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Oxford Professor Taken To Task For Linking Internet Use To Autism

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the well-it's-just-a-theory dept.

Medicine 247

esocid writes with excerpts from a piece written by Ben Goldacre of The Guardian: "Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of pharmacology at Oxford, apparently announced that computer games are causing dementia in children. ... Two months ago the same professor linked internet use with the rise in autism diagnoses (not for the first time), then pulled back when autism charities and an Oxford professor of psychology raised concerns. ... When I raised concerns, she said I was like the epidemiologists who denied that smoking caused cancer. Other critics find themselves derided as sexist in the media. If a scientist sidesteps their scientific peers, and chooses to take an apparently changeable, frightening, and technical scientific case directly to the public, then that is a deliberate decision, and one that can't realistically go unnoticed. ... I think these serious scientific concerns belong, at least once, in a clear scientific paper. I don't see how this suggestion is inappropriate, or impudent, and in all seriousness, I can't see an argument against it."

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247 comments

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Happy November from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963440)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

+1 parent post (1, Offtopic)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963452)

Reading through the summary... I have to say, I don't think I could possibly come up with a more cogent response than this one here.

Nonsense in, nonsense out.

this just in... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963708)

haggard attention-whoring middle-aged jewish women linked to a rise in my pants...

Re:this just in... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963878)

You must love that HGTV show - "Selling New York".

Re:+1 parent post (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963902)

Well I know anecdotes aren't evidence but my boys were practically born with a controller in their hands and an Ethernet cable in their laps, one is kicking ass in premed, has a wonderful GF, and is generally a hell of a great guy and the younger is trying to decide whether to go with his love of cooking or his love of computer art, helps out his elderly relatives,hates having a dime spent on him because he always thinks there could be good done with the money, and is also a hell of a nice guy.

Both of them have been on the net practically since they could walk (I had the PCs set to where they would only go to approved kids sites at the time of course) and both have been models of trustworthiness and never had any problems as far as autism or anything else. of course i treated them as intelligent human beings that deserve to be talked to and not down to and was more than happy to sit there with them and explain how things worked, from how data is turned from analog into digital and finally is drawn upon a screen to how a packet is formed and where it goes when they click the button.

And THAT, that right there, i think is the REAL problem. too many have turned to PCs, DVDs, game systems etc as cheap babysitters rather than as useful devices that can help their child learn. I would let the boys visit their friends growing up and when I would pick them up it always amazed and saddened me how many households didn't even have a single book in them, and the kids were given every kind of electronic junk they could possibly want as long as they left the grow ups alone and there was practically NO interaction between parent and child unless the parent had some order to bark at them like clean up their room.

So I don't think the problem is the machine per se, but the parents simply not stepping up and being parents. Parenting is a damned hard job but if you want a child to grow up into a responsible smart young person you just gotta put in the time. Hell I'm probably down about 3 years sleep and lost more than one GF because she gave me an ultimatum of the boys or her and I told her where the door was, but now that I see two happy young men starting out into the world i think it was worth it. The net is a tool, not a babysitter, simple as that.

Re:+1 parent post (3, Interesting)

Slashdot Assistant (2336034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964346)

A tl;dr coming your way.

It's really a double-edged knife. My parents went through a messy divorce, which was probably one of the reasons I ended-up spending a lot of my childhood hidden away in my room, playing around with computers. It has upsides and downsides.

It left me with somewhat stunted social skills, and difficulties in forming relationships. Those have improved, but I don't think they'll ever be as good as they should be. The short attention-span and habit of obsessing with a task were lessened when I took the time to understand how they were affecting my life. In work, I tend to occupy a position somewhere between visionary and mad scientist. I'm very good an analyzing problems and building processes and tools to fix them. The communication issues remain because I don't always realize how my way of thinking gives the wrong impression. i.e. a large staff meeting is not always the best time to lurch in to a very theoretical thought process. Colleagues are entertained though when I get that giddy schoolboy look on my face as I begin describing how x problem can be solved, and how it'll give us x results while saving x amount of money.

I don't think I'd like to have changed things back then. I would however wish that I'd become more self-aware earlier in life. I would have screwed around fewer people with my selfish and obsessive behavior - myself included. I would have had more success earlier in my career if I'd better understood how to present my ideas to people.

