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vaccinations

Steven Newton on Science Denialism

Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse links to an editorial by Steven Newton, a project director for the National Center for Science Education. The editorial is posted on Huffington Post, which, as Rosenhouse points out, is "not usually the go-to place for intelligent commentary on scientific issues," but in this case, Steven Newton represents the NCSE and does it quite well.

Some excerpts:

From evolution to global warming to vaccines, science is under assault from denialists–those who dismiss well-tested scientific knowledge as merely one of many competing ideologies. Science denial goes beyond skeptical questioning to attack the legitimacy of science itself.

[…]

Science requires conclusions about how nature works to be rooted in evidence-based testing. Sometimes progress is slow. But through a difficult and often frustrating process, we learn more about the world.

Science denialism works differently. Creationists are unmoved by the wealth of fossil, molecular, and anatomical evidence for evolution. Global-warming denialists are unimpressed by mountains of climate data. Denialists ignore overwhelming evidence, focusing instead on a few hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man, or a few stolen e-mails. For denialists, opinion polls and talk radio are more important than thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.

[…]

Understanding science has never been more important than it is today. Critical issues such as climate change and the threat of newly evolved flu strains demand greater scientific literacy among the public and politicians. As long as scientists must squander their time defending their work from denialism, we will fall behind on our fundamental responsibilities.

Check out the full piece. Newton makes some great points about denialism, things I’ve seen happen over and over. What makes it increasingly frustrating is that the denialists themselves can’t recognize what they’re doing. They think they’re actually being scientific. They think they’re rational. They think they have actual damning evidence.

They’re not, they aren’t, and they don’t.

Long Term Evidence for Vaccines

Newsweek has an article today titled The Long Term Evidence for Vaccines and it does a great job showing just how important vaccinations are and how vaccinations provide invaluable benefits to children.

The article starts out on a depressing (and infuriating) note…

Throughout North America and Europe, an anti-vaccination movement has steadily grown over the past two decades, and was recently jet-propelled amid anxiety over immunizing pregnant women and children against the H1N1 “swine flu.” The greatest fall-off in child vaccination, and the strongest proponents of various theoretical dangers associated with vaccines, are all rooted in wealthy, mostly Caucasian communities, located in the rich world. At a time when billions of people living in poorer countries are clamoring for equitable access to life-sparing drugs and vaccines for their families, the college-educated classes of the United States and other rich countries are saying “no thanks,” even accusing their governments of “forcing” them to give “poison” to their children.

…but goes on to lay out the evidence regarding the importance of both childhood vaccinations and vaccinations for pregnant women (for the benefit of the unborn child).

Other vaccine-preventable diseases—measles, rubella, mumps, chickenpox, and whooping cough—can damage the optic nerves and hearing of fetuses and newborns. The effect in these cases is immediate and obvious. In the pre-vaccine era in the United States, a thousand kids lost their hearing every year due to measles infection, five out of every 10,000 children who contracted mumps suffered permanent deafness, and 10 percent of child deafness was due to rubella (a.k.a. German measles).

And today, in countries with spotty child-immunization achievements—including the United Kingdom—viral infection in utero or in infancy accounts for 10 to 25 percent of child deafness.

There’s plenty more information in the article and it’s definitely worth a read, especially for those who may be unsure about whether to vaccinate their children and need some convincing.

What happens when people choose not to protect their children with the appropriate vaccinations (or choose not to get vaccinations themselves)? We lose the “herd immunity” protection that helps keep potentially deadly diseases from affecting those who cannot get the vaccines due to age or health reasons. Refusing vaccinations for communicable illnesses (measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis, flu, etc) is not only irresponsible, it’s potentially deadly and puts the general population at risk for illnesses that were all but nonexistent in developed countries… before the anti-vaxxers started their campaign of misinformation.

