In Stuart W. G. Derbyshire’s review of Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion by Michael Fitzpatrick, he quotes the author's criticisms of the unorthodox biomedical movement that "seeks to redefine autism as an epidemic disease caused by vaccines or some other, as yet unidentified, environmental factor (p. xv)." Although the link between autism and vaccinations is presented as a controversial issue by some, there appears to be little controversy within the mainstream medical community. Mainstream physicians and scientists do not support the autism-vaccine link, or the use of unorthodox treatments on the grounds of insufficient empirical evidence. Derbyshire calls the unorthodox biomedical movement "a divisive and destructive force that threatens to derail autism research and undermine the quality of life that children with autism can enjoy." Furthermore, he describes a level of reluctance on the part of scientists to openly challenge pseudoscientific claims regarding the causes of autism because of "fear that a frank debate may not be effective, may alienate parents and patients, or may undermine access to funding."
Do you agree that there is reluctance among scientists to speak out against pseudoscientific claims related to autism? What may be the reasons for this reluctance, in addition to those cited by Derbyshire? What role should psychologists take in addressing claims of an autism-vaccine link and within the debate about unorthodox treatment?
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