What causes autism?
What causes autism? No one knows exactly, although there's a shitload of research going on right now to find out. We do know it's genetic, but there it's also highly likely there are some epigenetic effects, too.
Time will undoubtedly tell.
But what we do know, quite categorically, is whatever does autism it's not fucking vaccines. This is a pernicious and dangerous myth and it needs to die.
The link between vaccines and autism was first claimed by comprehensively discredited and struck-off English Doctor Andrew Wakefield (worth reading so you can see for yourself what a vile human being he is).
Unfortunately, people are on the whole not very bright, and with all the stigma surrounding autism, the misplaced guilt at passing on what are perceived to be "bad genes", and the common inability to distinguish between correlation and causality, many parents seek comfort in laying blame for their child's condition on someone or something else (I think people are, in any case, drawn to conspiracy theories because it helps they rationalise their own failings and inadequacies. It's much easier to blame some anonymous "They" for your problems than to look in the mirror and confront the real culprit).
Kids do not "develop autism"
Kids are born autistic, live autistic lives, and ultimately die autistic (with luck at a ripe old age).
But the nature of the condition means the signs don't generally appear until about the time they typically begin the vaccine schedule.
It's often said absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This is technically true.
But when there is no evidence whatsoever for vaccines causing autism despite hundreds of closely-scrutinised studies — at least one of which was paid for by the anti-vaxx movement, much to their own displeasure and discombobulation — then it becomes reasonable to conclude absence of evidence is indeed beginning to look awfully like evidence of absence.
It's a bit like gods... how long do we have to keep looking foir evidence to support illogical and irrational claims before we conclude there isn't any?
To claim you can't prove vaccines don't cause autism is correct, because you can't prove a negative.
But the anti-vaxxers are making the claim vaccines do cause autism, and so it's incumbent on them to provide evidence to support that claim.
And so far they have failed spectacularly.
What causes autism may never be fully understood
Human beings are complex organisms. And the human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. As someone once said, if the human brain was simple enough for us to understand, we'd be too stupid to do so.
There's talk floating around of an "epidemic" of autism, but this is not true. Back when I was a kid, autism wasn't a "thing". You were just an awkward (in all senses of the word) little shit.
No, autism is probably not on the increase, but our understanding and diagnosis of it certainly is. I've been autistic for all 56 and counting years of my life. My diagnosis isn't adding to any "epidemic"; instead it's recognising what was already there.
Ultimately, I don't think it matters much.
I'm happy the way I am, however you like to describe it.
And no one else gets a vote.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate