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.
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.