There is a fascinating trend in seemingly well educated liberal America that has common roots in less educated conservative America. That trend is mistrust and denial of science. The folks that feel faith based solutions are the answer to just about any problem facing our society have an unlikely ally in the upper middle class suburban crowd. Many of the latter have, in spite of overwhelming scientific data to the contrary, decided that vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella and polio is the cause of afflictions such as Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. Thanks to the likes of the pulchritudinous (love that word) Jenny McCarthy and Michele “Jesus Wrote the Constitution” Bachmann, the anti-science, anti-vaccination crowd have a national voice. Add the interweb and it’s an ignorance fest extraordinaire.
Why are people so quick to latch on to minority “beliefs” and dismiss proven scientific data acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of experts in their given field? Up until now I thought this behavior was exclusive to religious extremists, snake handlers and flat-earthers, but the arugula munching crowd (equal opportunity dissing of left and right) have got on board the crazy train and are as vehement in their denial of science.
Of course when it comes to the health of our children, we get emotional and of course we would never intentionally harm them. That is the thing about science and scientific processing of data. It is fact/evidence based and emotion plays no part in it. Merriam-Webster defines “scientific method” as, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”
My father’s generation was the last that had to deal with the terror of childhood polio in the United States. He told me stories of his mother sending him away for more than one summer to a safe place to avoid the disease after some children in the community contracted it. His own cousin was felled by polio and was confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. The disease killed and crippled children indiscriminately every summer until Dr Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine in 1952, tested and finally was able to distribute the life saving cure to the world in 1955. I think it is worth noting that he did not profit personally from his miraculous medicine, but gave it freely because it was the moral thing to do.
The other vaccine under attack is the MMR, Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. There is no evidence (there’s that pesky word again) the MMR causes Autism as claimed by the torch and pitchfork folks. The timing of the onset of Autism and the vaccination are the “proof” that the MMR “causes” Autism. That is completely anecdotal and has zero validity as the two events are totally unrelated, but there is no convincing the true believers. That is not to say there is NO risk in the vaccine. There is always risk whenever one has any medical procedure. The CDC states, “Studies have shown a small increased risk of febrile seizures occurs among children who are younger than 7 years old approximately 8-14 days after vaccination for every 3,000-4,000 children vaccinated with MMR vaccine. This is compared to children not vaccinated during the preceding 30 days.”
Febrile seizures are a frightening thing for a parent to witness, but they are not life threatening. The same cannot be said for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. The children of the fifties and sixties in the US have enjoyed a relatively healthy existence due to these amazing, life saving medicines and now their children are listening to backward claptrap by a few self-proclaimed spokespersons without any regard to scientific facts or the history of successful near eradication of these diseases. Because of this blind ignorance there is a serious risk that MMR could make a comeback. Sadly, perhaps the only way the troglodytes of denial will reconsider is witnessing an epidemic of birth defects and sterility.
I read that the rise in consumption of organically grown foods is on a parallel trajectory with the rise of Autism in children. Should we conclude, therefore, that organic food is responsible for Autism? If I seem angry and more sarcastic than usual it is because I am. The denial of science is symptomatic of the intellectual deterioration that is occurring in our culture. The dumbing down of America is ongoing and epidemic. I just wish there was a vaccine for THAT disease.
Alex lives with his wife, Anna in Key West, Florida. He enjoys writing poetry and prose and making the complacent uncomfortable.
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