Sunday, April 24, 2016

The personal effects of pseudoscience

My son Nick!

We're all aware of the numerous themes that encompass the use of pseudoscience.  As a refresher, pseudoscience is the claim, belief or practice presented as science, yet devoid of any validation through the use of scientific methodology.

There are numerous examples of pseudoscience and rather than list them, it's easier to search on-line and find a comprehensive listing.

I have a 27 year old son who has autistic traits.  He's on the spectrum, not having full blown autism, yet readily noticeable when having a conversation with him.  To make it easier for everyone else, my wife and I will tell people that he has autism, because that term is readily known and easier to intellectually digest, but to explain the spectrum traits tends to be somewhat of a challenge.

My son is considered high functioning.  Through years of early interventions and forcing school districts to provide quality IEP programs for special education, my son is on the verge of receiving his AA degree through one of the local community colleges.  It's been a long arduous road for him.

My son knows that he is "different."  His ability to learn, process and retain information is slowed.  Abstract thoughts for the most part is fleeting, as he is still (probably always will) a concrete thinker.  Despite these intellectual challenges, he is like any normal individual who harbors common hopes, dreams and desires.  His thought process and content tend to be in the present tense, as the future is too abstract of a concept to logically contemplate.

He is a computer savant.  He cannot read an English essay or short story for comprehension, but he can read a computer tech manual word for word.  Digest the conceptual aspects and discuss the concepts in a logical and meaningful manner.  He has built his own computer from scratch always chasing that mythical and allusive high clock speed.  Yet his down fall in the abstract world of computer hardware and software is the concrete idea that "more is better."  The glass is always mentally perceived as half empty.

Those who have autistic traits tend to be overly obsessive-compulsive and somewhat ritualistic.  My son is no different as his OCD traits gravitate towards collecting data...lots of data.  He is a data miner.  He mines for data that is mostly irrelevant to my wife or myself, but has significant meaning for him.

Despite the above, and like I stated, my son knows that he is different.  He looks for science to cure his autistic traits.  He has researched the future for the use of biological nanobots to repair damaged parts of his  brain.  Yes, I've told him that such things may be in the offering, but this technology may still be years in the research phases and still may offer no curative measures for him.

Last night, while at work, he calls me and tells me that he has watched the most amazing video that may offer hope and it was from a gentleman named Bruce Lipton who stated that people such as my son can alter their core genetics and DNA through a person's beliefs.  

Lipton? Warning bells went off in my mind.  I quickly pulled up Lipton and his work on my computer and my suspicions were confirmed.  My son was pulled into the lure of pseudoscience's siren call.

Here is Lipton's wiki page. Plus a simple Google search brings up much more.

"Lipton remains on the sidelines of conventional discussions of epigenetics, basically ignored by mainstream science.[13]
Surgical oncologist David Gorski has described Lipton as a crank who misunderstands evolutionary biology. He notes that some of Lipton's ideas start out based on research from epigenetics but he twists them into a "woo-sphere".[14]

Lipton's cure is merely another remedy from new age alternative medicine.  Or as most like to coin, "integrative medicine."  Lipton's work has been discredited by his peers as lacking any scientific proof of efficacy.  He offers fool's gold to those such as my son.

As I explained to my son, there is no cure at this time for those who are autistic or are on the spectrum.  There may be in the distant future, but as of now there is none.  I provided him the analogy of a traffic accident on a high speed interstate highway where traffic back and forth are at a stand still.  In order to mitigate the back up of traffic, detours are put in place to allow traffic to go around the accident.  These detours may not be as efficient as the interstate, but it allows traffic to flow around the accident.  

By the use of early interventions and special education programs, these "detours" are the new information pathways that have formed in my son's brain.  Some may use the term as rewiring, but nonetheless, these new pathways allow the processing of information.  It may not be efficient, but it does get the job done in a long roundabout way.

I do not discourage my son from researching for new methodologies.  I only ask that if he finds something of interest that we both look into it.  I'm a man of complete optimism and instill in my son that his future is still bright and that I will walk down this path with my arm around his shoulders. 

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