Methodological naturalists, or scientists if you prefer, are often accused of being smug and condescending and superior. Sure, OK… tell that to the children who will die this year because they didn’t receive their measles vaccines.
No, seriously, if that statement grates a little, too bad. For a mix of religious and political reasons, a lot of children in Africa are not getting vaccinated, so that there were 64,000 cases last year resulting in 1,100 deaths. Imagine your child gets sick with a one-in-fifty-eight chance of death from a preventable disease. The WHO is actually concerned that all the progress made since the introduction of the vaccine could be lost.
But it isn’t just Africa: in Nebraska and Iowa, there are measles cases where there should be none. Vaccinations are down because people think the MMR vaccine jab causes autism (it doesn’t, or at least after exhaustive study there’s not even a correlation let alone a known causal link.)
And how, you may ask, in the hell are kids in Nebraska and Iowa getting measles? Because their parents aren’t vaccinating them. And this traces back to one Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who published a rickety study in The Lancet (since retracted by the journal itself) that was based on a dozen kids.
It turns out that Wakefield was doing “research” for a lawyer who wanted to get rich off a class-action lawsuit, and that he had a measles vaccine of his own that he couldn’t move unless he could undermine public confidence in MMR. His work has been picked up by celebrity spokes like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, and turned into a movement. “The Joker” couldn’t have written a more destructive punch line.
The result is that the CDC must take these “isolated” cases very, very seriously because there are now thousands of kids in the US who didn’t receive their measles vaccines. So the reasons aren’t religious (mostly) or political so much as about the economics of a small group of people who play on parents’ fears for economic gain.
Measles is only one example in the dichotomy between methodological naturalism and religion/politics/greed. But it comes to mind as cases of a disease that should only be a distant memory begin to make headlines again. Once you start noticing, there are many, many more examples, and it does get frustrating. And it has a starting point in the erosion of critical thinking in schools that need to extrude kids through testing filters while not offending conservatives and religious nuts. We’re prepping kids to grow up into citizens who have no defenses against dangerous malarkey.
- Measles rides again
- The facts in the case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
- Stung by The Lancet retracting his “study” and by the weight of evidence against his scientific misconduct, but with an entire popular social movement on his side, Wakefield is going to try to make a comeback, worse than before
- Disgrace: Wakefield has been found guilty of more than 30 counts of medical misconduct and stripped of his medical title in England. He’ll probably raise his speaking fee now. And you just have to see now he got his blood samples…
- Calgary Herald: Kids pay price for measles conspiracy theory