Someone I knew who wasn’t Jewish, once asked me what I could do to stop anti-Semitism. I responded that, if combating anti-Semitism is solely the responsibly of Jews, then we’re done for. The point being that you need more than a small minority to fight what is. I’ve often thought the same about the War on Science: if fighting it is only left to scientists, we really don’t stand much of a chance.
This is why I was heartened to read Amanda’s double-barreled blast against anti-vaxxers:
Anti-vaccination cranks make me see red, in no small part because there’s no excuse for the levels of ignorance they demonstrate about the real value of vaccines. It would be more understandable if the invention of the polio vaccination, for instance, was so far in the past that there were no survivors of the disease hanging around being reminders of how terrible it really is. But there are plenty of people who had the disease that are around, suffering the lifelong effects of even the minor cases that would have allowed you to reach middle age after suffering that disease in your youth. I for one am incredibly grateful to have never known anyone with small pox, tetanus or even the fucking mumps my whole life.
Like all good cranks, anti-vaccination assholes move the goal posts constantly. The big hobbyhorse of anti-vaccination cranks is autism rates (even though the connection between autism and vaccinations has been thoroughly debunked), but of course, the invention of the HPV vaccine hasn’t passed notice, though you get that when you’re like 12 years old, so even if you believe childhood vaccinations have something to do with autism (which you shouldn’t), then you should realize that 12 is way too late to “develop” autism. But it’s this lightening rod because it’s new and it’s sex-related and thus the cranks can hang their hat on it, and get all excited about building a coalition between the usual anti-vaccination cranks and the sexphobes, getting more power.
And thankfully, most of the commenters were members of the Coalition of the Sane, but, of course, there are always a few people citing a few spurious stories (e.g., the Japan measles vaccination canard). I wish there were a way that these idiots could be forced to link to a cited article–PubMed is free, after all–to ‘prove’ their points, or at the least, refer to a source that cites published, peer-reviewed articles.
If you think that’s elitist, well, yes, it is. If you are incapable of supporting your claims by referring to primary literature (or highly vetted secondary literature), then don’t make those claims. If you can’t do that, then you’re just bullshitting. That’s fine for the corner bar (albeit, a bit tedious), but unacceptable for policy decisions.
Particularly when the wrong decision results in lots of dead people.