Friday, October 23, 2009


I normally avoid the topic of antivaxxers (people who advocate not vaccinating children, often based on a claim that vaccines cause autism or other problems) simply because it just infuriates me to no good purpose. I can't really do anything about it, so why get incensed? And it's sure to incense me.

It's a mild but constant irritation to realize how many people use entirely illogical reasons to do things like reject science-based medicine. It's not really different from people rejecting reason or science more generally. It's just a tarted-up form of willful closed-mindedness that lets a person spurn centuries of peer-reviewed, relentlessly self-criticizing and self-correcting, verifiable research because they know a time when it was wrong for a while (and ignore that it was the same process that made the error which found and fixed it, providing them the citation of its error in the first place); and yet, with the other hand, gleefully accept something patently absurd based on the most tenuous and unrepeatable of anecdotal coincidences.

But when you do that to your own detriment, that's one thing. Go ahead and treat your inflamed appendix with crystals, for all I care. You're mostly just selecting against yourself, which is just as well. Anyway, it's not my place to tell you what to die from. (Of course, you don't die in a vacuum; odds are, your intentional, easily avoided mistake is going to cost us all in our taxes when you end up costing a hospital $50,000 to fix what it could have fixed for $10,000 if you'd gotten it treated medically instead of with some black market herbal tea that probably made it worse. But everyone makes choices like that which affect others in this way; it's a slippery slope to get too obsessive about one, no matter how dumb it is.)

When you force a child, who gets no say in the matter, to be endangered, for your own stubborn blindness, that's far worse. But even there, that's inevitable. You can't take risk away from your child, you can only choose between different risks. You should do so out of informed and reasoned cause, not out of ignorance. You should know what the risks are, and have some idea how to compare what a one in a million risk is versus a one in a trillion -- because they're very very different but they sound very similar. But ultimately, no matter what you do, you're choosing a risk for your child and they get no say in it.

The real ethical failure is that when you choose not to vaccinate you are making that choice not for yourself, not for your child, but for every human being that's going to come into contact with your child, and every human being that's going to come into contact with them, and every human being that's going to come in contact with them, and so on. Each additional layer of separation reduces the effect, like gravitation receding with distance; yet as we do more traveling, have more vectors for diseases to spread, are more crammed together, those distances are dropping. 100 years ago, getting an infectious disease was endangering your town or city. Today, it's endangering your entire region, maybe a whole state or province, but we're on the edge of where it endangers an entire country, and more.

Jenny McCarthy Body CountTo do this over allegations that have been absolutely, unequivocally, thoroughly disproven, out of wild ignorance of the actual facts of the situation, is mind-numbingly stupid. It makes me angry in a way I rarely get angry. Like, angry enough to imagine hitting Jenny McCarthy in the face with a brick. Angry enough to think maybe it'd be better if an asteroid hits Earth, because maybe whatever evolves after us won't be so agonizingly stupid.

That people have the leisure, safety, and health to be complacent about medicine and reject it, is only possible because medicine gave them the life they're being so cavalier about. Fifty years ago, odds are good Jenny McCarthy would have suffered polio, which killed more people during the war years than World War Two itself did. A hundred years ago, the odds of Jenny McCarthy surviving childhood would have been relatively small. It's easy to take for granted the benefits as you reap them while rejecting them. But why embrace ignorance? Why are there so many people for whom truth is not even close to adequate?

So that's why I have to avoid the subject. I just froth for a while...

...and who needs that?

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