Thursday, October 17, 2013

#755: Kent Heckenlively

Kent Heckenlively is an antivaxxer who writes for the crank propaganda site Age of Autism, and is generally known for having taken his autistic daughter to Costa Rica for stem cell quackery and for subjecting her to all manner of biomedical woo. He is, in other words, deeply steeped in woo, and got his test results for his daughter from Doctor’sData, the favored laboratory of dubious practitioners everywhere because of its lax methodology and tendency to find high levels of mercury and other heavy metals in just about any sample. Heckenlively is also known for his participation in chelation-provoked urine testing for mercury – which is guaranteed to cause the excretion of a lot of mercury in a normal person – so that the test results would not be in conflict with his already formed opinion about the causes of autism. Of course, the fact that his daughter did not improve made Heckenlively ask a lot of questions; unfortunately none of them included the question of whether his beliefs about the causes and treatments of autism corresponded with reality.

Currently, his favored schtick seems to be that the XMRV retrovirus is the cause of autism (presumably in combination with heavy metals), in part because Judy Mikovits famously linked the retrovirus to the chronic fatigue syndrom in an appalling example of shoddy and possibly fraudulent research, and combined it with complete crank behavior that eventually got her fired. Therefore there must apparently be some truth to her claims.

So currently Heckenlively muses about autism and the scientific conspiracy against anti-vaxxers, and mixes his conclusions with some astonishing crackpottery, sometimes with interesting results. For instance, he has tried to liken those who criticize his pseudoscientific pontifications about autism and vaccines to creationists – which is getting the analogy exactly wrong, but which at least managed to piss of many of the science-challenged (creationist) readers of Age of Autism.

Of course, since reality won’t support his beliefs, Heckenlively likes to try to explain why his opponents are wrong by other means, favoring in particular speculations about the motives and psychology of those who prefer reality over dogmatic denialist crankery.

Diagnosis: A fairly typical antivaxxer, but the fact that he writes for Age of Autism gives him some influence. Dangerous.

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