I completely agree that technology should not be a babysitter. Technology, like anything else, should complement life, not rule it. Books are even more important than before; the Internet is not a place where an unsupervised child can be expected to learn reading comprehension. Just like with any relationship, it's about engagement and interest. If a kid is playing WoW it really should not be difficult for the parent to know the basics of what they're doing, even if they have no interest in playing it. They'd quickly learn that it's a very socially-driven thing, and in some cases quite addictive. My parents didn't really understand computers, so they probably assumed that I was learning stuff while I was locked away in my room. I did a fair bit of hacking around, but it was mostly playing games. The former contributed to my technical and problem-solving abilities I have now, which from a job perspective means that the initiatives I take have probably more than paid my salary in the past year, on top of the main work I do. There remain social problems, albeit not as many as there used to be. I would have benefited from my parents just taking more time to get me out of that room.

guess what... (-1, Redundant)

mr_bigmouth_502 (1946960) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963444)

first! XD

Re:guess what... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963450)

second! x]

Ellipses ... (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963446)

Am I the only one who had to read that twice to be clear on who was supposed to be talking after the ellipses?

Re:Ellipses ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963476)

I still can't figure out who it's supposed to be.

Re:Ellipses ... (1)

ThisIsSaei (2397758) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963480)

The format does seem a bit funny, but clicking to the linked article, and reading it in the original made it much better.

Re:Ellipses ... (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963518)

Am I the only one who had to read that twice to be clear on who was supposed to be talking after the ellipses?

That's how it starts, but at least now you can blame the internets.

Re:Ellipses ... (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963570)

Am I the only one who had to read that twice to be clear on who was supposed to be talking after the ellipses?

Yep. Surveys indicate that most /.ers need to re-read it at least four times. I'm on my sixth and I'm still not sure what it all means.

Re:Ellipses ... (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963956)

It's quicker just to read the article. Whoever wrote the summary has absolutely no idea how to use quotes.

Re:Ellipses ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964108)

esocid writes with excerpts from a piece written by Ben Goldacre of The Guardian:

Isn't that where you're supposed to put a *summary* /.?

It's in the water man! (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963456)

Maybe people are being vaccinated against the internet thus causing double secret autism!!! and video games just make them Rain Man savant killers!

Re:It's in the water man! (2)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963558)

There are 56.5 guards (.5 cause one is napping due to his irregular breathing patterns) if i shoot 1 bullet at an angle of 36.6 degrees from the horizontal and 128 degrees from north i will kill 26.5 guards with 14 ricochets, and the rest when the bullet ends its flight by igniting the nitro glycerin in the armory. I WILL ONLY FLY ON QANTAS I WILL ONLY FLY ON QANTAS.

smoking causes yellow fingers (5, Insightful)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963466)

A disproportionate number of people who are obsessed with video games score high on the ASD. These aren't controversial ideas.

Causation is different, not so much for smoking and yellow fingers. Nutter's blathering aside, the real question is:
Are video games harmful to people who score high on the ASD?
although you might be tempted to apply that question to several other groups.

Its just plain nuts to pretend a link doesn't exist (although that hasn't stopped climate deniers), the important bit is 'what is the effect', 'how do we mitigate it', and 'how certain are we of the linkage'. The rest is for dingbats.

Beer kills brain cells (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963554)

Without reading the article, I reasonably expect this is the reason for "games, internet, or some other couch potato activity increasing autism..."

- Many people who we would usually call geeks or nerds have a topic fetish, by removing other distractions they can focus on that. Autistic individuals tend to do the same, they focus on specific topics and are rather anti-social in situations that have nothing to do with their topic fetish. -

But you see, you can classify pretty much everyone as having some autism spectrum disorder (oh god aspergers, absolutely nobody really has that) because they want a label and excuse to be dysfunctional and anti-social and remain on welfare.

On the latter half of the 60 minutes program with the Steve Jobs Biography stuff, they were talking about how iPads can improve REAL autistic individuals ability to communicate (they don't speak.) They showed near the end that the brain of someone with autism has a "kink" or "bend" near the base of the brain responsible for speech. You can learn to speak if this area is "broken", but the brain wires more "capacity" to it. You can't say games cause brain damage, hence autism, so directly linking it is absurdity. Autism is a genetic "programming" bug that mis-allocates brain neurons because of less bandwidth availability. Speech is apparently low priority on our ability to survive. An analogy is that a regular brain has a 64bit address bus to the CPU, I/O and RAM, but an autistic individual has only a 32bit bus to the I/O, so more latency is the result.

Autistic individuals can actually do work, they just require work that is "brain busy" like sorting/organizing things that fits their interests. Because they become distracted if their eyes are taken off the work, it has to be something that is easily focused on.

Or at least that is what I got out of the program. I'm not a doctor, and I don't pretend to be one.

