Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Left Wing Creationism

 

The left likes to portray conservatives as “anti-science.”  They even like to talk about a “Republican War on Science.”

Science, though, seems to be getting it from the left, at least as often. 

In the NYObserver, Bill Wasik reviews Seth Mnookin’s new book The Panic Virus:

Near the beginning of The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin’s definitive, infuriating history of the myth that vaccines cause autism, the author relates a story from a Park Slope dinner party he attended in 2007. Mr. Mnookin was discussing pediatric health with a new parent in his early 40s who explained that he and his wife had decided to delay their child’s vaccines. On what sources had he based this weighty decision? Questions along these lines were met with murk. “I don’t know what to say,” the man replied. “It just feels like a lot for a developing immune system to deal with.”

It was this F-word—feels—that left Mr. Mnookin justifiably gobsmacked, and it serves as the departure point for The Panic Virus, an attempt to explain how thousands of otherwise sophisticated Americans could make a fatuous decision to opt out of what is arguably modernity’s greatest medical achievement. Most children “exempted” from vaccines (a fittingly ridiculous term, as if the kids place out via AP exam) are not low-information progeny. They are being raised in college towns, in wealthy suburbs and in tony urban enclaves like Park Slope, by the sorts of parents who are otherwise given to grave tut-tutting about the anti-science stances of others—the climate-change know-nothings, say, or the ovine devotees of the garish Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.

So are these parents stupid?  Or are they just perpetrators of what pie-faced liberals like to call the “Tragedy of the Commons?”  Or maybe a little of both?  Wasik has his own answer:

Most exempting parents are intelligent enough to know that our relative freedom from infectious disease is due to vaccination; they merely feel that the risk of childhood vaccination (and there is some, though it is small, and autism is not among the dangers) should be borne by the children of others. One such parent, whose child was responsible for setting off a 2008 measles outbreak in California, told Time that she “felt safe in making the choice to vaccinate selectively” because measles “doesn’t tend to be a problem” in the United States. She went on to make the point more explicit: “[B]ecause I live in a country where the norm is vaccine, I can delay my vaccines.”

So maybe it’s not only a question of being anti-science.  Maybe it’s also a matter of being selfish.  Of believing that vaccines are fine, for a certain class of person.  

The left, always ping-ponging between being irrational, and being snobs.

There are 70 comments.

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  1. ggg Inactive
    ggg

    Although I can’t get into this man’s head, I would say use of the word “feel” in science is much more appropriate than the dogmatic approach that the media seems to give science. I cite the libertarian scientist Michael Polanyi who in the 1950s wrote books and academic essays where he compares the skilled and tacit actions of scientists to market forces. He points out (and I agree) how science ends up being a complex network of opinions and intellectual passions, not well established facts.

    Either way, I think the political right is far more in touch with this tendency since we’re very aware of the huge conflict of interest, both ethically and intellectually, that comes from government funding based on political pressure and bullying from loud academics.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:43 AM PST
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  2. G.A. Dean Inactive

    There’s a subtle distinction between “not in my backyard” and “I want it in your backyard.”

    Popular variant is, “The nation must have a government run health system, but I need to be exempted” and “We must reduce carbon emissions, but I need my private jet.”

    You hit the nail on the head with the phrase, “for a certain class of person”.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:50 AM PST
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  3. dittoheadadt Inactive

    Do we know that the parents in the examples are Libs? Can’t tell from the post.

    • #3
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:53 AM PST
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  4. Diane Ellis Contributor

    This is moral hazard and the free rider problem wrapped up into one tidy illustration.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:55 AM PST
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  5. ggg Inactive
    ggg

    My pathological urge to bring up obscure authors caused me to neglect one thing…this particular use of the word “feel” is senseless and not based in science. there.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:56 AM PST
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  6. Kervinlee Member

    Two thoughts: one is that thanks to the great science of the last century the diseases that the vaccinations eliminated are now so remote as to not even be in our collective memory. Diseases like polio, whooping cough, etc. are merely abstractions and not real dangers. Who has seen in modern times a child wearing polio braces? Not recently but maybe in the near future…

    Second, our aptly described (hat tip VDH) “therapeutic curriculum” has dulled our critical reasoning so we now happily swallow any fad theory and still think we’re smart – global warming, peak oil, toxic vaccines, magnet therapy, the list goes on and on.

