Wednesday, February 11, 2015

War Over Vaccinations

Since I've been writing about this a lot lately, I want to share an article I found that puts all of the hoopla into perspective.

Of course we've all realized that so-called anti-vaxxers aren't just crazy tofu-sprout-liberals roaming the aisles of your local Whole Foods market (though supposedly you can map measles zones around areas where these stores are located), nor are they just crazy wing-nut government-fearing paranoid conservatives (though these people tend to grouped together, too).

No, the fear of the MMR and other childhood vaccines crosses socio-economic and political lines, and centers around this:

A very understandable lack of respect for authority.

That's right: Whether you decline vaccinations because you believe "science" is a bunch of hogwash and medical research is a bunch of lies, or because you think the government which is requiring vaccines is not to be trusted, you have every reason to doubt the reasons behind the vaccines.

Here's the article, about the "crisis of authority."    It's well worth reading, and it has helped me feel less angry toward the anti-vaxxers.

The author, Andrew O'Hehir, writes:
The crisis of authority is by no means limited to anti-vaccination loons and climate deniers, and is not exclusively found on the right. For the past half-century and more it has largely been the left that has challenged social, cultural and political orthodoxy on white supremacy, the Vietnam War, nuclear power, the oppression of women and LGBT people and the destruction of the environment for profit, among many other things. Until recently, American conservatives saw themselves first and foremost as defenders of authority and moral order, buttresses around a fortress of shared values that was buffeted by a corrosive tide. That impulse still exists, as with the recent rush to embrace “American Sniper” and the petulant NYPD protest, but at this point it’s mostly nostalgia. The fortress has been swamped, the moral order is in ruins and the shared values have been scattered like driftwood. All that is solid melts into air, and even the right has become relativistic: the anti-establishment strain of radical and conspiratorial thought that was once found only on the discredited John Birch fringe has become the conservative mainstream.

Like Mr. O'Hehir, I completely understand the lack of respect for the authority figures by doubters from all sides of the political spectrum, because I, too, do not respect the so-called "authority" of, well, you name it:

---Doctors and researchers who fake data so they can get published;

---Big pharma which fakes data so they can sell products of questionable value;

---Politicians who vote for the campaign contributors with the largest purses; and

---Public health officials who change their requirements and reasons every few years.

As O'Hehir writes, "Trust in science, my ass."

And that sums it up very nicely.

"Questioning science is an urgent and necessary aspect of contemporary critical thinking, and the questions that anti-vaxxers start with are entirely legitimate: What are you putting in my kid’s body? Is it safe, and is it necessary? Who’s making money off this, and what do we know about them? And even beyond that: Can I trust that you are telling me the truth? My kids have had all their shots, and I believe that people who refuse vaccination are putting together shreds of old anecdote and flawed evidence and conspiratorial ideology to reach a faulty conclusion. As we have recently discovered, this can have unfortunate public health consequences. But I speak for many parents when I say that I don’t begrudge those people their doubts, because I have shared them. That last question, which lies at the heart of both the vaccine issue and the entire crisis of authority — “Why should I trust you, after all the lies I’ve been told?” — still gives me a twinge sometimes."
And all this is one of the reasons I've been writing about science lately. As science and scientists take over the role of authority figures that used to be held by religion and religious leaders, and even politicians and public leaders, we're all questioning their worthiness, their actual authority. And they're not giving us very satisfactory answers, are they.

More to come....


AskTheGeologist said...

This is GREAT!!!

Could be refined into 1-2 whole chapters: the Limits of Science as Authority or something like that.

Ellen said...
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