Re:Beer kills brain cells (4, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963808)

or maybe people call themselves those labels because they're tired of having to conform with some kind of popular standard where they must be 100% gregarious and happy-go-lucky 24/7. after all, anyone who doesn't want to be around people absolutely all the time must be dangerous.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (2)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963662)

Of course a link exists. Autistic children get a lot of very direct feedback, and lots of reinforcement while they're playing a game, and games generally have much clearer goals than anything else they'll do. Generally speaking, a game never leaves you wondering if you've done well or not, you get points, you finish levels, you finish games.

I think the correlation between internet use and autism diagnoses though is more an effect of everyone's new favourite physician, Doctor Google. Not to mention, blaming autism is the new fad diagnosis. When I was a kid, it was asthma, then not so long ago, it was ADD, or ADHD, now the fad diagnosis is autism; this, too, shall pass, in time.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963722)

There is a big leap between "A disproportionate number of people who are obsessed with video games score high on the ASD" and any claims of harm. I wouldn't be surprised to find that "A disproportionate number of people who are obsessed with nearly anything score high on the ASD".

The most likely relationship is that people on the autistic spectrum tend to be attracted to video games. It is quite unlikely that the attraction to video games causes the ASD.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963752)

The most likely relationship is that people on the autistic spectrum tend to be attracted to video games. It is quite unlikely that the attraction to video games causes the ASD.

I suspect it would be a lot more accurate to say that ASD causes video gaming rather than video gaming causes ASD.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964214)

The link that you mention is "being obsessed with". Are people with ASD attracted more to video games when compared to a control group that might be attracted to video games? Are they more obsessed with video games or are they just easier to notice?

I can imagine that there are people who are obsessed with stamp collecting, but are not as much noticed.

Perhaps the reason is that people who have tendencies to become obsessed have easier access to video games.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963784)

So; My work place is pure people within ASD, the idea being that we (Yes i'm diagnosed) have strength that aren't, in general, being taken care of, because we work different.

I can attest that 9/10 of us are gamers. That 1/10 is a casual gamer. I'm going to offer my lay oppinion on why.

Our logical reasoning tend to be developed and games are usually focused around problem solving. Because we are within ASD we also have a tendency to be, from a neuro typical point, obsessive in areas we are interested or perform well in.

/Autistic ramblings

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963910)

ASD first presents well before video gaming ever enters the equation. If it's diagnosed later, the symptoms will be remembered in retrospect as having existed for many previous years. You've got the causation backwards, as others have pointed out. Don't try to bring climate change denial in here as though it somehow creates support for your viewpoint.

Re:smoking causes yellow fingers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964308)

Using the kind of logic this person used, you could make the case that wheelchairs cause serious walking disabilities, rather than being something used by people who already have a serious condition for other reasons.

An issue like the idea in the article needs proper scientific study, not a vague and unreliable appeal to the media. Peer review and scientific papers aren't perfect, but if you can't even pull together your idea and the evidence into some semblance of order that can pass peer review then there isn't reason to treat it as anything scientifically significant.

Crazy (4, Informative)

crdotson (224356) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963472)

News flash, professors can be just as crazy as other humans.

Re:Crazy (1)

Col Bat Guano (633857) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963696)

News flash : The employment process and skills required for professors works to screen out most crazy humans, leading to a difference in overall craziness profile.

Re:Crazy (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964114)

I think you meant to say "screen in", not "screen out".

Re:Crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964126)

News flash : The employment process and skills required for professors works to screen out most crazy humans, leading to a difference in overall craziness profile.

Something tells me you don't have much experience with said employment process.

Re:Crazy (1)

EdgeCreeper (1618161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964132)

I think Queen Bitch is a much more appropriate term here.

When Professor Dorothy Bishop raised concerns, Professor Greenfield responded: “it’s not really for Dorothy to comment on how I run my career”.

It certainly looks like that she is saying these things to pander to a a certain group of people which she believes will further her career. It is not certain that this is the case, but I'd bet on it.

Re:Crazy (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964222)

And research causes cancer in rats.

Re:Crazy (5, Insightful)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964228)

Let's get something straight -- she is not crazy, she is a MEDIA WHORE. Just like Andrew Wakefield before her, and many others. If she were crazy, I could just shrug my shoulders and move on. But this is sooo much worse than that -- a calculated, cold-hearted misinformation campaign that is designed to use irrational fears in parents to her advantage, most likely causing a lot of harm to children in the process.

There aren't many news stories that get me angry; this is one of them.

Autism... (5, Insightful)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963474)

will be for a good decade or so, one of these illnesses that people will blame or all sorts of mysterious "evils" that we experience in every day life.