    We are so lucky to have been able to afford such wishful thinking.

    • #6
    • January 12, 2011, at 11:58 AM PST
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  7. Nyadnar17 Inactive

    I asked this question to a friend of mine who has kids. I asked him how he could be so unsympathetic to other parents facing a difficult choice of what to believe when different sources of authority disagree. He coldly told me that it is because he has a kid he is so unsympathetic. He said the stakes were too high not to do research and that only listening to a dissenting minority, especially in the area of science was foolish.

    Also not sure if it makes you feel better about your choice, but apparently having had the swine flue(not sure if the vaccine has the same effect) will make your kids immune to all types of flue forever. http://io9.com/5730895/swine-flu-gives-its-survivors-supercharged-immunity-could-create-universal-flu-vaccine

    • #7
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:03 AM PST
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  8. Katie O Member
    Rob Long:

    So maybe it’s not only a question of being anti-science. Maybe it’s also a matter of being selfish.

    I don’t think so. I think it’s a matter of being a parent. You are responsible for that little life and want to do nothing but the best for your child. Unfortunately “expert” and scientific advice is always changing. We see proof of that everyday in the class action lawsuit ads all over TV because some drug tested by scientists and prescribed by doctors turned out to be harmful or deadly. Sometimes you just have to go with your “feelings”.

    • #8
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:07 AM PST
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  9. Tommy De Seno Contributor

    Brian Watt you are the real life example of the point I was making. God bless you and your child.

    • #9
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:09 AM PST
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  10. Katie O Member

    I didn’t mean to repeat what others have said much better than I. I started my comment, was distracted (by a vaccinated preschooler). And then posted it later sorry!

    • #10
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:13 AM PST
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  11. dittoheadadt Inactive

    To me, a parent with 2 children, the decision whether to vaccinate was easy. I figured, which course of action was more likely to cause them greater harm – getting vaccinated or getting the disease(s)? I balanced that question against the likelihood of side-effects of the vaccine. The less the likelihood of side-effects, the greater the benefit of vaccinating them. To be sure, there are sometimes tragic outcomes to even the best-intentioned actions. That doesn’t mean those actions were ill-advised at the time they were taken. It’s just what happens when playing the odds, and virtually every decision in life is a matter of playing the odds.

    Did I belt my kids in the car when they were younger? You bet I did, even though that could have killed them by drowning had I ever crashed into the water. How likely was I to crash into the water? Not very. How likely were they to have adverse side-effects to vaccines? Not very. Still, some kids drown in cars and some kids die from vaccines. It’s sad and it’s tragic, but vaccinating and seat-belting are still the right things to do.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:15 AM PST
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  12. Brian Watt Member

    At the end of the day, science, like art and politics is a human endeavor. Scientists, pediatricians, drug companies, even the CDC and FDA make mistakes. Often it takes other scientists to challenge the ruling consensus with data that stands up to repeated challenge in peer reviews.

    I’m with Tommy. The average layperson must have some degree of faith that those who are scientists, pediatricians, drug manufacturers and government agencies responsible for monitoring all of it, actually know what they’re doing and don’t mean to make mistakes. But they unfortunately do from time to time.

    Let’s not forget that electro-shock therapy was thought to somehow cure various mental disorders including depression and schizophrenia but today it’s regarded as a barbaric form of treatment that only does damage to the brain especially destroying memory.

    Accepted notions of what is scientific truth should be challenged everyday. All I know is that for the last 25 years or so, scientists still haven’t been able to learn what really causes Autism. Unless there are a few who know but just aren’t saying.

