Last year, when discussing the mythical gay germ, we noted that its proponents pointed to similar examples of conditions probably not caused by infections, but about which we know sufficiently little that the charlatans can pretend they are:
But wait, you might think, the gay germ theorists do attempt to defend their position with reference to certain other diseases that at least validate the plausibility of their claim. The examples though, if you give them more than a cursory review, prove entirely irrelevant. Cochran, for instance, repeatedly refers to narcolepsy as way of backstopping the gay germ hypothesis:
My model – not the only possible model based on a pathogen, but reasonable – leans on a couple of natural examples. One is narcolepsy. We now know that narcolepsy happens when a particular kind of neuron, concentrated in a little region in the hypothalamus, somehow gets zapped. 99% of narcolepsy cases happen in the 25% of the population that has a particular HLA type – which suggests that something, probably a virus, triggers an overenthusiastic immune response that zaps a neuron subpopulation that produce a particular neurotransmitter (called hypocretin or orexin) that regulates appetite and sleep patterns. And it doesn’t do anything else: narcoleptics aren’t stupid.
If you read closely, though, you realize that there is no evidence for the narcoleptic germ either; its just another germ of the gaps for another somewhat vexing neurological disorder (for those curious, most actual scientists believe narcolepsy is caused by an auto-immune reaction with a genetic component). It is also worth noting that Cochran used to point to autism as the third neurological condition, along with homosexuality and narcolepsy, as likely candidates for a pathogenic cause. However, one presumes that as scientists filled in the gaps and worked out a coherent explanation for autism (which resembles the going mainstream explanations for the other two), Cochran’s alternative lost its only leg to stand on and was quietly excised.
Score another victory for actual scientists. A review article in Nature last month summarized a series of recent twin studies that pretty strongly suggest that narcolepsy is an auto-immune reaction with a genetic component, isolating the specific group of cells affected. One suspects that professional non-scientist and amateur mountebank Greg Cochran will neglect to admit to the error.