Lead in petrol, mercury in the sea, vaccines, internet, WiFi, video games, contraceptive pills, pesticides, radon, highway noise, electrical cables, plastic soft drink bottles.... There'll always be some crazy self-promoting dickhead trying to get some publicity for himself with his stupid theory.

It's a natural human response to want to find the cause of something. That's why gods were invented (it doesn't have to be a rational cause). It's also why these theories occur around illnesses that are down to pure chance or at least not currently explained. You don't see many people blaming their chlamydia infection on aluminium pots, because it's well established what causes that disease! So things like lupus, other autoimmune conditions, cancer (not lung cancer), autism, tend to attract these kinds of lies.

But just because it's human nature give Baroness Susan Greenfield a reason to abuse her position with crap like this. Shame on her. She should know better. I hope she loses her job for making up bullshit (and purposely difficult to disprove bullshit) like this. She's meant to be a scientist, not a self-promoting celebrity.

Re:Autism... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963562)

You don't see many people blaming their chlamydia infection on aluminium pots, because it's well established what causes that disease! So things like lupus, other autoimmune conditions, cancer (not lung cancer), autism, tend to attract these kinds of lies.

And at one point, people might have considered it a ridiculous lie to blame chlamydia on a little harmless sex.

I'm not saying that this woman is right (far from it), just that the causes of these diseases may one day turn out to be something we take for granted as being harmless.

Re:Autism... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963650)

Your post has to be one of the most insightful things I've read on /. in a while since you've made me think about the fact that modern superstitions and witch doctoring is now, rather than mysterious spirits or what have you, revolving around misunderstanding of science.

Huh. You've actually got me thinking about writing a paper comparing superstitions of the past with those of the present. And I haven't been in school for ages.

Re:Autism... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964122)

Make sure you sacrifice 3 chickens at midnight on a moonless night first, if you ever want your paper to be published. Don't forget to wear your underpants inside out on your head while you do this.

Re:Autism... (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964130)

The irony is a bunch of the things you listed really were the cause of serious heath problems. The negative impact of lead build-up in the body is well-known. Mercury in the ocean caused the Minamata disease. Most studies on non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia show positive associations with pesticide exposure. Contraceptive pills increase the risk of venous thromboembolism. Including things where the "crazy self-promoting dickhead trying to get some publicity for himself with his stupid theory" turned out to be right doesn't support your point. Why didn't you include smoking in there as well? Hey, doctors used to endorse cigarettes after all.

Re:Autism... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964158)

You're missing the point: whether or not any individual item on the list is harmful, there is no credible evidence that any of them cause autism. In fact, AFAIK, there is no credible evidence that *anything* other than pure genetic chance causes autism.

What? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963484)

If a scientist sidesteps their scientific peers, and chooses to take an apparently changeable, frightening, and technical scientific case directly to the public, then that is a deliberate decision, and one that can't realistically go unnoticed. ... I think these serious scientific concerns belong, at least once, in a clear scientific paper. I don't see how this suggestion is inappropriate, or impudent, and in all seriousness, I can't see an argument against it."

Does this mean esocid (the guy who wrote the summary) is saying he agrees that video games cause dementia? And that he can't find an argument against it? Because I've seen a more confusing summary on Slashdot before, but not in a long time.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963618)

No. The guy is saying that there's no reason for her to not publish the paper. In other words: he's saying her "research" is bullshit, otherwise she'd have published it.

Re:What? (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963640)

You could always try reading the fine article.

Re:What? (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964266)

It's a direct quote from Ben Goldacre in the article. He's saying that he can't see an argument against publishing these concerns in a journal.

good because we all know it causes (5, Funny)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963488)

Tourettes syndrome FUCK YOU and similar FUCKETY fuck fuck problems. We all know FUCK that you know fuck face. Next thing they'll be saying the Internet causes FUCK problems with people's ability to interact in a FUCK face to FUCK face context. FUCKERS.

Re:good because we all know it causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963634)

I just imagined a very weird alternate version of the Smurfs...

Fucky Smurf would be my hero!

_____
P.S.: What's going on with the CAPTCHAs lately? "adultery"? Somehow they always match the topic. And somehow, I get rare post number endings like ...000, ...88, ...222 or ...666 (these were just in the last couple of posts) way too often...

Re:good because we all know it causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963770)

Would't that be Big Fuck, Grouchy Fuck, Lazy Fuck and Fuckette?

Re:good because we all know it causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963930)

Sounds like America

Re:good because we all know it causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964084)

Since it seems we're all about scientific accuracy here, the condition you are referring to is called coprolalia [wikipedia.org] . Fewer than 10% of people with Tourette's syndrome suffer from coprolalia.

Re:good because we all know it causes (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964124)

The interesting this is that coprolalia quite literally means "talking shit".

there is at least one study showing abnormalities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963494)

Even the wikipedia article on her is able to cite http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0020708 as data supporting her claims. Why cant the summary or Goldacre? Then this would be a more informed discussion.

Re:there is at least one study showing abnormaliti (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963768)

That is a terrible study. At BEST they showed a correlation. The study has no way, however, to test which was cause and which was effect.

As a parent with an autistic child... (3)

myrt (634143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963496)

This guy is worse then Jenny McCarthy.

Re:As a parent with an autistic child... (2)

rve (4436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963586)

This guy is worse then Jenny McCarthy.

Baroness Susan Greenfield could be a guy, I guess. After all, Jenny is perfectly cromulent boys name in the UK as well.

Re:As a parent with an autistic child... (0)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963632)

Way to pass on a chance to troll. Good show.

A good troll would have been a junction between the fact he has an autistic child and he can't get her gender right. It was like shooting fish in a tank, no? No sport in it. Well played, I don't know if I would have the restraint. Obviously not, I suppose.

Baroness? Seriously? Let's find some pics.

Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963498)

Autism isn't necessarily a bad thing, sure at the extreme end they aren't too useful but it's a sliding scale with some autistic people functioning quite well in society as well as keeping a keen eye for data, trends and maths. Just cause they are autistic doesn't mean they can't learn they things you take for granted they just learn it a different way. Spoc and data are good examples where sure there is a down side but also a pretty big upside.

Re:Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963598)

ya know, i live with a teen boy who has Asperger's, and in spite of INitial certain problems, such as bullying, ineptitude with simple functions like eating, all of which have abated within the last year or so, his 'condition' is also part of his strength as a person, it guides his predilections towards computers and creating music, and gives him unflaggable focus which is alack in many teens today. so i would kinda agree with your statement!

Re:Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

jimmyjamsmb (2501640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963604)

oh and btw i was offended at being called an anonymous coward, so i created this profile, with an anonymous handle :D

Re:Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963676)

I was bullied a fair bit in early school cause i didn't really know how to interact with the other kids, but if autistic people can do such cool things with computers, numbers, music, you name it, how hard is it to learn how to converse with other people. Once you say hi/goodmorning to everyone and maybe ask about their weekends there isn't much else to it; If you start talking about something your passionate about and don't make it too geeky then your really set.

Re:Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963872)

It just doesn't interest me.

Re:Autism not necessarily all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964160)

But how about all the doors it opens up for money and job opportunities, what about all the things that's friends can do for you.

here's one argument: (1, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963514)

Here's one argument:

The critical review you get by publishing in mass media is more complete and honest than what you get in a peer reviewed scientific publication. Why publish in a scientific journal just to say you did it? The peer review and publishing process has ceased to be intellectually valuable and completely fails to separate lies from truth.

Anyone else in science needs to ask themselves this question: is there some journal somewhere which would publish this, even if it was wrong or falsified? I have no idea whether or not this particular researcher's claims are crazy, but I have complete confidence that they could be published in a scientific paper somewhere.

Why then, do we care?

Re:here's one argument: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963546)

actually, no...

by being "peer reviewed" it means that other scientists have read the article and don't see any glaring problems with the work. It's possible to have bad results that cant be replicated in a peer reviewed journal, but not bad logic (ideally).

Re:here's one argument: (4, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963610)

You're basically suggesting that crowd sourcing is better than peer review. Crowd sourcing works for some things. For simple fact finding or culling through large amounts of data, it can work. For researching things that may take years to study and would require a background in the field, not so much. In fact, the only place you'll find people who are qualified to check you on things like that are, you guessed it, amongst your peers in the field. The only reason to skip them and go straight to the press is because you're playing a political game, and politics should have no place in research.

I suppose I'm being a bit idealistic and naive, however.

Also, I think you're intentionally being obtuse by suggesting that getting it published anywhere is sufficient. Sure, there are crap conferences and journals out there. And if you get published in one of them instead of a higher tier publication it speaks volumes about the quality of your work and how much stock will be put in it. But the major publications still do their job pretty darn well, and you really need to get published in one that has an established reputation if you want for your work to be taken seriously.

Re:here's one argument: (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963692)

"Anyone else in science needs to ask themselves this question: is there some journal somewhere which would publish this, even if it was wrong or falsified?"

Yes, there would be dozens if not hundreds of peer reviewed journals that would love to publish well done research on this matter.

As it is a highly debated area any article would get high quotations which is the bread and butter for these journals. If it is plausible it would be highly cited for the wrong reason, bad science, then they will not publish it.

Greenfield probably shot from her hip, with no data to back up her claim, or any data that would support her view of causation and get published in a serious, peer-reviewed journal.

Re:here's one argument: (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963698)

The critical review in the mass media isn't "complete and honest". It's the crazed shoutings of a hundred million uninformed assholes, each with their own axe to grind. There will be some good feedback buried in the mountains of shit, but you could have gotten ~80% of it (without all the noise) by undergoing peer review.

Publishing in the mass media instead of traditional channels is like using a really crappy amplifier. You may get a few extra decibels of output, but the SNR is going to be trashed. Plus you have the additional downside of scaring millions of people, and possibly even tricking them into harming themselves or others. Of course, for many people who skip peer review, that's the whole goal. They want fame and money, and nothing gets ratings like some good ole fashioned fear mongering.

And for the record, getting published in the New Elbonia Journal of Medicine doesn't constitute peer review. The fact that trash journals exist doesn't invalidate the process.

Re:here's one argument: (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963928)

When I think "scientific rigor" the first association that springs to mind is "mass media journalism". /s

Re:here's one argument: (4, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963934)

The critical review you get by publishing in mass media is more complete and honest than what you get in a peer reviewed scientific publication. Why publish in a scientific journal just to say you did it? The peer review and publishing process has ceased to be intellectually valuable and completely fails to separate lies from truth.

Uh, I don't think so. Have you gone through peer review in a scientific journal? The process is long and can last 6 months or even a year. It is very thorough as there is always something that can be improved in a paper. In my experience papers usually come out better than the entered the process. You do encounter the occasional dick reviewer, but that is not enough to break the system.

Critical review by mass media is not done by specialists who have several months to write their comments. It is done by journalists on a field they are incompetent in within an afternoon. It is done by pundits with an agenda (in this case against videogames and Internet), who will put their own spin on the issue. It is then fed to the unwashed masses who know nothing of the subject and can easily be swayed.

The proper process is: first peer review, then, when the findings have been verified, you go to the public.

[I]s there some journal somewhere which would publish this, even if it was wrong or falsified?

You betcha. The results are interesting either way.

Re:here's one argument: (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964246)

This is simply false, all of it. 1) the "critical review" you get by publishing in mass media may be honest eventually, but with high probability there will be an initial phase of sensationalism and media panic that may last anywhere from weeks to years (e.g. see MMR vaccine controversy). 2) your claim about the failure of the peer review process is an extremely strong one, and you make it without presenting any sort of evidence; simply put, you're "full of shit", as they'd say. If you do have such evidence, I'd love to see it; but at least within the scientific fields I'm familiar with, the peer review process is alive and well. Good ideas are recognized, mistakes are discovered, progress is made. Simple as that.

Re:here's one argument: (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964390)

You've incorrectly assumed that research was performed. It wasn't.

Great medieval diagnosis (5, Insightful)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963516)

Dementia is no one single illness or condition, it is a blanket term used for any condition that affects normal cognitive functions. The way the original statement was made was just as scientific as the blanket statements about 'hysteria' in women at the end of the 19th century. I'm surprised that someone who holds such an esteemed position in academia would apply such a crude label to a problem, real or otherwise. Perhaps the Baroness will recommend which of the four humors need to be drained in order to cure this dementia, or if trepanation is in order to relieve the heat from the brain.

On a related note, there is substantial evidence to support the high percentage of insanity amongst the noble houses of Europe due to centuries of inbreeding.

Re:Great medieval diagnosis (2)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963596)

From Webster's Online Dictionary [websters-o...ionary.org] :

1: The removing of a bone disc from the skull for limited intracranial exploration

Re:Great medieval diagnosis (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963642)

Don't be a knave, hold on a second. What is her data? Let her present her data and equation before we burn her at the stake?

Cue the Monty Python.

She turned me into a newt! ....

Well..I got better.

Re:Great medieval diagnosis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964098)

She insists on parading a title that is a relic of a medieval system of oppression, one that stands in stark contrast to democracy. Do you really need to know more about her competence?

I'm pretty sure... (4, Funny)

FlipperPA (456193) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963540)

...that everything is causing autism in children. Shit, I'm probably autistic. And please, that microwave does NOT belong there.

Dad lets me drive slow on the driveway. (1)

smokepants (1244470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963556)

Hot water burn baby! Hot water burn baby!

I'm an excellent driver (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963578)

about a hundred dollars.