    • #12
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:16 AM PST
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  13. Katie O Member
    Brian Watt: Accepted notions of what is scientific truth should be challenged everyday. All I know is that for the last 25 years or so, scientists still haven’t been able to learn what really causes Autism. · Jan 12 at 12:16pm

    I totally agree. Maybe those without children don’t realize autism has become epidemic? Correct me if my numbers are off, but I think it’s 1 in 70. That coupled with the fact that children today get over 35 vaccinations ( back in the 80s I got just 10) was enough for me to delay the shots of one of my kids during the height of the vaccine debate.

    • #13
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:26 AM PST
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  14. Brian Watt Member
    Tommy De Seno: Brian Watt you are the real life example of the point I was making. God bless you and your child. · Jan 12 at 12:09pm

    Thanks Tommy. He is a blessing and always will be.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:28 AM PST
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  15. Brian Watt Member
    Katie O
    Brian Watt: Accepted notions of what is scientific truth should be challenged everyday. All I know is that for the last 25 years or so, scientists still haven’t been able to learn what really causes Autism. · Jan 12 at 12:16pm
    I totally agree. Maybe those without children don’t realize autism has become epidemic? Correct me if my numbers are off, but I think it’s 1 in 70. That coupled with the fact that children today get over 35 vaccinations ( back in the 80s I got just 10) was enough for me to delay the shots of one of my kids during the height of the vaccine debate. · Jan 12 at 12:26pm

    Autism now affects 1 in every 110 children; and 1 in every 70 boys. The size of the epidemic has outpaced AIDS.

    • #15
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:31 AM PST
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  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    dittoheadadt: How likely were they to have adverse side-effects to vaccines? Not very.

    Very true. Most children are unlikely to have adverse reactions to vaccines.

    However, some children are exceptions to this rule for one reason or another. A child may be immunocompromised, allergic to vaccine ingredients (like eggs in egg-containing vaccines), or may have had bad enough reactions to vaccines in the past. In these cases, not vaccinating this specific child may be considered prudent even if you approve of vaccines in general. (This is one reason why whether to vaccinate is a decision best kept between parent and doctor — and child, if the child is responsible enough to have a say.)

    More generally, it doesn’t strike me as anti-reason for parents to find themselves motivated by “bad feelings”. As Tommy points out, the din of conflicting information out there is often deafening to parents, and acting on “bad feelings” in family life is often a useful precaution.

    (Full disclosure: We haven’t any children yet. But I “had all my shots” as a child, get a flu shot most years, and plan to vaccinate our children.)

    • #16
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:46 AM PST
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  17. Brian Watt Member

    To respond to Rob’s original posting, science should be challenged from every quarter all the time – if it is good science it will stand the test of time. Those who generalize that conservatives are anti-science are misguided. In the global warming debate, conservatives have rightfully pointed out that rather than the science “being all in” as Al Gore and others asserted, a lot of the science had been disregarded altogether by scientists and non-scientists who had an overriding political agenda.

    I believe that evolution has stood the test of time and met a plethora of challenges since Darwin first released The Origin of Species. Evolution has shown to be practical on a number of fronts. I personally believe that those who advocate Intelligent Design are letting their religious beliefs cloud their judgement. Men, after all, for some “intelligent” reason have nipples. Go figure.

    The salient point is this – Science is rarely, if ever, “all in”. People who proclaim that don’t fully grasp what science or the scientific method is. And as we’re seeing with Autism – there is a monumental load of science yet to be tackled.

    • #17
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:47 AM PST
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  18. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long Post author
    Brian Watt: Accepted notions of what is scientific truth should be challenged everyday. All I know is that for the last 25 years or so, scientists still haven’t been able to learn what really causes Autism. Unless there are a few who know but just aren’t saying. · Jan 12 at 12:16pm

    I think you’re totally right. I’d like to know, though, if you’ve read Mnookin’s book — I haven’t; I’m basing all of this on the book review, which I know is a pretty shoddy way to go about it! — and what you think of his central argument, which was the the scientist claiming to discover a connection between vaccinations and autism was committing fraud.

