Antivax ad nauseum

Contributed by
May 14, 2008
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Well, I suppose I asked for it. I wrote a thoughtful, cited, linked, and clear post on how vaccines are unrelated to autism (as well as in an update), and got a flock of antivax nonsense in the comments in return. I'll preface any details to say that there has been a lot of support for my post, especially from Orac, who knows a thing or two on this, and I thank everyone who replied -- on either side of this issue -- who did so politely and reasonably. I did get some interesting emails as well from parents of autistic children, and again I thank them and send them my best hopes and support.

But then I get email like the following (in italics below) with my comments interspersed (in normal print); it is reproduced in full but with the author's name and email address left out to prevent a flood of mocking from people less polite than me.

WARNING: set your irony meter volume way down, lest it vaporize.

You do not have the credentials to have an opinion on this subject.

Well, I'm a trained scientist, able to read graphs and do basic statistics. I have a passing familiarity with logical processes, and how to think through an argument. I also have years of experience as a professional skeptic, you might say, in seeing through fallacious arguments.

I'll note that the emailer did not give their credentials on understanding the subject, either.

Your flippant, self-promoting, and arrogant rant shows what you are all about -- attention.

Oh, attention doesn't hurt, especially when I think my message -- like this one -- is of critical importance. But that argument is wrong anyway; where does it actually deal with the content of my message? Oh, right, in this next silly statement:

Removing a link between thimerosal and vaccines does not even prove your hypothesis. This very bad science.

Actually, I am debunking someone else's argument, and that is that thimerosal causes autism, or that vaccines in general do. The case against this argument, I think, has been made very well by the overwhelming totality of scientific study on the topic.

Your hypothesis: "Vaccines do not cause autism." Really!? Can you site [sic] a study that shows a non-vaccinated child population, instead of a timerosal [sic]-free population? Didn't think so.

Actually, the links I provided in the post do just that. Only part of that was about thimerosal; the graph I showed. There are lots of other studies.

Why don't you go and do a little research instead of spewing anecdotal evidence and your very misguided opinions out to the internet.

The author of the email has grossly confused the difference between anecdotes and data. Maybe the email author is unfamiliar with the concept of scientific studies, like the one I linked to, and the other links that cite many other studies. I'm not the one with anecdotal stories; the antivaxxers are.

People like you make me sick.

BANG!

Nuts. Now I have to buy yet another irony meter.

Hello? It's the antivaxxers literally making people sick. That's the whole point. If we don't vaccinate, then we are dooming our children to suffer through pertussis, measles, mumps, chicken pox, (damage from) HPV, and a host of other ailments, some of which are fatal, but most of which have dire public health consequences.

So there you go, folks. That's the sort of irrational attitude we're dealing with here. Bear that in mind when you are deciding how to couch your words with the anti-vaccination group. People with autistic kids certainly deserve our support, and our sympathy. But only up to when they advocate a public health disaster. I will still be sympathetic about their personal trouble, but I will not back down when they promote anti-science and try to sentence millions of children to suffer terrible ailments and perhaps even death.