Jenny McCarthy? Is that you? (3, Insightful)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963614)

Just how far up on the scale of stupid is she?

Internet can't cause... (2, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963616)

.... a genetically based disability. I swear some of these people are just off the wall clueless. A more accurate statement would be "Heavy screen time stunts social skills". It certainly doesn't cause autism though.

Re:Internet can't cause... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963986)

Unless behavior or environ of the parents affects the dna that is passed on(which some evidence is beginning to show).

Survival of the fittest is garbage, luck is the biggest factor. There has to be another mechanism of evolution.

...how? (2)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963636)

So by not seeing the data as more ASD individuals simply USING the internet, you're saying it CAUSED ASD? Autism shows it's first symptoms at 2.5-3 years. I didn't have an AOL account until I was 6 & I doubt any toddlers are hitting up Club Penguin that early. If this "professor" had simply modified the criteria to include OTHER forms of electronic media like television or video-games, it wouldn't be so...retarded, for lack of a better word. Incidentally, my first recallable memory is Super Mario Bros. 3, when I was roughly 3 years old.

Wow. Just... Wow. (4, Interesting)

macs4all (973270) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963674)

It sure looks like Oxford's standards are slipping.

Perhaps the actual thing that is happening is that Autism is this decade's Disease du Jour, and like ADHD before it, is being overdiagnosed at a truly frightening rate.

But just wait until the next DSM comes out. We'll ALL be diagnose-able with SOME sort of mental disorder [ncpa.org] . So, at that point, maybe nutjobs like BARONESS von Greenfield will eventually be "right" (at least according to the increasingly out-of-their-ever-lovin'-minds psychiatric community).

Re:Wow. Just... Wow. (1)

N8w8 (557943) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964366)

It would be great if everyone would be found to have a disorder.
I have an "autistic spectrum disorder", and I don't consider it a disease, I consider it a brain/personality category.
Therefore, the term "disorder" to me implies that I don't fit in some order made up by people who don't know anything about me, who I have never even met.
If everyone would "have" a disorder, it would be an acknowledgement that the order they made up, isn't.
There is no order, everyone is different. No matter what kind of label is stuck on you by people who think they know everything, you are the only one who can truly know and help yourself.
But the lack of understanding of self, and feeling powerless to work on their problems, leads people to search for causes and solutions in the wrong places, like prescription/illegal drugs, doing their best to stay as much as possible in the victim mentality, materialism etc..
PS: yes, I know some drugs can be beneficial, but psychiatric drugs are mostly about symptom suppression.

Look... (2, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963678)

My generation was exposed to a lot of shit. Leaded paint. Mercury (It was not uncommon for children to play with mercury.) Fallout from the nuclear testing in Nevada and the Pacific atolls. Asbestos. Leaded gasoline. Dentures made of uranium. The list goes on.

People from my generation and older are the ones most commonly found in Congress now. Most of those guys are obviously quite insane.

I'm sure a lot of that crap also addled our DNA, which I think probably explains a lot about kids these days. Having insane parents probably doesn't help, either.

Now if you have an axe to grind with the Internet or Video Games, that's all well and good, but I really don't think you have to go out of your way to explain why kids these days or their parents are quite abnormal. The parents just chewed on too much leaded paint as toddlers, and their kids are getting a double whammy of messed-up DNA and whacky parents from that.

Spirit level? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963682)

On the other hand, the first argument of the authors of The Spirit Level is 'we are backed up by scientific literature' and 'what are your credentials'. And, provably wrong second-level smoking studies linking fast drop in heart disease with ban of smoking in restaurants got published in quite high-level medical journals (note: the heart disease number change in the magnitude of a 2-4% a year; any study suggesting that ban in restaurants caused drop in heart-disease more than that is provably wrong; the studies suggesting less aren't exactly persuasive either).

So, in the end, it is more about how does the author react to well articulated criticism; and in this case it seems that the reaction is..well...strange?

Don't make her a celebrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963694)

These are just sound bits spoken into a microphone. Impossible to argue with since they can be changed with another microphone.

Let her fixate her opinion in a scientific paper with her name on top.

It's backwards (4, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963778)

Near as I can tell it's the aspies causing the games, not the other way around. If the game's not inhumanly complex and impossible for mere mortals to complete it's savaged in the press before it's even launched, and a commercial failure. You have to have perfect recall and reflexes that border on precognition to play some of these games. It's been like this for something like fifteen years. I couldn't beat Zelda on the Nintendo 64 even now.

