refuse to create it.”
As always, a very profound insight Mr. Twain.
This concludes Part 1 of this 2 part interview with esteemed humanist Mark Twain. I hope you will join us for Part 2 – Mark Twain on the Autism: The People