Please read this all the way through. I've got my wind up here, and want you all to listen.
Anyone who reads this blog knows my feeling that critical thinking is one of the most important aspects of humanity that we possess. Our ability to discern truth from fallacy is more than important. It's literally critical.
I also understand that my fighting antiscience in the rather narrow field of astronomy isn't apt to save lives. But I do know with 100% certainty that bad thinking elsewhere can certainly take them. And in too many cases, it's our innocents who pay the price of our simple inability to think.
Bad thinking kills when it comes to health. The reasons are legion, but one stands out in particular: the anti-vaccination crowd.
You may not be aware that there is an organized effort to undermine the influenza vaccination program (also for many other diseases as well). People place all sorts of blame on it, including (and probably most vociferously) how they think the MMR shot causes autism. There is no evidence to support this claim other than anecdotes and our very strong urge to link something that happens to something that came before (post hoc ergo propter hoc is the Latin for this logical fallacy). Just because a child gets a shot and then develops autism does not mean that the autism was caused by the shot.
Many of these folks claim that the national vaccination program is a conspiracy to somehow keep the population under control. They use the same faulty evidence, bad thinking, and misleading methods that the Moon Hoax purveyors, the Mars Facers, the UFO proponents, and cosmic doomcriers use. They may very well be honest people who are just seriously misguided, but when it comes to vaccination we all suffer under their skewed view: if enough people don't get vaccinated, a disease can still run rampant. You need a minimum number of vaccinated people so that herd immunity can take place, where enough people can slow or even stop the spread of the disease.
If these people prevail, we are all at risk. If you're under the age of, say, 40 do you personally remember anyone getting smallpox, or polio?
No? Guess why.
That'll all end if the antivax people have their way. They must be stopped, and being vocal about critical thinking is the only way to do it. The blog ERV has been fighting this fight -- this incredibly important fight -- for a while now, and has some actual good news on that front: celebrities are coming out and speaking their minds about the antivax crowd. Like it or not, famous faces get attention, and in this case it's Jennifer Garner and Dean Cain. Both have been vocal about getting flu shots this season, and both seem to be saying it for the right reasons, too. You can tell by their words: it's not lip service. They mean it.
And when it comes to the important stuff, the really important stuff, I'll take all the help I can get to make sure the word gets out.
As for me: I haven't had my flu shot this season. I'm going to take care of that as soon as I can.
Who's with me?