Maybe I'm just old and slow. Games aren't my thing. My eight year old son used to laugh at my feeble gaming skills in Unreal Tournament. Now and the he'd let me snipe him just so I'd continue to play. When he got tired of killing me he would just follow me around and if I turned about suddenly, wax me on the spot. He's voting now - not the online poll, gamer ranking kind of voting - he's Of Age. I've got a second grader that regularly slays me on some Wii Mario game, when I'm really trying. Maybe it's just me. I think I'm an above average guy, but what these kids can do - it scares me.

I was introduced to computers in what's now called "middle school" but back then was called "junior high". Back then a computer was a pretty serious thing, demanding respect and training before you approached it. I was precocious, and got in this game early. Now it's an environmental thing. My youngest was online, playing games at two years old. My first grandson adored Angry Birds on my phone and Android tablet at 18 months. My oldest son, just now 18, types 150 wpm on the crappiest keyboard available - not because he's deliberately trained for that specialty, but because the keyboard is how he's communicated for as long as he's been talking to people. The keyboard is his tongue.

Re:It's backwards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963912)

Hey mate just through i would point out that your little boy isn't typing at 150 wpm, if he is a fast typist it is more like 80 wpm, 150wpm would be an absolutely amazing typist...

Re:It's backwards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964206)

Dude, games have been getting easier, not harder.

Re:It's backwards (2)

f()rK()_Bomb (612162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964372)

Pretty much everyone I know complains about games being too easy and designed for casuals. Not sure what world your living in, games were way harder back in the day. You have to look for games specifically designed for hardcore people to get a challenge these days. Games are rife with dumbing down, civ5 is a great example, I can beat it on the hardest difficulty yet I can only best civ4 on a couple of levels lower

She is fast (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37963816)

She completed a full research on the topic in less than 2 months. It must have been a proper and thorough.

I I I (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37963876)

I start all my sentences with I.

I am a poor critic of scientific papers. I think I understand the scientific process. I prefer to make it all about I (me). I am like that.

I whine a bunch.

I'm a little bitch.

Try to take a breath and if you're going to provide a dispassionate objective critique, not to be a whiny self-centered bitch about it.

Oh, those wacky British Royals . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964000)

Here is an interesting scientific question: Does receiving a royal title make you wacky? Or are wacky folks given royal titles?

A "Baroness," you say? Well, I never voted for her. Or are such titles the result of hurling scimitars in mythical aquatic ceremonies?

However, her Wikipedia entry seems to indicate that she is a serious scientist, with a popular science sideshow. Which baffles me a bit, as to her statement and, more so, her reaction to the criticism.

So does dabbling in popular science erode scientific thinking and skills . . . ? Where is The Bad Astronomer when you need him . . . ?

I would like to meet the Baroness. Maybe she could answer a question that has bothered me all my life:

"Who's been sleeping in my brain?"

Not royal, not really a royal title (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37964076)

Baroness Greenfield is a Life Peer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Peer#.22People.27s_peers.22). The power to create Peers is exercised by the Sovereign, but she must act on the advice of her Ministers - in this case, the Prime Minister, who will propose whatever the Lords Appointment Commission recommends.

Lost the plot (1)

GiantRobotMonster (1159813) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964008)

Susan lost her grip on rational thinking quite a while ago now.
I suspect it had something to do with being made a Baroness...

This is a little hard to accept. (1, Insightful)

Ragingguppy (464321) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964072)

I can see television being a contributing factor to autism but Video Games? Thats a little harder to believe. Video games engages the mind and forces the user to build skill, dexterity, and problem solving. This is a good thing. Television on the other hand causes a person to become mentally detached to the world around them. I think that would be more of a contributing factor. Maybe the good professor should try to map the increase between the amount of television people watch and autism.

Re:This is a little hard to accept. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964128)

forces the user to build skill, dexterity,

Not everyone plays RPG's you insensitive clod!

since babies are born that way (2)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964104)

mothers must have had computers in in their womb

Tips from a scientist: how to stop bad science (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964268)

That holds for discussion in seminars on future work, a referee report, conference presentation, or an email to get a statement, ever ask for proof. Never doubt the result directly in a personal communication with the author. Specifically ask for clarification on the 'unclear points'. A 'You present very interesting results, and i think a quantification to estimate possible effects would be extremely important' can not be dismissed easily as an attack. If the other side looses temper then, the fault is clearly on their side. If the other side admits the data is not valid enough you have what you wanted. If they admit they never thought about this (to prevent admitting the data is not precise enough), then they loose their face in the community.

sigh (2)

SlothDead (1251206) | more than 2 years ago | (#37964352)

Things like this give me cancer...

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