    • #18
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:48 AM PST
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  19. Brian Watt Member
    Rob Long
    Brian Watt: Accepted notions of what is scientific truth should be challenged everyday. All I know is that for the last 25 years or so, scientists still haven’t been able to learn what really causes Autism. Unless there are a few who know but just aren’t saying. · Jan 12 at 12:16pm
    I think you’re totally right. I’d like to know, though, if you’ve read Mnookin’s book — I haven’t; I’m basing all of this on the book review, which I know is a pretty shoddy way to go about it! — and what you think of his central argument, which was the the scientist claiming to discover a connection between vaccinations and autism was committing fraud. · Jan 12 at 12:48pm

    Well, you’ll have to give me a chance to read the book and report back to you. How much time do I have? :-) Seriously, happy to post my report on Ricochet when I’m done.

    • #19
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:52 AM PST
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  20. Nickolas Inactive

    I don’t know if this has already been posted on Ricochet…

    Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds

    A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud” that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

    An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.

    “It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

    Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May.

    • #20
    • January 13, 2011, at 1:55 AM PST
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  21. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long Post author
    Brian Watt Well, you’ll have to give me a chance to read the book and report back to you. How much time do I have? :-) Seriously, happy to post my report on Ricochet when I’m done. · Jan 12 at 12:52pm

    Great! It’s a deal! (And you’ve got as much time as you need. We’ll save some pixels for you….)

    But in a way, the very existence of the book makes your argument: if someone can perpetuate a popular fraud about the connection between vaccines and autism, why couldn’t someone perpetuate a popular fraud about the non-existent connection between vaccines and autism? How, then, to tell the difference?

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    • January 13, 2011, at 1:58 AM PST
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  22. Brian Watt Member

    It was this F-word—feels—that left Mr. Mnookin justifiably gobsmacked, ….an attempt to explain how thousands of otherwise sophisticated Americans could make a fatuous decision to opt out of what is arguably modernity’s greatest medical achievement.

    Even doctors and scientists who agree that vaccines are “arguably modernity’s greatest medical achievement” have also admitted that a percentage of children who receive multiple vaccines, especially those once preserved with toxic agents like Thimerosal, are susceptible to some harmful, potentially very harmful, side effects but that the overwhelming benefit for society outweighs the small percentage of children who could be harmed. This was actually espoused by conservative Fred Barnes on Fox News one evening. I think I may have shouted a few epithets at him at the time.

    So, now it becomes a numbers game. The greatest good for the greatest number. Cross your fingers and take your chances and hope that your child is not in that low percentage “harmful” category. But parental misgivings about the risk of any medication are completely justified and they shouldn’t be made to feel somehow that they are being irrational when in fact it’s a quite rational way to respond.

    • #22
    • January 13, 2011, at 2:09 AM PST
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  23. Brian Watt Member
    Rob Long
    Brian Watt Well, you’ll have to give me a chance to read the book and report back to you. How much time do I have? :-) Seriously, happy to post my report on Ricochet when I’m done. · Jan 12 at 12:52pm
    Great! It’s a deal! (And you’ve got as much time as you need. We’ll save some pixels for you….)

    But in a way, the very existence of the book makes your argument: if someone can perpetuate a popular fraud about the connection between vaccines and autism, why couldn’t someone perpetuate a popular fraud about the non-existent connection between vaccines and autism? How, then, to tell the difference? · Jan 12 at 12:58pm

    Valid point. One would have to discern what the benefits of perpetrating the fraud in each case would likely be. Given that they are potentially billions of dollars at stake in class-action lawsuits, it’s not unreasonable to assume that this is driving much of the research effort on both sides; and the claims of fraud and counter-fraud.

    • #23
    • January 13, 2011, at 2:14 AM PST
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  24. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Rob Long

    But in a way, the very existence of the book makes your argument: if someone can perpetuate a popular fraud about the connection between vaccines and autism, why couldn’t someone perpetuate a popular fraud about the non-existent connection between vaccines and autism? How, then, to tell the difference? · Jan 12 at 12:58pm

    Exactly the right point Rob. Add to the confusion of conflicting sources and frauds the pressure of making the right decision for the little faces staring up at you.

    Kids don’t come with instruction books, and life often doesn’t provide the answer either.

    As others have already said in this thread, after you educate yourself with all that is available, the conflict has to be resolved by you, and “feeling” the right answer is all that’s left you.

