“I Would Never Have Believed…”
It was a beautiful day yesterday in Toronto—warm and sunny, just perfect for strolling around the neighborhood and looking for a new home. And for stopping in at the baby goods store a couple of blocks from our current house to pick up a new pair of shoes for Maddie (pink, in case you were wondering—not outrageously so, but definitely pink).
As I was standing at the counter waiting to pay, I noticed a flyer advertising upcoming workshops: one on natural childbirth, another on infant sign language, and one titled “Immunization and Your Baby”. The blurb said (as near as I can recall), “Does your baby really need vaccination or immunization? The scientific evidence isn’t clear, and many parents are increasingly concerned about the health risks,” and it was (the only one marked as) “sold out”. The organizer was billed as an “RNCP”; a bit of googling tells me that means “registered nutritional consulting practitioner“, which is not a recognized medical designation in Ontario (although they’re lobbying to be included with the homeopaths and kinesiologists). Based on that, and the general tenor of our times, what do you think the workshop will be like? Will attendees be given an overview of human immunology and walked through the results of recent peer-reviewed studies of immunization? Or will the “shots cause autism” meme be given another outing, and will another dozen or so infants be left unprotected in a city which gets approximately half a million visitors from at-risk regions in developing countries every year?
The irony is that many of the same people who dismiss what science tells us about immunization are scornful—often loudly and passionately—of people who disregard the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Liberal or conservative, green or steel-gray, even the best-educated people in our society seem to think that basing opinions on data is optional. It reminds me of what John Galbraith said when asked what had surprised him most in the Twentieth Century: “I would never have believed that ‘stupid’ could become fashionable.”