I just read Amy Wallace's article in Wired on the anti-vaccine movement. Many parents of autistic children believe that vaccines caused their child's autism. The movement has gained legitimacy due to such high-profile medical experts as Jim "Ace Ventura" Carrey and Jenny "Centerfold" McCarthy.
I am interested in the issue in part because my son has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. There is indeed a spectrum of autism, and I understand that there are many families with children whose condition is more desperate than my son's. He is "mainstreamed", in the sense that he goes to regular elementary school and is thriving and learning and making friends.
I can also understand the bewilderment and guilt that parents of autistic children feel -- what could I have done differently to prevent this? why is this happening to him/us? It must be very comforting to channel all that anger and confusion into an external source for their pain. No matter that there is no scientific basis for their choice of target.
We had concerns about our son when we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but the doctors did not diagnose Asperger's. After we moved to the Twin Cities, he started exhibiting some additional behavior that concerned us, and doctors here -- three independent ones, in fact -- diagnosed Asperger's. Parents beware: St. Paul causes autism! I can see it now... after my blog becomes the #1 Google hit for "St. Paul causes autism", I will become the leader of a grassroots movement. Mayor Chris Coleman will issue clumsy press releases: "There is no evidence that St. Paul does not cause autism." AHA! It can only help that I can put a "Dr." before my name. Can you do that, Jim Carrey? Just don't tell anyone what I'm a Dr. of. I'm investigating the claim that geometry causes autism.