The article elaborates…

The unimmunized few are a threat to all, as they may harbor viruses and pass them onto others whose vaccine-induced immunity is waning due to HIV, cancer, or simply the passing of time. Conversely, failing to be immunized in childhood renders young adults vulnerable to infectious diseases that they may not encounter until they go off to college or travel outside of their home regions.

Vaccines are one of the most effective and important scientific advances in medical history. They have saved countless lives and continue to protect our population from potentially deadly or debilitating diseases. Due to the misinformation that is frequently spread regarding vaccines, however, the frequency of childhood vaccinations has been declining, threatening not only the health of the children, but our herd immunity that is so desperately needed to protect those with compromised or weak immune systems.

The article concludes with this

Yes, the proper adjective [for vaccines] is “precious”: miracles of science that, combined with smallpox immunization, saved more lives during the 20th century than were lost in all the wars, all the genocides, and all the epidemics of that hundred years. When a baby in an African village dies of measles, or a schoolchild in China succumbs to typhoid fever, none can question how precious that lost life was, or how vital a difference a vaccine could have made.

Get your children (and yourself) vaccinated.

Are vaccinations a satanic tool?

Wow. Daniel Florien at Unreasonable Faith relates an experience he had recently with someone who is an anti-vaxxer for a reason that he (and I) hadn’t heard before. Normally, I’ll hear arguments that vaccines contain deadly toxins or that they don’t work or that the government is trying to get us used to doing what they say (!!!). The reason that Daniel heard is…

They’re using the vaccines to introduce microchips into the population — these chips are the mark of the beast. They’ll use them to track us and eventually we won’t be able to buy or sell without these chips, just like the Bible says. Don’t get the vaccines!

Wow. Just add this to the giant trash bin of absurd reasons to avoid protecting your children.

Go check out his post for the rest of the story.

Dr. Joe Albietz on Vaccination

Dr. Joe Albietz is a pediatrician who is among the people who outspokenly refute the anti-vaxxers of the world (like Jenny McCarthy). This is his talk from TAM 7 about vaccinations and what they’ve done for humanity. It’s worth a viewing. As Phil Plait says about the video…

If you think vaccines are an evil conspiracy, are designed to make us sick, are filled with toxins, are a bad thing, then spend 6 minutes and 53 seconds educating yourself.

Because you’re wrong.

Here’s the video.

Newly added to my favorite blogs…

Yesterday, while searching for some information on climate change, I happened upon a blog called The Way Things Break and was delighted. Not only did I find the information I was looking for, but I found all kinds of content related to the shenanigans of the anti-science crowd.

Here is the post, titled The Land of Make Believe, that won my heart…

Science denialism involves a lot of make believe and pretending:

  • Pretend as though claims made by an individual, conclusions of a single paper, etc. are actually the underlying science, so as to hold up any disagreement or revision as though it is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect; alternatively, pretend such ‘one offs’ are definitive rebuttals to the core science.
  • Pretend as though areas explicitly acknowledged to be in need of further study are actually the underlying science, so as to hold up any disagreement or revision as though it is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect.
  • Pretend that a non-representative sample selected so as to give the appearance of disagreement with the conclusions of the core science is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect.
  • Pretend that the mere presence, absence, or relative amount of a substance is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the real world effects (if any) it has been demonstrated to have.
  • Pretend that the existence of media hype, past examples of pseudoscience, etc. are somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend non-sequiturs [Evolution can’t explain how life started!] are somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend lay misunderstanding of the science is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend that personal ignorance or disbelief of the science is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend that a scientific consensus is somehow akin to religious faith; similarly, pretend that there is an “orthodoxy” being enforced that amounts to religious or political “persecution”, silencing of “dissent” etc. for failing to understand/accept the science. [Bonus points for claiming such in a high-profile media outlet such as a newspaper or television show]

And perhaps most importantly of all:

  • Pretend to be “skeptical” rather than anti-science.

I think I’ve seen almost every one of those points used at one time or another, whether used to deny evolution, climate change, or vaccinations (among other things).

Pure awesome.