The Guardian: Why people believe the earth is flat and we should listen to anti vaxxers

At least one writer at The Guardian argues that we should avoid the “us and them” narrative or being smug and without empathy when debating. That sounds a lot like the goal here.


A recent episode of the American TV series “Madame Secretary” addressed this issue in a very empathetic way. It featured a mother of a young child character who had been frightened away from appropriate vaccinations because of scary articles she had read on the Internet. At the end of the episode, her child survived a serious measles attack—but had permanent cognitive damage as a result. It was easy to see that the writer-producer (a woman famous for her many years of female-centric TV series) had carefully aimed for a combination of understanding and emotional impact and strongly-pitched warnings. The episode definitely aimed its message at mothers and grandmothers in the viewing audience. Did the writer of the teleplay succeed in her objectives? I don’t know. However, it was certainly an engaging episode.

Fortunately, though the episode was cautionary and stark, it was not without compassion. It also acknowledged that the misinformed anti-vax mother was sincere in her belief that she was making the best decision for her child when she refused appropriate vaccinations. She was not a monster. She was not necessarily an “idiot”. She was mostly just misinformed and confused by the conflicting voices she found online.

Science-illiteracy comes at a cost. Our educational systems deserve some of the blame. But not all of it.


Before I noticed that Brandon had posted this interesting article, I thought it was another of Patrick’s threads. (@Patrick often launches fascinating threads based on links to various articles.)

I see that Patrick clicked a “like” on my post, perhaps in my observation about our public education systems sharing the blame in people being vulnerable to anti-vax propaganda. Patrick, do you have any comments on that front? You and I want to see better science education. How can we best educate today’s students to not fall into anti-vax thinking when they become parents a few years from now?

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The anti-vax movement is currently at the forefront of this alternative facts time that we live in. To me it is very dangerous. You and I are from a time when we can remember our mothers saying that we can’t go to the community pools because we might get polio. The Polio vaccine changed all that fear mongering. Measles, chicken pox and other deadly diseases should be eradicated again. I am amazed at some parents over this issue.