Sunday, 1 February 2015

A challenge to anti-vaxxers

     Today, a friend suggested I google for "vaccine chemicals", and click "feedback" on the boxed link that comes up on top, which as of this writing is this ridiculous monstrosity of stupid. I did, and indicated that the link was "inaccurate", which hopefully will help Google to refine its algorithm in selecting reliable results.

     Now, I realize that calling something stupid isn't particularly constructive, although I'm trying to use the word in a clinical rather than pejorative sense. The reasoning in the linked article really is preposterously deficient and ill-informed, but what that's not what makes it clinically stupid. Ignorance is ubiquitous, after all, but stupidity is something more profoundly debilitating. Ignorance can be treated by learning new facts, but stupidity is a pathological inability to receive and process new information, and here (in boldface italics) is the telltale marker of genuine stupidity in the article:

That's the real purpose of vaccines: Not to "protect children" with any sort of immunity, but to inject the masses with a toxic cocktail of chemicals that cause brain damage and infertility: Mercury, MSG, formaldehyde and aluminum. The whole point of this is to dumb the population down so that nobody has the presence of mind to wake up and start thinking for themselves.
This is precisely why the smartest, most "awake" people still remaining in society today are the very same ones who say NO to vaccines. Only their brains are still intact and operating with some level of awareness.

     Stupidity comes in many forms, some of them genetic and some of them memetic. This is a classic form of memetic stupidity, a kind of ideological immune system designed to shut out any consideration of information that might conflict with the ideology. It's a very common mechanism, found in religious cults, political movements, and (as here) in crackpot conspiracy theories. It works by selectively filtering out and discrediting any criticism, by positing that criticism itself is inherently suspect. Examples:

  • Creationists sometimes argue that fossil evidence for evolution was placed there by the Devil to lead us astray, or alternatively by God to test our faith, but in either case the evidence must be disregarded because it conflicts with the favoured view. More broadly, some fundamentalists claim that all criticism comes directly from Satan.
  • In an interesting twist on this phenomenon, Scientologists claim that people only ever criticize Scientology in order to divert attention from their own crimes, and so in addition to distracting Scientologists away from the substance of  criticism towards the investigation of the critics, even more perniciously it trains them to scrupulously avoid thinking negative thoughts themselves about Scientology for fear of being a critic, and thus a criminal.
  • In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler asserts that only a "born weakling" would dispute his claims about race and evolution, and then only because of his "feebler nature and narrower mind". In other words, demonstrate your strong mind and independent will by accepting without question what this guy says.
  • "That's just what they want you to think!" is the cry of every conspiracy theorist, especially those who are fond of the "false flag" concept, the idea that any incident or evidence that might go to support the claims of their opponents is actually faked by their opponents in order to discredit them. There are gun nuts (and in this case, yeah, the term is apropos) who claim the Sandy Hook shooting was faked to raise support for gun laws, and other nuts who claim 9/11 was carried out by the White House to raise support for invading Iraq. Now, while I'm not saying there's no such thing as a real false flag (the most famous probably being the attempt to provoke a war between the medieval kingdoms of Florin and Guilder), seeing everything as a false flag is a convenient way to discredit absolutely anything that might not support your pet theory.

     So, look again at what Natural News is claiming about people who support and people who oppose vaccines, and consider what that would mean for the ability to receive, process and formulate unbiased conclusions based on new data. If you accept that non-vaccinated people are the "smartest, most awake" people and that vaccinated people are all brainwashed dupes, then you're automatically going to disregard what any pro-vaccine person has to say. Even if an intelligent unvaccinated person takes a careful objective look at all the available evidence and decides that vaccination is a good idea, by the time they talk to you to explain their conclusions they've probably already been vaccinated and you can dismiss them on that basis. In other words, the means by which you might otherwise obtain and process useful information to make up your own mind has already been sabotaged by this claim that unvaccinated people are smarter and more "awake" than vaccinated people

     But let's leave that aside. I'm going to propose a way to actually put that claim to the test. If you're going to claim that unvaccinated people are "the smartest, most awake" people, well, that's a pretty ambitious claim, because "smart" is a pretty big word. When we describe someone as "smart", we don't just mean that they don't believe in vaccines; we mean that they have good general cognitive abilities: they think and learn and understand and solve problems well. After all, if you're trying to argue that smart people avoid vaccines, then you must mean that the decision to avoid vaccines is the result of better and more informed thinking than the decision to be vaccinated. And obviously, if the motive in promoting vaccines is to dumb down the population into compliant sheeple, then you're claiming it's not just the ability to reject vaccines that is affected; it should also affect the ability to think critically about government policies on the environment or crime or the economy or international relations or anything else. In other words, you're claiming that non-vaccinated people are generally smarter, not just making the fortuitously correct choice about vaccines.

     So bring it on, then. Show me that anti-vaxxers are actually smarter on a variety of issues other than vaccination. Show me that they're genuinely more independent thinkers, that they have a better understanding of other issues, and better problem-solving skills. Show me that they should pay lower car insurance premiums because they make better decisions while driving. 
     Or hey, let's even make this personal. You think you're smarter than me? Seriously, I'm asking. I've had most of the vaccinations that have been available for someone of my age, and I was born in 1965.  I get my flu shot most years, and I've also been vaccinated against Hepatitis B. Oh, and I've also been through chemotherapy for colon cancer, a regimen of some really nasty chemicals that are decidedly bad for you. So by rights, I ought to be a sitting duck for your towering unvaccinated intellect. You should be able to dance rhetorical circles around me, gracefully refuting my pathetically flawed fallacious arguments.
     Sure, I may think I've made carefully considered and reasonably well-informed decisions about my health care. I may think I disagree vehemently with some of the asinine policies of my government, and I may think I write letters to my MP and argue with my fellow citizens, but if you're right, I'm just a brainwashed dupe, going along with the Powers That Be. You should be able to crush me with your enlightened sagacity.
     C'mon. I dare you.

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