An article published by Herald Community Newspapers Online has irresponsibly echoed such claims by Kirby. The most outrageous claim in the article is perhaps the following:
He pointed to Denmark and Sweden to support his theory that there was a connection between an autism increase and Thimerosal. In 1992, both countries removed the mercury preservative from their vaccinations and have seen a remarkable drop in autism.
Not only is there no data to substantiate this claim, but it is known that what actually happened is the opposite of what this claim states. (At least in Sweden that is obvious, and although disputed to an extent in Denmark, there's no reason to think their administrative autism rates have declined at any point in time). I don't know if the paper quoted Kirby correctly, but there are several other direct quotes attributed to David Kirby. For example:
There was a huge spike in autism in 1992 when the Hepatitis B vaccine was added to the regular vaccination schedule for babies.
If you look at a graph of administrative prevalence of autism in the U.S. you will see there is an increase in the prevalence between 1992 and 1993, but it is a very small increase. There is no "huge spike" around 1992. There are no "huge spikes" at any time, but a gradual increase throughout the 1990s and beyond. The growth in prevalence between 2002 and 2003, for example, is much larger than anything that occurred around 1992.
Kirby on historic prevalence:
There were 1 in 10,000 children with autism in 1987 in the United States before the addition of Thimerosal.
This is absolutely not true, and cannot be substantiated by any epidemiological study. It is not clear where this statistic comes from at all, and I do not believe Kirby can produce an original source, nor can JB Handley, who has been asked to source the same claim previously. The first significant epidemiological study of autism was Lotter et al. (1967) which found a prevalence of 4.5 in 10,000 for Kanner autism as operationalized by Lotter. For a prevalence study around the year Kirby cites, see Ritvo et al. (1989), which found a prevalence of 4 in 10,000 in Utah.
There is a comment by one Michelle Soodek in the article which I wanted to note as well:
She reasoned that if there were just as many people with autism when she was a child, than where are the institutions and facilities to house all of these people that would now be adults?
Ms. Soodek is repeating a common mistake in reasoning by those who embrace the autism epidemic concept. She is assuming that most children currently diagnosed with autism would be institutionalized, and that rates of institutionalization for children diagnosed today is the same as that of children diagnosed 20 years ago. As I have shown using CDDS data, the total number of institutionalized developmentally disabled individuals in California has declined a little in the last 14 years. More institutions will not likely be needed in the future. To suggest otherwise is nothing but fear mongering. She is also promoting the idea that autistics naturally belong in institutions, which is a deplorable thing to do even if it was unintentional.
That's enough about that article. Let me now look at some of David Kirby's history of dubious claims. They started early on. For example, an infamous claim from his book, Evidence of Harm, was that Asperger's Syndrome is "also known as idiot-savant syndrome". This is clearly false if you consider the history of the terms.
What about his promotion of Evidence of Harm as the work of an impartial journalist? These days he refers to thimerosal hypothesis skeptics as "mercury defenders".
A more significant example of dishonesty is documented by Kevin Leitch. In an interview with the New York Times in 2005, David Kirby stated that autism rates should drop by the end of 2005. He later established his current goalpost of 2007 when he discussed the California numbers with Citizen Cain. Kev requested a clarification from Kirby, which was the following:
The Times misquoted me. I actually asked for a correction, but did not receive one. What I told the reporter is that "we should know in the next few years."
Kev actually apologized to David Kirby before he contacted the New York Times to verify Kirby's account. The Times replied as follows:
Prior to publication, we read the entire passage relating to this matter to Mr. Kirby. He approved it.
I do not know that Kirby addressed the issue further after Kev caught him lying.
I'm sure there are further examples of dishonesty from Mr. Kirby. Readers can provide additional instances if they wish to.
There will be a public debate between David Kirby and Arthur Allen on January 13 at 10 a.m. in the Price Center, University of California, San Diego. This debate is sponsored by TACA and Generation Rescue, who will no doubt attempt to stack up the audience against Mr. Allen. It would be nice if members of the skeptical community can attend.
I am sure Mr. Kirby will try to introduce some of these "facts" of his in the debate. The problem with a spoken debate format is that it allows such fabrications to occur. In that format it is more difficult to call your opponent on dubious claims and successfully show that the claims cannot be sourced. This is likely one reason why you don't see David Kirby debating in blogs, while accepting to debate in a standard spoken format. It has nothing to do with visibility, in my opinion, considering, for example, that Kev's blog has at least twice the readership size of the Autism Speaks website.