A good skeptic will not become so entrenched in his stance that he refuses to investigate both sides of a debate with an open mind. I’ve pointed out Jenny McCarthy’s inaccuracies in previous posts without giving much thought to her experiences and perspective. It would be unfair of me to continue my attack on her without bending a bit and evaluating her story.
So, I checked out her latest book “Louder Than Words”- A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism”. Immediately, I was struck by her title, which holds a double meaning, I’m sure. The meaning that comes to mind for me is that she is once again talking about her mother’s intuition. I don’t understand why mothers have the intuition thing cornered. What about fathers- they don’t have intuition? That is just an aside to the main fact that intuition is not an all-knowing guidance system. It can fail people just like prayer and wishing can fail people. It can be wrong, even when your instinct feels infallible. I don’t want to completely downplay intuition; I’ve used it to get me through many transitions in life. But, it isn’t “The Force” we are talking about. Intuition is not a doorway to universal truth; it’s how we interpret and react to social cues and information.
I can’t blame Jenny for dismissing Dads in her book. It sounds like her x-husband was quite the failure. She was also let down by the medical community, who dismissed her concerns and misdiagnosed her son Evan. She packs a lot of emotional punch into her story about her son’s siezures, and the medical community’s failure to treat her son appropriately. You can see the anger leap off the page. I can’t help but wonder if that hostility was helpful, but I understand that parents don’t have time to think and act rational when they are stressed and dealing with a severely sick child.
Jenny doesn’t fail to admit that she tried everything to help her son, including a mormon prayer despite the fact that she is not mormon. She also resorts to tarot cards, homeopathic drugs, psychic bonds, and The Secret. She really seemed to try everything under the sun to cure her kid. Some treatments were standard and helpful such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, speech therapy, play therapy, and even music therapy. She also tried techniques of which I’m dubious (but willing to research when I have time) such as brain mapping, RDI, anti-fungals, extreme dietary changes, and supplements. She did also mention chelation, which is not a good way to treat children, but it seems she avoided that technique (kudos to her for that).
The one thing I was surprised about in the book is that she did not go on a tirade about vaccines. She mentioned the debate, and that she thought more effort should be put into investigating the relationship. She did not tell people to avoid vaccines. Instead, she encouraged parents to choose a different schedule for vaccinations, and for the medical community to test for immune problems in children. I can’t ask for much more than that from an activist of her notoriety.
I do think skeptics (including myself) have jumped on her case with assumptions about her intentions or her claims. Her book reveals progress with her son, but it also admits that other mothers who have tried the kitchen sink strategy have not had the same success. Perhaps her son was mis-diagnosed; I’m not sure. But we will never know if Evan’s recovery (not cure) was due to a particular technique because Jenny tried everything but the kitchen sink. Somehow, I don’t think Jenny McCarthy really cares. She’s just happy to have her son back.