    I’ve heard Limbaugh rail against “feeling” issues instead of thinking them through for years, and for the most part I agree with him.

    But on what to do with your kids, there is “instinct” which may be a better word than feeling.

    When raising kids life WILL throw these information dead ends and cross roads at you. Parental choices are important.

    • #24
    • January 13, 2011, at 2:17 AM PST
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  25. Liver Pate Inactive

    I haven’t got the study in front of me, but even though the autism vaccine link was debunked, it seems to me there was some interesting correlations between the rise of using aborted fetuses for biological material in vaccines and the rise of autism.

    I have one son with a learning disability and know a disturbing number of friends who have at least one child with autism and I agree that the increases in autism are beyond alarming.

    • #25
    • January 13, 2011, at 3:22 AM PST
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  26. Liver Pate Inactive

    Sorry, took me awhile.

    Here is the news release:

    As the abstract of the study indicates, autism rates in the US and the UK began to increase around the same time that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine switched from using animal cells to using human cells that had been derived from aborted fetuses.

    • #26
    • January 13, 2011, at 3:24 AM PST
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  27. Brian Watt Member
    Pseudodionysius: Sorry, took me awhile.

    Here is the news release:

    As the abstract of the study indicates, autism rates in the US and the UK began to increase around the same time that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine switched from using animal cells to using human cells that had been derived from aborted fetuses. · Jan 12 at 2:24pm

    Fascinating stuff. I’ve forwarded it to a friend of mine who is a PhD in molecular biology and works for a large pharmaceutical firm in San Diego to get his take on it. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • #27
    • January 13, 2011, at 3:37 AM PST
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  28. Karen Inactive

    For me, I just felt not vaccinating my kids was riskier.

    But I think there are more elements at play. This is only anecdotal, but I’m convinced Münchausen syndrome by proxy is also on the rise. Hence the various dietary prohibitions for children who aren’t actually allergic. Some parents want their kids to be special, even if it’s a medical issue. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Park Slope parents were that way.

    I’ve often wondered if the autism spectrum hasn’t been expanded in recent years. I think the “autism epidemic” has a lot of parents very fearful. Is the increase in cases of severe autism or high functioning autism like Asberger syndrome? Is it possible that some children who are diagnosed with very mild autism now might have at one time been just been considered socially awkward and brainy? I just wonder if the increased diagnoses of mild autism are for entirely justifiable reasons or if are there other factors or incentives at play. And what about the theory that it occurs more often when the father is older? I haven’t heard if that theory’s been debunked or not.

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    • January 13, 2011, at 3:42 AM PST
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  29. StickerShock Inactive

    Human cells from aborted fetuses used in vaccines???? How gruesome!

    Perhaps this is the answere to the rise in autism. However, the Wakefield study has been questioned for a long time & is a perfect example of how scientists commit fraud. Good science will stand up to questions. But in our politically corrupted world of science the politics often supercedes the science.

    • #29
    • January 13, 2011, at 4:03 AM PST
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  30. Brian Watt Member
    Pseudodionysius: Sorry, took me awhile.

    Here is the news release:

    As the abstract of the study indicates, autism rates in the US and the UK began to increase around the same time that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine switched from using animal cells to using human cells that had been derived from aborted fetuses. · Jan 12 at 2:24pm

    If the research that this group has conducted and may still be conducting can be verified as accurate then, in addition, to explorations for a genetically based cure, this may also have very disturbing repercussions open up a whole new field of inquiry. Who made the decision to switch from animal cells (and their DNA fragments) to human cells from aborted fetuses? There had to be FDA testing and approval on this when the pharmaceutical company proposed it. Was Eli Lilly involved? If so, was this why they wanted their records sealed by Congress? If cells from aborted fetuses are found to have caused the Autism epidemic then the Abortion-on-Demand debate, one would think, is pushed to the forefront.

    I realize those are a lot of “if’s” and assumptions but it is intriguing and disturbing.

    • #30
    • January 13, 2011, at 4:06 AM PST
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