Tens of thousands of parents are refusing to accept the medical research that shows little correlation between vaccines and autism.

“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks …to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons,” actor and comedian Denis Leary controversially argued with patented flippancy in a chapter called “Autism Shmautism” from his 2008 book Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid. “I don’t give a shit what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you — yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”

That explosive insult, intensified by Leary’s decision to pen his riotous book under the assumptive moniker “Dr. Denis Leary,” is just one of many bombs that has rocked either side of autism’s increasingly contentious divide. That currently includes, on one side, scientists and researchers hard at work on discovering the causes of the escalating neurological and developmental disorder, which according to a recent Cambridge University study could affect one in every 64 children. Complicating those efforts is the fact that autism’s far-ranging spectrum of psychological conditions has only widened with time, an increase in diagnosis, awareness and the overall environmental toxicity of our lives which we take for granted.

But Leary’s crack also roiled the other side of autism’s battlefield. It’s commandeered by distraught parents of autistic children, who have mobilized their frustration with a medical and pharmaceutical establishment increasingly short on definitive answers but seemingly long on unnecessary pharmaceuticals and inflammatory theories. Along the way, it has become a critical mass movement aimed at injecting major amounts of anecdotal evidence into what before was almost purely a psychiatric or scientific debate.

As a result, the conflict over autism has come to resemble autism itself: A connectivity disorder, fraught with crossed neurological wiring, threatening to spark into mass distraction.

Throwing fuel onto that already considerable fire is the newfound publicity parents have received thanks to the help of celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey,