World Autism Awareness Day

In recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, CNN will be focusing on the condition during the day tomorrow, with a worldwide focus. They have had a number of features online and on the network leading up to the extended day of coverage.

A good place to start is this Fortune article on the good work being done regarding the genetics of autism. It is a nice rebuff to the fervor that accompanied the Hannah Poling case.

On the anti-vaccination front, Respectful Insolence has continued its focus on the issue, and the Instapundit has been hounding McCain on his stance, high-lighting the danger of large segments of the population opting-out of vaccinations. In a rare extended Instapundit discussion, Reynolds offers some in-depth back and forth from doctors and other bloggers. I found the discussion of the "free rider" problem especially compelling, And this post (via Instapundit) from Megan McCardle is very well reasoned and well done.

It's a strange turn we have taken on the road against vaccines. I remember growing up and hearing from parents about the miracle of the polio vaccine. The story of science and medicine saving lives. As a bookend, I also recall sitting in on a Rotary Club meeting as a reporter a few years ago and hearing about their efforts toward total eradication of polio worldwide, a worthy effort but also a sign of all the progress that has been made. Now, a generation removed from the ravages of polio suspicion of vaccines has festered and I encounter people who are suspicious of vaccinations and ask me whether I believe it had anything to do with my son's Autism.

I have written previously that this trend toward a complete dissociation with mainstream medicine has it roots within the way medicine is practiced today (here) and past scientific failures (here). The strange thing about this trend is that many of the people who abandon conventional medicine opt for an alternative therapy, diet, or theory that has little or no basis in fact or any science behind at all.

In regards to Autism, I think it is even more curious (or tragic) because thanks to advances in genetics and neuroscience in combination with an influx of funding, we are in the middle of absolute revolution in the our understanding of the condition (for some previous discussion of this science check here). In a few years, I think the causes of autism will be extremely clear and well-understood. I think we may have a genetic test for Autism.

In the future, I am much more concerned with the implications of possibly selecting out embryos that do not have Autism markers. I am not sure that this is as good a thing as it may seem at first glance and I would like to discuss it more here in the future.

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